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Creativity and ingenuity reign at Camp Invention

Kole Spartz (from left), Kip Jenson and Levi Kuhl work on a project during Wednesday afternoon's Camp Invention at Prairie Elementary in Worthington. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- As kids in one classroom worked to solve Singapore's growing pains -- not enough land for its expanding population -- another group of kids tossed hand-made fishing lines into buckets of water in hopes of catching a plastic tube floating inside.

These were just some of the fun activities taking place this week during the seventh annual Camp Invention at Worthington's Prairie Elementary. Nearly 50 students, ranging from incoming first through sixth graders, participated in the four-day camp, which culminates this afternoon with an inventor's showcase at 3 p.m. The event is open to the public, and is located in the second grade pod, across from the school's media center.

Camp Invention is a program developed by the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Ohio and led by local volunteers under the direction of Jodi Hansen, a Worthington High School science teacher. She was assisted by fellow teachers, leadership interns and a trio of counselors in training -- former Camp Invention participants and incoming eighth graders.

"I have a fantastic group and there's no way we could do this camp without them," Hansen said of her helpers.

The camp was open to anyone with an interest in science, and as the week went on the activities grew more challenging.

On Wednesday, the kids were most looking forward to an afternoon "Launchitude," in which they used hand-made items as duck-chucking devices. A day earlier, Hansen said participants brought in an item from home that no longer worked for the "I Can Invent" project, and were tasked with using those items to create a device that would launch a rubber duck into a swimming pool. At the same time, the kids were able to learn more about how the item worked.

Katie O'Donnell, 11, brought in an old hand-held radio and a non-working Sponge Bob controller from a video game she had at home.

"I liked taking apart our old electronic things," she said. "In the handheld radio, the speaker is like a magnet. The screws and the screwdriver would stick to it."

O'Donnell has been a repeat camper at Camp Invention, and said no two activities have been alike. She likes the camp because the counselors and staff are "happy and enthusiastic about what we're doing" and she learns a lot.

"You can basically find a solution to any problem using simple materials," O'Donnell said, adding that she hopes to return to the camp as a counselor in training in the future. Her older brother, Ian, was serving in that role this year.

Hansen said one of the camp's signature programs is taking an item apart.

"I brought in a boom box that my brother had," added Kip Jenson, 11. "It didn't work anymore, so we brought it to take apart. I think we're going to make a catapult (for the Launchitude) -- or try, at least."

Jenson has been a Camp Invention camper for six years, and his sister, Ivy, is also participating this year.

"It's fun to interact with other kids and solve your problems with science," he said. "Jodi's done a good job organizing it, and the counselors are always nice and know what's going on."

Dale Hansen, 13, was one of the counselors in training this week, and said, "I'm learning how to work with kids and I'm also learning most of the stuff that the kids are learning."

A Camp Invention camper for five years, Hansen said he's now in the position of helping campers and encouraging them to learn on their own.

Camp Invention provides nearly all of the supplies used in the activities, and leftover items are divided up among participants on the last day so they can "keep on inventing," Jodi Hansen said. Some items are also saved for teachers to use in science programming during the school year.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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