TNCS Camp Invention 2016 Is Epic!


“This tessellation of hexagons represents he collective wisdom, experience, and insights of some of our nation’s greatest innovators, the Inductees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Each individual hexagon builds and strengthens the whole piece, just like each person’s invention contributes to the greater power of American ingenuity.

For four summers running, The New Century School has hosted Camp Invention, a week-long day program and the brainchild of the National Inventors Hall of Fame in partnership with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Presenting kids with real-world challenges that encourage them to solve problems and present their solutions through themed, scientific, engaging hands-on investigation, the Camp Invention program integrates four key components: 1) STEM enrichment, 2) consistent and effective implementation, 3) collaboration and other 21st-century skills, and 4) teacher and student development (read details here).

Camp Invention adopts a new curriculum each summer to ensure that participants have a dynamic and memorable camp experience. This year, the theme was “Epic!,” and there’s no doubt that it was aptly named. Joining the TNCS campus for the first time were seasoned Camp Director Beth Allen and Co-Director Lynnette Haynes, who are teachers at Westchester Elementary School teachers in Catonsville as well as their Camp Counselor Morgan.

Ms. Allen has been running Camp Invention for 15 years and says she loves the program, “It’s great for kids,” she explained, “because it’s very hands on and nothing is ‘cut and paste’—all work comes from the kids’ imaginations and what is important to them. They are the creators.”


The Epic! participants.

All in all, there were 52 “creators” entering 1st through 5th grade to participate in Epic! As in years past, Epic! was divided into four modules that campers cycle through each day:

1. CrickoBotTM : Solar-powered robotic crickets are the name of the game! Campers created cricket-inspired inventions to outsmart motorized spider predators, build cricket-sized tire swings and trampolines, and explore the science of sound by investigating how crickets chirp. Friends challenged one another to Chirp-Offs, where they played their musical instrument inventions.

In CrickoBot,™ here’s how children merged STEM concepts with real-world challenges:

  • Powered a circuit using solar energy
  • Explored biology and the unique characteristics of crickets
  • Engineered inventions inspired by a cricket’s unique abilities to shed their exoskeleton, create sound, and jump great distances
  • Designed cricket and spider bots that move using a vibrating motor and counter balance
  • Used physics and motion concepts to produce cricket-sized inventions

2. Epic ParkTM: Campers geared up and designed zip lines, water flumes, and hi-tech eco-gear! Ed Venture and Angel Investor needed their help to develop the latest and greatest tourist attraction because the dynamic duo just purchased Epic Park, located on a beautiful island filled with rainforest areas, waterfalls, sandy desert stretches, steep cliffs, and rolling hills that all lead down to the ocean. Angel and Ed—who happen to be crazy about all things adventurous—were looking for innovative thinkers to team up and pitch their most cutting-edge, green-energy designs for the future of Epic Park.

In Epic Park,™ here’s how children merged STEM concepts with real-world challenges:

  • Designed tree houses that integrate simple machines
  • Discovered Epic Park’s ecological diversity and unique terrain
  • Built prototypes and models of innovative eco-adventures
  • Pitched their Epic Park models for the chance to be co-owners by creating a commercial

3. I Can Invent: Maker StudioTM: Campers repowered the motors, gears, lights, fans, and components found in broken machines to make their own innovations in the Maker Studio! For inspiration, they spun the Inventor Challenge Wheel to hear a video challenge from National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees and Collegiate Inventors Competition Finalists and Winners. Everyone spent time exploring the science of 3D printing and tinkering with circuits to get their wheels turning in a new direction as they prepareed to make The Next Big Thing!

In I Can Invent: Maker Studio,™ here’s how children merged STEM concepts with real-world challenges:

  • Exercised authentic STEM exploration as they applied reverse engineering to disassemble broken appliances and redesign them into prototypes
  • Expressed ideas through writing and sketching in their Inventors Log
  • Used creativity, innovation, design engineering, and design thinking to engage in problem-based learning
  • Increased their understanding of the value of Intellectual Property and the roles that patents, trademarks, and copyrights play in the landscape of innovation

4. The Lab: Where Pigs FlyTM: Campers explored demolitions, coding, squid, slime, and sound-activated lights in The Lab: Where Pigs Fly and anything is possible! As scientists, programmers, and biologists, campers tested out a dozen or so experiments in the Camp Invention Laboratories. Each day brought exciting new challenges, from demolition and cup tower explosions, to programming and coding, to the chemistry of polymer slime and spinning disco ball circuits.

