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Kids Stretch Imagination, Devise Innovations At Camp

Six future inventors circled a kiddie pool decorated with cartoon dinosaurs Wednesday morning, intent on making their boats float across the water.

Nine-year-old Kyle Lunden’s sailboat had a Styrofoam body, Popsicle-stick mast and white paper sail. It cruised across the water in a gentle breeze.

Janel Davisson, 9, blew through straws taped perpendicularly to the end of her boat. She hoped her breath would move the boat across the water, but it was a flop.

With a Popsicle stick, a rubber band and two tacks, Steve Vensel, 10, made a propeller that sent his boat chugging through the water.

All three children learned about

invention in one of the Central Valley School District’s summer exploratory camps last week. This year’s program included drama, arts and crafts, engineering and computer animation.

The camps program has skyrocketed in popularity, increasing in attendance from about 150 children three years ago to more than 300 this year. So many children showed up for the drama camp that some had to be turned away, said program director Phyllis Betts.

“The teachers have a lot of ideas to keep them involved,” said Melody Lunden, who has two children in the camps. “They make them exciting.”

Last summer’s dinosaur camp with its archeological dig was a big hit, Betts said. By the end of the camp, the children constructed a 25-footlong papier-mache brontosaurus that spanned two classrooms.

The camps usually last for a week and cost $35. The drama camp was eight days long and cost $55. Children attend from 8 a.m. to noon. Teachers from the Central Valley district lead the classes.

In the invention camp, the first- through sixth-graders were given projects such as designing something to test the wind’s direction or creating a sound system that sends a message from one place to another. What they came up with was up to them.

By the end of the day, the “parts table” was ransacked. Multicolored pieces of string lay in a tangled heap. Strawberry pint baskets were threaded with colored wire and pipe cleaners, then discarded. Dried white glue oozed from between gluedtogether Popsicle sticks.

While making his boat with the propeller, Steve Vensel thought back to the gas-powered toy planes he’d seen that also were propelled by twisting rubber bands. That idea sent his boat through the water.

“I like it that you get to bring your imagination out and put it into a creation,” he said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

Tags: education