Hands-on: Summer Honors students assist with camp

August 3, 2011

For a typical summer class, students might expect to be sitting in a classroom for several hours a day and cramming over books for a few more.

Instead, an elementary education course for Indiana State University's Summer Honors program has a curriculum full of bouncy balls, hovercrafts and duck duck goose.

As part of the class, students help out with Camp Invention, a week-long program for children in grades Kindergarten through 6. The children at camp participate in hands-on activities that engage creativity and promote learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The students' role is to plan games and innovative learning activities for the kids. They are enrolled in the elementary education class at ISU through the Summer Honors program.

Summer Honors courses are open to high school students who have the chance to earn university credit while experiencing campus life at Indiana State.

Students praised the course and its hands-on learning, which mimics the engaged style of Camp Invention.

"It's exciting to actually be doing hands on stuff, that you get to be here and work with the kids," said Darion Wilson, a Shakamak High School junior. "You're not just sitting in a classroom learning about it."

Camp has been a great learning experience for Wilson, who hopes to be a kindergarten teacher one day.

Melissa Nail, an ISU professor and teacher of the elementary education class, said that in addition to valuable hands-on experience, students learn lessons they will need in their future careers as educators.

One of those lessons came as students were presented with the unexpected responsibility of teaching one of the five camp classes.

"Talk about ‘more from day one,'" said Nail, referencing the Indiana State University slogan.

"As teachers, the first thing you learn is to be flexible," she said.

Tim Moss, an ISU alumnus and co-director for this year's camp, modeled that very skill for students this year.

A bicycle accident left him with a broken right arm the week before he headed to camp in charge of nearly 110 elementary-aged children.

"I definitely didn't plan this," Moss said with a chuckle.

Even with his dominant arm in a sling and a more than full camp enrollment, he said things ran smoothly. For that, he credited the collaboration of the students, teachers and university.

"We couldn't do it without the support of ISU," said Moss.

That thanks doesn't just go out to the ISU summer students working at camp full time. It extends to the camp's location in recently renovated University hall.

"This is a beautiful facility," he said, motioning around the room.

Although the camp has been offered on Indiana State's campus for seven years, this is the second year it has taken place in the University Hall.

Arwen Wroblewski, a student at Dixie Bee Elementary, walked out of her last day of camp with a smile and a bag of goodies. During the week, she said she got to play games, make necklaces and solve mysteries.

Her favorite activity, "Bounce! An Atomic Journey," encouraged creative science.

"My favorite part was the bouncy balls. We got to make them!" she said.

During the activity, children investigate bouncy ball science before making their own ball to take home.

The bouncy ball module is one example of the engaged learning that goes on during the week. Other projects ranged from decoding mysterious messages to building new inventions.

One boy rushed up to demonstrate the gravity-defying abilities of his homemade hovercraft.

"Look! I can make it fly!" he said.

As busy elementary-aged kids, the campers clearly enjoyed the hands-on style of the camp.

Moss noted that active learning is a fundamental aspect of Camp Invention, for campers and ISU students helping out.

"Hands on, minds on," he said.

Nearly all the participants in the ISU Summer Honors class said they wanted to work in the field of elementary education. Nail said this course is great for those students especially, because it gives them a taste of what it's like to work as a teacher.

Nail said the class provided incredibly beneficial experience for the students. As the two weeks of Camp Invention came to a close, students left with a better idea of what their futures could hold as educators.

"One of the students mentioned to me that camp is almost like the whole school year crammed into a busy week," said Nail.

"Monday is like the first day of school, when students are a little quieter and nervous. But by Friday, it's like the last day of school. Kids are sad and they don't want to leave."

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Other/Media-Services/Camp-Invention-2011/i-tZnLkjZ/0/L/IMG3007-L.jpg - Randy Spencer, a math teacher at Honey Creek Mille School, helps students take part a microwave oven during "Camp Invention" at Indiana State University. The students used parts from the oven to build machine that created a chemical reaction.

http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Other/Media-Services/Camp-Invention-2011/i-58LGBwC/0/L/IMG3029-L.jpg - Nathan Warren takes a bicycle apart during Camp Invention at Indiana State University.

Writer: Bethany Donat, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University 812-237-3773.