In The Lab: Where Pigs Fly,™ here’s how children merged STEM concepts with real-world challenges:

  • Used a wrecking ball and mock dynamite to demolish structures
  • Coded a programmable robot
  • Designed a device to collect marine specimens
  • Explored geometry and angles as they bounce light
  • Conducted chemistry experiments to make their own slime

Thus, each module intersected with and built on the others, resulting in kids really making the connection between what they were doing and why. As for inventions, they made robots (there were a lot of robots!), a “homework helper” (a motorized pen to get that homework done faster!) and much (much—see photos for the state of the TNCS gymnasium during Camp Invention week!) more.

Ms. Allen was excited that 2016 was the first year campers could integrate lights and motion in their creations. “Their prototypes didn’t always work out the way they expected, but the kids were so engaged in what they were doing and happy to see where their imaginations would take them,” she said.

They also spent plenty of time outdoors, and even applied their physics and motion concepts on the playground in some Epic Water Battles!

For past Camp Invention posts, see Camp Invention Returns to TNCS in June and Camp Invention Takes Creativity to New Heights (and New Depths) at TNCS!. Also keep the fun going with questions designed to keep your camper connected to Camp Invention ideas and motifs:

1. What was the most exciting activity at camp?

2. What do you hope to do at next year’s Camp Invention program?

3. How can you create Camp Invention at home?

Camp Invention Takes Creativity to New Heights (and New Depths) at TNCS!

A hand-drawn Camp Invention logo and motto inspires TNCS inventors.

A hand-drawn Camp Invention logo and motto inspires TNCS inventors.

Over a clamor of hammering, chatter, whirring, and buzzing, a shout is heard—“What’s our number one rule?” “Have fun!” is the enthusiastic reply of a dozen or so 1st-grade voices. For the third summer running, The New Century School hosted Camp Invention, a week-long day program and the brainchild of the National Inventors Hall of Fame in partnership with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Presenting kids with real-world challenges that encourage them to solve problems and present their solutions through themed, scientific, engaging hands-on investigation, the Camp Invention program integrates four key components: 1) STEM enrichment, 2) consistent and effective implementation, 3) collaboration and other 21st-century skills, and 4) teacher and student development (read details here).

TNCS Kindergarten/1st-Grade teacher Teresa Jacoby headed up the program as Camp Director, joined by Camp Instructors Miss Danielle, Miss Fanta, Miss Katie, and Miss Sarah, who are public school teachers in various subjects during the school year. “I really enjoyed this program,” said Mrs. Jacoby, “because it’s very thorough, and everything is broken down into steps.” A science enthusiast in her own right, she plans to use some of the Camp Invention approach in her classroom. The thematic aspect, she says, shows students where a particular lesson is heading and what it all leads up to.

This year’s theme was Morphed!, which is divided into four modules that participants in one of three groups (orange = 4th–6th graders, green = 2nd and 3rd graders, and blue = 1st graders) cycle through each day:

1. Amplified: Kids explored the dynamic realm of the five senses on a bionic adventure. They joined “research teams” and unlocked clues to uncover nature’s blueprints (i.e., animal evolutionary adaptations), which hold the key to superhuman senses. To build essential STEM skills, they developed bionic gadgets and explored sensory illusions.

2. Super Go: Kids created morphing, motor-powered vehicles that operate on land, in the air, and underwater. Using nature’s designs, they explored energy, fuel, movement, and animal features and then applied these discoveries to motor-powered vehicles. In preparation for the Super Go Road Rally, they used their STEM skills to build their vehicles, ramps, and tunnels and let ’em rip!

3. I Can Invent: Pinbug: Kids disassembled electronics to build insect-themed pinball machines. They used tools to uncover mechanical guts and upcycle them into bumpers, targets, and scoreboards. Then they used physics, anatomy, and math to propel ping-pong balls onto the playfield with a cardboard launcher and insect leg flippers.

4. Design Studio: Morphed!: Kids invented and tinkered with circuits and design solutions to nature-based challenges. As entrepreneurs, team leaders, and designers, they worked alongside other campers to bring their inventions “to market” in an environment modeled after real-world research and development.

What did this happy camper like best about Camp Invention? "Making stuff!"

What did this happy camper like best about Camp Invention? “Making stuff—I made a car, and I’m also making a pinbug machine!”

Thus, each module intersected with and built on the others, resulting in kids really making the connection between what they were doing and why. Said Mrs. Jacoby: “One of the things I got the biggest kick out of is that [Camp Instructor Miss Danielle, an AP Physics teacher] told me that a lot of her advanced high school students would have trouble putting the circuit boards used in Design Studio together, but these elementary-aged Camp Invention students are totally getting it. This is amazing!”

Look what I can do!

Look what I can do!

Using tools is so much fun!

Using tools is so much fun!

Mrs. Jacoby thoroughly enjoyed teaching the camp she says because she was impressed with how much the kids actually used tools to figure things out and to create, fix, and experiment. She also appreciated the number of girls participating; the ratio of girls to boys was equal. “There’s not a girl in here who’s going to be afraid to change her own light fixtures,” she said.

