Future scientists

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Parkview Elementary School hosted the science-oriented Camp Invention for students who were entering grades one through six last week.

Camp Invention, a national program that is run out of Ohio, aims to “instill vital 21st century life skills, such as problem-solving and teamwork through hands-on fun” with a focus on science, according to its website. The camp, which ran from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., was a week-long adventure for students and teachers alike.

“This is the first camp that we’ve ever done here in Socorro,” said Janice Jaramillo, the camp’s administrator. “This is the first time I heard about it. It’s new to us. (It’s important) because science and math are a field that is not focused on that much and so this is to get the kids interested in that field and so they can carry it over into their school.”

The kids certainly were interested in what they were working on. Jaramillo said the teachers didn’t have to discipline any students over the course of the week even though the program in the Monday morning newsletter was described as “noisy, messy, and fun.”

“Yeah. It’s fun,” said Eugene Giron, a student at the camp who is entering sixth grade in the fall.

He also said he was learning a lot from the five different modules that make up the camp.

One of those modules was called “Problem Solving on Planet Zak,” in which students built large, colorful spacecraft to survive on the alien planet. They also invented devices that reached across a “swamp” (classroom floor) to retrieve popcorn to sate their hunger. Students learned to work as a group to accomplish a goal.

The next module, titled “Imagination Point: Ride Physics,” had students building roller coasters. They used hollow foam piping to send marbles through the hills, curves and loops they created for their coasters.

“We’re, like, learning the laws of gravity,” Giron said.

In the next module, students learned how to make filtration systems using empty plastic bottles. In “Saving Sludge City,” students had to make these filtration systems because the fictional townspeople kept polluting their lake. They also started creating new, green alternatives for the residents of Sludge City.

The fourth module, “Action and Adventure Games,” had students participating in activities that reflected what they were learning in the other modules. For example, a three-legged race was held in which the students learned teamwork and how to move together in unison.

However, the most popular module by far was “I Can Invent: Balloon Burst,” in which students had an opportunity to take old appliances apart and then form the pieces into something new that would burst a water balloon.

The older students created Rube Goldberg Machines, complicated inventions that perform a simple task, to smash their balloons.

On Friday, the last day of the camp, students got the chance to show their creativity and hard work to their parents at the Inventor’s Showcase. The showcase was the end of a new experience for many students in the area. Jaramillo estimated a daily average of 85 students, with a maximum attendance of 104, showed up for the camp.

This particular camp, called the CREATE Program, is one of four that Camp Invention puts on in schools across the country. The other three, which are supposed to happen in successive summers, take a similar, hands-on approach to learning science.

This summer, Parkview Elementary paid for the camp with money from its 21st Century Grant, a federal program that funds after school activities. Those funds needed to be spent or the money would have gone away, said Del Silva, an instructor at the camp.

Each camper cost the school $190 — an amount the school district can’t afford in its current state. The 21st Century Grants are for four years and for schools that meet AYP, or annual yearly progress, requirements.

Since Parkview did not meet the AYP requirements, the Camp Invention program is in jeopardy of not being brought back next summer.

“We (the school district) are always interested in keeping kids busy and learning during the summer,” said Ann Sheills, the president of the Socorro Board of Education.

However, without the funding from the grant, bringing back a program such as Camp Invention would be tough because the school district’s budget is so tight right now, Sheills said.

If the district wants to bring back the program, parents of the students involved will probably have to pay for it out-of-pocket, Jaramillo said. She expressed hope that maybe the district and students’ parents could split the bill, to drive down the parents’ cost.

She and Silva said every kid loved the program, and every student who was asked if they were having a good time said yes.