Nicole Cleland, 15, is on the honors track in math and science at Henley High School. She’s considering teaching as a career. She knows how to use tools and how to take apart and reassemble electronics. All this, she said, is due to her time at Camp Invention.

“A lot of girls my age don’t know the difference between a Phillips and a flat-head screwdriver,” she said. “Not only has it helped me be creative, it’s helped me in real life.”

Camp Invention is a weeklong camp held every summer at Peterson Elementary. In its 10th year, the camp is for children getting ready for kindergarten through sixth grade. This year the camp was held from June 26 to 30 and hosted 93 campers.

“When they’re here, they are learning a variety of 21st century skills,” said Kristi Lebkowsky, who is camp organizer, an engineering teacher at the Henley Complex and holds a PhD in chemistry.

Nicole first came to Camp Invention nine years ago, just before she entered the third grade. She attended as a camper for five years, then graduated to counselor in training and now she is a leadership intern.

“It has inspired me to become a teacher,” she said. “I never would have thought about it unless I came to this camp and learned what it’s like to show a kid how to do something; how inspiring it is to teach them something they didn’t know and are really interested to learn about.”

About Camp Invention

Camp Invention uses hands-on projects and learning modules to “encourage creative problem solving, teamwork, entrepreneurship and innovation,” according to the organization’s website.

Camp Invention partners with local schools and local organizers. Previously Donna Volpe and Betsy Neuman organized the camp and this year Lebkowsky took on the role.

Of the 93 campers this year, 30 participated by scholarship thanks to funding from the Gordon Elwood Foundation.

“A lot of them wouldn’t have this experience without that scholarship,” Nicole said. “It’s fun to get to know those kids.”

“It’s an invaluable experience,” Lebkowsky said. “There’s so many things they’re taking from this camp. Without those generous donations a third of our camp would be missing out.”

The Summer Meals Program is another partner, providing lunch for many of the campers.

The camp also includes 10 counselors in training (students preparing to enter the seventh, eighth and ninth grade), 10 leadership interns (students preparing to enter 10th grade through college), four teachers and Lebkowsky as the director. With the high number of leaders, the staff-tocamper ratio is about 1:5, which is better than Camp Invention’s national average of 1:8.

Campers, counselors, interns and teachers come from across the Klamath Basin — public and private schools — to participate in the camp, Lebkowsky said.

Camp Invention Modules

At Camp Invention, campers learn from four different modules every day. Each module lasts about 75 minutes. The modules are: Space Makers, Operation Keep Out, Duct Tape Billionaire and Have a Blast.

Teachers and staff adjust the module to fit each age group. Throughout the week campers write down notes and observations in their Inventor Log, learning the basics of the scientific method.

“I’m sure every camper would agree, our favorite part is always the take-apart,” said Nicole.

The “take-apart” happens in Operation Keep Out, where campers dismantle old electronics using real tools.

“You get to investigate what everything is made out of and then you get to make something out of it,” Nicole said. “It’s working with the technical parts of the machine and making your own invention.”

“They are learning the proper way to use tools and how to take things apart safely,” Lebkowsky said.

In the Space Makers module, campers learn what it would take to create an environment for humans to live on another planet.

In Duct Tape Billionaire, campers develop a product, make that product, build an advertising plan and devise a way to attract investors.

“The kids are learning how to create a business,” Lebkowsky said. “They’re learning all about a business plan while still employing the engineering design process to build and construct some amazing creations in there.”

In Have a Blast, campers learn everything about projectiles.

“They’re learning terminology but they’re also working hands-on,” Lebkowsky said. “They’re learning the whole engineering design process, which is something most kids don’t experience until they take an actual engineering course.”

“It’s honestly amazing to watch kids learn about something other kids might learn about in college,” Nicole said.

They also design and build items like bottle rockets and sling shots by using recycled material.

“They’re building these amazing creations with the recyclable materials,” Lebkowsky said, “and bringing their ideas to life.”

Samantha Tipler, public relations, Klamath County School District Phone 541-851-8743; Email: tiplers@kcsd.k12.or.us