Camp Invention Returns to TNCS in June

Does the thought of summer-long video games give you a headache? Do you find the notion of watching the antics of mutant turtles—ninja or otherwise—a little creepy? Does the prospect of relinquishing your child to 9 weeks of these frequently vapid pursuits fill you with dread?

Parents, despair no longer: enroll your boys and girls entering grades 1 through 6 in Camp Invention this summer and give them the opportunity to explore, create, invent, and have loads of active, imaginative fun! Important: your child does not need to be enrolled at TNCS to join—this is a community-wide opportunity. Nationally acclaimed Camp Invention is a week-long summer day program, the brainchild of the National Inventors Hall of Fame in partnership with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Presenting kids with real-world challenges that encourage them to solve problems and present their solutions through themed, scientific, engaging hands-on investigation, the program integrates four key components:

1. STEM enrichment: These four vital education areas—Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math—are explored via hands-on, creative problem-solving activities. Camp Invention inspires kids to be curious about their world and prepares them for a future of responsible, engaged participation within it.

2. Consistent and effective implementation: Programs are all-inclusive; Camp Invention provides curricula and step-by-step instructions for the TNCS instructors to follow as well as training and all program materials. This ensures that programs are carried out correctly and consistently, maximizing the benefits to participants.

3. Collaboration and other 21st-century skills: Working in teams, children are presented with real-world challenges that promote the direct application of critical thinking and communication skills demanded by colleges, careers, and citizenship in the 21st century.

4. Teacher and student development: Teachers gain direct, reproduceable experience in how to integrate STEM content in daily lessons and beyond. Kids benefit from the student-centered approach to learning; they are led by their own desire to solve the presented problem, to see it through.

Camp Invention Comes to TNCS!

Camp Invention is returning to TNCS for Summer 2013! Enroll for June 17–21!

The honor of hosting this exciting exploration is reserved for only about 1,200 schools nationwide, and TNCS has earned the distinction of being the only location in the downtown Baltimore area to host the camp this summer. Says TNCS Summer Camp Director Lisa Warren, “We got first dibs—it’s a great honor for us to be hosting it here for the second year!”

TNCS’s Camp Invention session will be held during the week of June 17–21, and camp runs for a full day, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. This year’s program theme is CREATE, which features four modules the kids cycle through each day: Problem Solving on Planet ZAK, SavingSludge City, I Can Invent: Launchitude, and Geo-Games (click the CREATE link above to read more about what skills and learning each module focuses on). Each one promises some really wacky fun, including re-engineering household items to create the ultimate Rubber Duck–Chucking Device, for example. What kid isn’t going to love that? Best of all, they’re using scientific principles in actual applications. These lessons will stick. Or fly, as the case may be. Even kids who have previously participated in Camp Invention will benefit from brand new adventures throughout the week.

Space is still available! To register your child for Camp Invention at TNCS, click here!

Summer camp at TNCS

Enriching summertime activities make happy kids!

Other specialty summer camps open to the public are also available at TNCS, including Lego + Brain Games, Drama, Music, Mandarin Immersion, Painting, and Launch Pad Academic Bridge Camps, as well as camps for younger children. As we wrote in “Making Summer Count—Weekly Camps at TNCS,” using summertime to learn while having fun will enrich them academically throughout their school careers.

To register for any TNCS camp, click here.

Mandarin immersion camp

Don’t let the important skills your child has practiced all year atrophy over summer—keep them happy and engaged at TNCS summer camp!

Making Summer Count—Weekly Camps at TNCS

No more pencils, no more books, no more . . . development?

Empty classroom, empty heads

This forlorn image is a disturbing visual metaphor for the blankness that can descend on kids’ brains without enriching activities to occupy them during extended school breaks.

Pop culture would have us believe that summer is a time of sanctioned hedonism—a 9-week-long cannonball into a pool of unrestricted play, unbroken by stints of focused study. A vacation for the brain. Such is how many of us grew up, in fact.

But before we let our kids’ hair completely down this coming summer, we’d do well to consider that more and more researchers agree that throwing academics to the wind for such an extended period is hurting kids’ cognitive development as well as reversing their academic progress. In fact, in Lasting Consequences of the Summer Learning Gap, a 2007 report, researchers not only categorically demonstrated that this regression was occurring, but also found that it’s cumulative, so that the time squandered during the elementary years shows up as marked deficits in the high school years:

We find that the . . . achievement gap at 9th grade mainly traces to differential summer learning over the elementary years.

This was the major finding from the Johns Hopkins University’s Beginning School Study (BSS), which launched in 1982 and tracked testing data, learning patterns, high school placement, high school completion, college attendance, and other indicators among a representative sample of Baltimore school children from first grade through age 22 years.

