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At Camp Invention, campers engaged with the Marble Arcade activity to experiment with weight, balance, gravity and structures. Mason Overcash, art teacher at James Clemens High School, guided this session. CONTRIBUTED

Leaders, youth let imaginations soar at Camp Invention

MADISON – Using unfettered imaginations, youth at Camp Invention engaged in a high-energy, action-packed week in modules that built on an idea.

After virtual camps for two years, Wendy Tibbs was elated to conduct a live, in-person camp at Midtown Elementary School. A National Board Certified Teacher, Tibbs is Midtown’s Gifted Specialist.

For this camp, however, they had to start ‘from scratch’ with new parent volunteers, campers and layout. “We figured out how best to share the building with two other camps, recruit high-schoolers and explain camp structure to parents and students,” Tibbs said.

Fortunately, former campers gave word-of-mouth recs, yielding a waiting list before Spring Break. Several former West Madison students and staff returned as Leadership Interns. The response “warmed my heart to see their enthusiasm,” Tibbs said.

Leadership interns were John Allison, Poorvi Bhovi, Jacqueline Broadenax, Renee Drayton, Kai Enderton, Jariaya Haigler, Kenneth Lobo, Alex Myers, Carly Parker, Ilene Pour-Biazar, Aubrey Anne Richards, Julie Schwartz and Evan Shoemaker.

Leadership-Interns-In-Training were Bailey Bennett, Camille Farmer, Cheyenne Harbin, Grace Kutach, Joseph Park, Geena Roberts and Arden VanZoeren. These volunteers led campers in four modules. They earned a statement of community service from U.S. Office of Patents and Trademarks.

“Explore” was the 2022 camp theme. The camp welcomed first- through sixth-graders from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Camp classes, “Robotic Aquatics,” “Spacecation,” “The Attic” and “Marble Arcade,” dealt with art, chemistry and ocean life. Small groups and individual students engaged in creative activities, which led to inventions, creatures and habitats. Challenging prompts encouraged campers to explore ideas with camp supplies and ‘upcyclables’ (recycled trash).

Camp leaders included six Madison City School teachers in, a MCS tutor and a former Huntsville teacher. “We were excited to have teachers from elementary, middle and high-school levels. We had a director, two assistant directors and MCS teachers,” Tibbs said.

The 141 campers attend 11 local schools, mostly MCS, but also private schools. Middle-and high-schoolers attend for different study.

For veteran campers, Camp Invention accommodates in giving back. Seven middle-schoolers returned as “LiTs” or “Leadership-Interns-in-Training.” Ten high-schoolers were volunteers, called Leadership Interns or LIs, with pre-camp orientation and online training to serve like ‘camp counselors.’

Student leader Camille Farmer was surprised to have fun watching the children “make whatever their incredible imaginations could dream. They weren’t thinking about how practical it was . . . just having fun with no fear of failure. I forget to enjoy (completing a project) and learning from my mistakes.”

Another leader, Aubrey Anne, “loved Camp Invention as a kid . . . (especially) the leaders. I wanted to be a part but the other way this time.”

“Our parent volunteers were amazing,” Tibbs said. “They did everything from helping with carlines, daily sorting upcyclables and helping at lunch. These camp volunteers were Jan Anderton, Deborah Delano, Lauren Everson, Allison Finley, Amy Palmer and Melinda VanZoeren.”

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