NEW PALESTINE

Eli Purciful pulled the plastic syringe back as far as it could go to let it fill with air, and then he quickly pushed it forward, sending the plastic element toward his target.

The second-grader was excited to understand the process posed to him and other youngsters earlier in the day.

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The question he and other students were asked to answer was simple.

“How do rockets work and get so very high in the air?” said Shannon Kamp, Sugar Creek Elementary School teacher.

The experiment helped answer the question, showing how thrust can make things move, and move pretty fast if the thrust is strong.

The group of second-graders, huddled together in a classroom at New Palestine High School, were part of Camp Invention, a week-long science, technology, engineering and math program.

This is the fourth year the Community School Corporation of Southern Hancock County has hosted the summer camp for kindergarten through sixth-grade children. District officials had 39 participants back in 2013, but grew to 106 children this summer.

The camp presents youngsters with fun, hands-on challenges encouraging creative problem solving, teamwork, entrepreneurship and innovation, according to the officials Camp Invention website, campinvention.org.

The camp was taught by seven local teachers who followed new curriculum introduced each year. The material is given to them by Camp Invention officials, inspired by the Inductees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Cathy Purciful, fourth-grade teacher New Palestine Elementary School, has overseen the program the past four years and said the camp is a great way for children to take part in hands on projects exposing them to science.

“It’s so great for the kids because the curriculum is so engaging,” Puricful said.

Clark Fralic, Sugar Creek Elementary School art teacher, worked with fifth-graders and had them in a take-apart session. It’s where the students ripped apart electronic equipment to gather material they were then expected to use to make a wired box with an alarm.

A group of five children, sitting on the floor with materials around them in Fralic’s class pieced together wires, a battery and an alarm then raised their hands in excitement when they got the alarm to make a sound.

“We got it,” Jackson Kamp, a fifth-grader, said.

His mother, Shannon Kamp, who was also a teacher at the camp, liked how the summer setting is different from normal classrooms in the children get to delve deeply into projects.

“It’s a chance for us to really get the kids into really doing the STEM activities,” she said.

In everyday schools, educators are tasked with touching base on all the standards and don’t often have time to let children explore, ask questions and really get into project-based learning experiments.

“Here we can just focus on getting them engaged,” Shannon Kamp said.

The educators enjoy watching the students connect the dots through experimentation and said the youngsters will learn more and retain the information longer by being part of the project rather than reading or watching others to it.

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Kristy Deer is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3262 or kdeer@greenfieldreporter.com.