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Trends in STEM

Adapting for Different Ages and Learning Styles

For over 30 years, Camp Invention®, the flagship program from the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF), has inspired millions of children across the country through innovative STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curricula.

In providing an all-new experience each year, our education team designs activities and supporting resources that are appropriate to children’s varying proficiency levels and interests. With this tailored approach, Camp Invention engages both our youngest and oldest participants, from kindergarteners through sixth graders. This year’s Camp Invention program, Recharge, includes over 75 differentiated items with modifications specifically crafted to be appealing and accessible to a wide range of children.

Because every student has a unique learning style, our education team uses the latest differentiated instruction techniques to engage and inspire campers throughout the experience. We invite you to read below to learn more about how our program elements are integrated to create dynamic experiences that bring participants joy and help them build their confidence as innovators.


Grade Differentiated Standards

Each Camp Invention curriculum aligns with State and Common Core standards and is presented in ways that reflect varying grade levels and focal concepts. Through the use of videos, posters, discussions and speech bubbles, campers are given options to approach the material in a way that makes them most comfortable.

Additionally, the program explores grade-appropriate vocabulary based on Next Generation Science Anchor Standards. This includes words and phrases such as “engineering design,” “motion,” “stability,” “molecules,” “organisms” and “energy.”


Supportive Videos

Included in each of the four modules that make up the Recharge program are engaging videos. These videos bring to life various STEM concepts, and many provide step-by-step instructions for completing hands-on activities.

For our younger campers, whose fine motor skills are still developing, some actions (e.g., using a mini screwdriver or working with sensitive electronic components) may require additional support. With this in mind, we have created additional videos educators can use to help children enjoy successful experiences with STEM.

Available to educators to watch and play before and during the Camp Invention experience, these videos support campers in developing their confidence as designers, makers, inventors, and innovators throughout the program.


Adaptable Curriculum

Each Camp Invention curriculum provides guiding questions and discussion topics based on students’ grade levels and learning styles. In the SolarBot module for example, primary level students are asked to use their five senses to describe what living crickets look and sound like. Intermediate level students, on the other hand, are asked about solar power and are challenged to come up with other examples of renewable energy.

Similarly, each day’s discussions are divided into primary and intermediate categories. Below is an example:

  • Primary Discussion for Session One of SolarBot
    Crickets have many special abilities, including the ability to rub their wings together to make sound, smell using their antennae and hear using their ears located on their front legs. The robotic crickets we will make today use solar power. How might we be inspired by solar power to make new innovations?
  • Intermediate Discussion for Session One of SolarBot
    Crickets have many special abilities, including the ability to create sounds to communicate by rubbing their wings together through a special process called stridulation. They also smell and sense their surroundings with their antennae and have specialized organs on their legs. The robotic crickets we will make today use the energy from the sun to power their solar cells. How might we be inspired by solar power to make new innovations?

Additionally, many activities have different handouts or other supporting materials. Though some of this content is differentiated by grade level, we are also mindful that children of the same grade level might have varying proficiencies, interest levels and preferences. Our rigorous development and testing process informs our approach to differentiation, allowing us to make firsthand observations of children’s comfort, challenges and successes with various hands-on activities.

While giving young children the opportunity to sketch their ideas instead of writing them out might be helpful, older children might also prefer to express their ideas in this manner as well. Designing our curricula in this inclusive manner ensures that all campers can find success and develop into innovators.

This desire to create an ideal learning environment for every camper extends to how we design each day’s activities. While our curriculum generally encourages small team collaboration, it is also flexible enough to support children who want to pair up in larger teams, or even participate on their own.


Differentiated Learning at Home

Following their Camp Invention experience, participants can continue iterating on the inventions they have worked on throughout the program. These “end products” are naturally differentiated and represent a student’s preference for demonstrating what they have learned.

The discovery continues at home, where campers can take on challenges introduced during the program that they might want to explore further. For example, if a child decides to dedicate their creative energy at camp to sketching and designing logos for their invention, then the weeks after camp represent a perfect time to incorporate the hands-on act of building a prototype. For the child who already has a working prototype they are happy with, they can now spend time creating a logo and marketing materials for their creation.


Learn More About Our Education Programs

To learn more about NIHF’s at-home and in-person education programs, we invite you to visit our website.

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