So, you think you’re smarter than a fifth-grader, huh? Well, try maneuvering a Sphero bot through a maze, operating a LEGO Spike or coding a road trip across the United States before you answer that question.
It might sound like gibberish to you, but for the kids at Camp Innovation, technology is their primary language.
Camp Innovation is a four-day camp that allows fifth through 10th graders to focus on innovative problem-solving and critical thinking through various forms of technology. With more than 10 types of robots, drones and other gadgets, students are learning to take their creativity to another level to learn coding, robotics and programming.
“Everything we do ties back to programming and coding, because every person needs those skills no matter what career they choose,” said Susan Anderson, technology integrations specialist and Camp Innovation director. “Whether it’s problem-solving, critical thinking or working as a team, each student will need those skills as they journey throughout life.”
The Dan Dipert Career and Technical Center hosted the camp over a three-week time span, which saw about 170 kids per week. And the best part of it all? It’s free! Students from across the district got to experience technology in a whole new way at no cost to their families, and transportation was provided.
“I like coming here and being able to experience something new,” said Arlington High School freshman Hannah Brown. “In your normal classes at school, you’re not going to be coding drones with your classmates. This camp has taught me how to problem-solve, adapt to make things work better and learn to work with partners and groups again since the pandemic. I’m a better communicator because of it.”
How different does instructional time at Camp Innovation look compared to a typical science class? Kids are flying drones through obstacle courses, coding Spheros to play water polo and bocce ball, and using robots to compete against their classmates in LEGO competitions.
It’s a level up from volcanoes filled with baking soda and vinegar.
The camp is in its fifth year of operation and is continuously expanding to improve the curriculum and experience for students. Applications for the program opened in early April and only stayed open for one week due to the high demand. After one day, the camp had nearly maxed out its capacity. Out of the 73 Arlington ISD schools that are eligible to participate, 72 schools were represented.
Thanks to the state and federal interventions and operations department, students got to kick off their summer with a fun, challenging experience, and some teachers learned a new thing or two during camp, too.
“I was very nervous at the beginning because I only started to work with coding last summer,” said Deana Nazworth, a seventh-grade English teacher at Nichols Junior High. “There were kids coming in here that knew more about coding than me, and I had to get out of the old teacher mindset of being the information-giver. The kids have taught me so much in this short amount of time.
“This camp provides a moment where students, no matter the knowledge or skill level, get to blossom in creativity. It’s so inspiring to see them be supportive of each other. It’s teaching resilience and determination in a way that most education textbooks just talk about.”
Join in on the fun at camp!
If your student didn’t get a chance to attend Camp Innovation this summer, don’t fret. The technology used during camp is available to rent throughout the school year through the technology integration and innovation department. That means all Arlington ISD teachers can integrate it into their curriculum at any point in the year.
And be sure to keep an eye out for the application window in spring 2023.