On July 14-18, Leesburg Elementary hosted Club Invention, a four-day-long summer day camp.

First-through-sixth graders in Loudoun County who enrolled in the camp brought items from home to recycle into something new. In groups, they took apart the pieces, explored the different uses of each part and put them back together into different objects.

The idea is to give Loudoun students a hands-on experience in solution-seeking and problem-solving in the area of science, technology, engineering and math.

"I think it forces the kids to think outside the box," said Angela Rogers, camp parent. "There can be many answers or solutions to one problem."

Camp Invention might be a national education program, but it's relatively new to Loudoun County. Camp Invention launched a pilot program with LCPS last summer. The information from that session was passed on to three more schools this summer, including Leesburg, John W. Tolbert and Round Hill elementary.

Charles Hale, counselor at Leesburg Elementary, was approached by the school's principle about heading the program.

"I always like a good challenge, and I took it," said Hale. "[The camp is] hands on, it's creative. It lets students actually explore and it also lets them work out problems " It really was an opportunity to do something fun and exciting that is now a trend in LCPS. I really just wanted to be a part of that."

Through hectic planning and instructor training, much of which occurred during the camp itself, Hale put the program together with the help of teachers and parents. From 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., youth learned skills under the guidance of instructors.

Students brought in an array of items to take apart and experiment with. One of Rogers' sons brought a broken tape recorder. Others brought things like paper tubes from paper towel rolls, screws or old phones. From ping-pong tables to battery-powered cars, there were no guidelines on what they could or couldn't create out of recycled objects. The point was to explore technology.

According to Rogers, the camp is affordable at $200 a student, compared to other summer camps. She believes this sort of hands-on, experiential learning should be available to all students.

"Because they're constructing, they're learning through what they're doing," said Rogers. "There's really no right or wrong answer. All kids should be exposed to that."

From the success of this summer, Rogers and Hale both hope the program continues next year.

"It was a very positive experience," said Rogers. "I heard positive things from the parents. Their kids loved it " I would do it again in a heartbeat."

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