When Stephanie Walton was heading into her senior year of college, studying to be an early education teacher, she had struggled to find opportunities that would help her gain hands-on experience working with kids in the classroom. That was until Walton’s school, Hiram College, shared an education internship where she could be part of several summer camps, including Camp Invention®.
This opportunity would bring together children and teachers from across the area for a week of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fun and learning.
From Leadership Intern to Camp Invention Director
Walton volunteered to serve as a Leadership Intern (LI) at Camp Invention. The LI program is designed for high school and college students to gain real-world classroom experience as they lead and support K-6 campers through their innovative journey.
The LI experience made a major impact on Walton. She saw firsthand the benefits to campers and to her own professional development. Being an LI made her feel important and allowed her to take on the responsibility of leading a group of students while growing her leadership and communication skills.
“This camp spans the grade levels. I love that the youngest kids can get something out of it and the oldest kids can get something out of it, and it grows with you,” Walton shared in an interview with the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF). “The moment I was done with that [being an LI at Camp Invention], I really knew that I wanted to do camp again.”
After getting settled in as a kindergarten teacher at Bascom Elementary School in Leavittsburg, Ohio, Walton once again became involved in Camp Invention – this time as a Director!
Walton had the support of her district administration as she hit the ground running with an exciting first year of hosting camp in 2019. Though the COVID-19 pandemic led to a virtual experience in 2020, her camp’s attendance grew in 2021 as word spread about the program.
Walton’s district superintendent even visited camp in 2021 after helping Walton supply partial scholarships for students to participate in the program. “I am so glad that he found value in Camp Invention and was willing to help,” said Walton. “I had so many parents say how grateful they were because camp would have been inaccessible without it.”
This excitement has continued as campers and parents look forward to the upcoming 2022 program! Walton says “it means we were successful in our message and in our mission” as she sees both campers and parents expressing their enthusiasm for returning to her camp in 2022.
“Everyone was like ‘When is camp?’” said Walton, as she looks forward to this summer’s all-new program. She wants all children to feel welcome within the program, explaining, “I want it to be something that people feel like, ‘This is something for me, this is something for my child.’” She encourages campers to tell friends in their school district and others to join them at camp as well.
Empowering the Next Generation
One of the things Walton appreciates most about Camp Invention is the program’s ability to provide unique, hands-on STEM learning experiences that boost children’s confidence and collaboration skills.
“Friendships are made at camp,” shared Walton, who has seen children go from nervous to confident at camp. Campers learn the importance of problem solving and grow to believe that their ideas can make a difference. “It’s so empowering to the kids that their ideas are important, and they matter, and they can do something with them even when they’re little,” Walton said.
All children have the potential to become world-changing inventors, and the Camp Invention experience unlocks that potential. Through prototyping, design thinking and persistence, kids learn that what they do at camp could lead to the next big thing.
“Kids believe in their ideas, so much so that they are excited to share with an adult because they are real ideas that could become real things. The kids know it and they’re proud of it, and they want to share,” Walton said. “How neat that we’re building this generation of thinkers and inventors!”
Walton believes that Camp Invention is so impactful because it helps kids build the Innovation Mindset™, which they can take with them and apply across subjects. She said it’s important for kids to have an avenue for hands-on STEM learning, like the types of projects camp provides.
“I think that it teaches kids confidence — that their ideas matter and are important. It teaches problem-solving skills and I like that there’s a method for it,” Walton said. Kids may find out that their first idea doesn’t work, and they realize that doesn’t mean that they are done, but that they can try something new.
“The kids really have a lot of opportunities to talk and to collaborate and come up with ideas together,” Walton said. “It’s such a unique opportunity. There’s not another camp like this.”
Learn More About Camp Invention
To give your young innovator an inspiring and empowering summer, learn more about this year’s brand-new Camp Invention program and secure your spot today!