The next Thomas Edison or Alexander Graham Bell likely roamed the halls of Gretna Middle School in recent weeks.
More than 100 students made their way to school daily as part of the annual week-long Camp Invention, open to students entering first through sixth grade and offered by Gretna Public Schools in partnership with the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
“It’s all hands-on and STEM-based,” said Camp Director David DeCent. “There’s really no wrong answer. It’s just a fun process focused on creativity.”
The program features a new curriculum each year and encourages students to return year after year for different hands-on activities that explore science, technology, engineering and math.
This year, programming focused on four inventive modules, along with a fifth module dedicated to games.
Modules included Deep Sea Mystery, where students dug up fossils and studied constellations along with inventing island survival tools and underwater equipment, and DIY Orbot, which allowed students to explore circuit boards, motors and gears by reverse-engineering a remote-controlled robot and testing it out.
Camp participants also participated in a Farm Tech module and the popular Innovation Force, which allowed students to become superheroes. In this module they worked to battle an evil supervillain who was out to steal the world’s ideas. Children created a device to retrieve the ideas and craft them in groups.
“There’s so much creativity and freedom for kids and yet, they’re learning,” DeCent said.
Teachers serve as module instructors and middle and high school students are camp counselors. DeCent is always trying to recruit local Leadership Interns to work the program.
The camp has remained a strong summer staple in the Gretna community for more than a decade.
“I just really enjoy seeing them have fun with science,” said Kelly Dibelka, the camp’s assistant director. “Seeing how things work and using their brain on a daily basis in a way they might not usually in the summer and just hearing them talk about and explain their ideas.”