A related report from the National Summer Learning Association finds that “A conservative estimate of lost instructional time is approximately 2 months or roughly 22% of the school year . . . It’s common for teachers to spend at least a month re-teaching material that students have forgotten over the summer. That month of re-teaching eliminates a month that could have been spent on teaching new information and skills.”

Keep your kids off the summer slide!

On the heels of these sister benchmark studies, both President Obama and best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell took up arms in the fight against “summer slide.” President Obama argues for education reform with a longer school year at the heart of this platform. Noting that U.S. students attend classes, on average, about a month less than children in most other advanced countries, he said in a 2010 interview, “That month makes a difference. It means students are losing a lot of what they learn during the school year during the summer . . . The idea of a longer school year, I think, makes sense!”

In Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell urges us to rethink our notion of what makes someone successful, because according to him, it isn’t usually the individual gifts a person is endowed with but rather some special opportunity that befell him or her at an optimal point. Wouldn’t it be great if such opportunities were more broadly available, such as, say, summer camp? (In point of fact, the BSS found that “unequal access to summer learning [italics mine] opportunities during the elementary school years” is responsible for most of the achievement gap. Scary.) Tying this to academic performance, Gladwell writes, the “only problem with school, for kids who aren’t achieving, is that there isn’t enough of it.”

Inquiring minds

This inquisitive little girl is all set to explore some insect life!

If, as he believes, “It is not the brightest who succeed, nor is success simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. . .  Outliers are those who have been given opportunities—and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them,” then let’s seize back those June, July, and August weeks and help our kids make the most of them!

How to let them have fun while they learn: summer camp at TNCS

Lisa Warren, Language Curriculum Specialist

Lisa Warren, Language Curriculum Specialist

The New Century School Summer Camp Director Lisa Warren says, “Camp is still a ‘break’ from the school year, but it keeps bodies and minds engaged in a fun way.” (You might recognize Ms. Warren from “Language Curriculum Specialist Joins TNCS.” That’s right, she’s not only the TNCS Summer Camp Director, but also the Foreign Language Curriculum Specialist as well as the Lingo Leap Program Director. That’s one devoted educator!)

As camp director, Ms. Warren developed the themes each weekly camp will be based on, making sure to include a wide variety to appeal to many interests. “I’m especially excited about the construction theme,” she said. “That’s a unique one you don’t always see, but so many kids love it.” She also provides the educational resources and some activity ideas to the instructors who will be overseeing each camp. Most camp instructors are already part of TNCS staff, so they know the ropes.

Themes will vary among the preprimary, primary, and elementary camps, and instruction will also be differentiated within each of those three strata. No matter what level your child is working at, he or she will receive individualized and group learning support. And again, even though academic engagement is the camp’s foundation, fun is at the heart of each session. See the primary session schedule at right. Themes guaranteed to keep kids’ interested include everything from Cooking/Gardening and Mandarin Immersion to Under the Bigtop. Preprimary camp will be immersion-style, and parents can choose from either Spanish or Mandarin. All camps will feature an in-class language assistant, however, so kids at all levels will have the opportunity to practice the other languages they are learning.

Primary summer camp themes

An example of themes from TNCS’s primary summer camp itinerary. Gosh, can adults attend???

The elementary camp takes a slightly different tack, comprising “specialty sessions.” These are a bit more targeted as befits the older child. Kids here can start the summer with Camp Invention, of which TNCS is proud to be the exclusive downtown provider. In Camp Invention, the brainchild of a nonprofit organization, kids are challenged with a project that they must execute collaboratively. The project goal always centers around solving a particular, real-world problem. (Camp Invention will be profiled at length in these pages in the weeks to come. Stay tuned!) Toward the close of summer, kids ages 5–11 will move into “Launch Pad Academic Bridge” camp, which is just what it sounds like: “a means to recapture and reactivate knowledge learned during the previous school year to prepare for the coming year,” in the words of Ms. Warren.

Other important camp highlights—read on!

Chef Emma Novashinski will offer a Brown Bag lunch as the summertime extension of the Kitchen Garden Tuck Shop program, available for weekly sign-up. As always, her lunch will be healthy, locally sourced, and hand-prepared. Even this will have a fun summer twist; lunches come in paper bags for easy transport to an outdoor picnic spot!

Regular camp hours run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (or to 12:30 p.m. for half days). Before-  and aftercare will also be available, starting as early as 7:30 a.m. and running through 6:00 p.m.

Just as in previous years, the camp week culminates with Fridays, better known to camp attendants as Water Playday. Sounds fun, right? Kids can run and jump through the spray from a sprinkler, and a water table will also be on hand to foster those skills that any budding civil engineers, marine biologists, and geophysicists might require. (And, of course, synchronized swimmers.)

Finally, if you have any questions, please visit the website or contact Lisa Warren at

Find additional reading, including more tips for academically enriching summer activities here: