At the entrance to Shaker High School this week is a sign that reads, “Camp Invention, where big ideas become the next big thing.” 110 students are participating in the summer enrichment program this year, putting their brains to the test in fun, innovative ways.
Campers in grades 1-6 begin their day with an energy-building team chant, before breaking off into five groups that rotate through various STEM-related activities.
“One day they’re designing an amusement park with a tree house, and the next day they could be learning about green energy technologies and how they’re going to power their park,” said Shaker High School technology teacher Brian Ashline and director of the camp.
Ashline says while not every student who participates in Camp Invention will become the next big inventor, the goal is for students to spark an interest in STEM.
“The goal is for them to figure out what they’re passionate in, and see the fact that there’s a lot of interesting things in STEM related fields.”
Ashline and assistant director Brittany Slingerland, also a Shaker High School technology teacher, guide five teachers, 10 junior high school counselors in training, and 17 high school leadership interns over the course of the week-long camp. Ashline and Slingerland hand-picked the leadership interns, students at Shaker who exhibited a strong knowledge and interest in science, technology, engineering and math.
Camp Invention provides the curriculum and modules, and the teachers and leaders then facilitate the learning through creative, hands-on activities.
“They’re pretty excited when they walk through the door every morning,” said Slingerland. “The second they get here, they’re doing an activity and having fun. I think they’re really happy with the different classes they take during the day.”
The camp, open to students throughout the Capital Region, is in its second year at North Colonie, with an increase in participation this year by 20 percent.
“Hopefully the students leave the camp with a lot of excitement, so that when they go to take math, science, technology and engineering classes later on, they’re able to look back and say they had a great experience,” said Ashline. “Then they can build upon that solid foundation and realize these types of careers are fun.”