Camp days are structured around two 1.5-hour Science/Engineering Labs. Additionally, every day includes Outdoor Education (weather permitting), a Robotics or Computing Activity and/or a Creative Arts and Crafts activity. There is always plenty of time for explorer-led discovery and freestyle creating! Each day will have a different timetable as groups rotate for Outdoor Education time.
8:30 – 8:45: Arrive at ideaventions™ Science Center
8:45 – 10:15: Science/Engineering Lab 1
10:15 - 10:30: Break
10:30 – 12:00: Outdoor Education and Play*
12:15 – 1:00: Lunch
1:00 – 2:15: Science/Engineering Lab 2
2:15 – 3:30: Robotics/Computing Activity and/or Creative Arts & Crafts
3:30 – 3:45: Pick-up from ideaventions™ Science Center
*Weather permitting – in case of extreme heat or inclement weather, the outdoor education will be substituted with other appropriate indoor activities
Sample Activities: These are excerpts from our daily updates from our 2011 camps
Day 5 Focus: Space Colony
Today explorers completed their journey through space by imagining what it would be like to live in outer space - specifically, on the moon. We began the morning by playing a Crash Landing game where explorers had to decide what supplies to keep and what to leave behind when their lander crashed far from the moon colony. Explorers were surprised that some of our emergency supplies on Earth won't do much for us up on the moon (matches, compass, etc). We then discussed why life on the moon is so difficult compared to our Earth - a near perfect biosphere. Explorers learned about self-contained systems and created their own biosphere. They came up with the idea to represent animal life, the only ingredient we were missing, with animals made of craft supplies - it was a great addition!
In the afternoon we brainstormed ideas for what we would need living in the moon colony. Then explorers were set loose to create their own lunar habitats with any materials they could find- we had great results that showcased a lot of imagination!
Finally, the explorers finished up their SAM Animation videos and made a quick video telling us their favorite parts about Space Exploration camp.
Day 3 Focus: Dead Drops
We started off the day by finishing up our dead drops - the spies were really dedicated to making sure their plaster molds resembled real rocks! It was amazing to see how hard they worked on what was meant to be a quick decorating activity. We then put the scientific method into action and set up an activity to test a variety of invisible inks. Spies predicted which materials (lemon juice, baking soda, crayons, or potato water) would create the best invisible ink, making sample secret messages with each type. We then got to work decoding and discussing our results. The spies seemed surprised at how well the simple combination of white crayon and markers worked, but most picked the baking soda and cabbage juice as their favorite (in spite of the smell!) Outdoors, we headed to Lake Fairfax park to finally put our dead drop rocks to use by hiding and searching with partners. Our spies had created excellent camouflage for their dead drops - so good that one is still missing somewhere! During free time the spies were excited to find a school of fish by the lake and spent most of their time devising fishing strategies...
In computer time, the spies got to work imagining the full story of their Scratch videos. They laid out their ideas on storyboards and completed a final tutorial with Mr. Doug so they'll be prepared to jump into programming tomorrow. They ended their time with some CIA computer games to continue honing their observational skills! We ended the day by creating a final hidden code, a word grille. We also watched a quick video on lasers, which the spies are excited to delve into tomorrow!
Inventors and Inventions
Day 2 Focus: Innovation & Alexander Graham Bell
We started out Day 2 with an introduction to innovation, discussing how this can mean new things, like we explored yesterday, or new methods. We started off with a game to better understood what we meant by "methods" - the inventors were split into two groups and challenged to come up with the fastest way to have every member of the group touch a ball, with only one person touching at a time. The inventors were challenged to think beyond their first idea - simply passing the ball around a circle - to faster methods (crouching close to the ball and tapping it with a finger, determining an order, etc). The inventors got very excited about the competition and beating their team's fastest times - they were excited to break the 2 second mark by the end of the activity! We then presented a more difficult challenge - rescuing a "pet turtle" stuffed animal from the bottom of a "drain pipe" (cardboard poster tube). The inventors each attempted to create the best retrieval contraption possible using coat hangers, pipe cleaners, rulers, tape, etc. This was a great way to learn about using trial and error and thinking through potential outcomes to problem solve. Congratulations to McKenzie for being our turtle's first rescuer!
After snack, we moved into our inventor of the day - Alexander Graham Bell (a swap from the original schedule due to the weather). The inventors read "Listen Up!" to learn about the invention of the telephone, then watched a short video. Along with learning the story of Alexander Graham Bell, inventors were introduced to vibrations and the movement of sound. We finished off the morning by teaming up to make classic sting-and-cup telephones and experimenting with different variables (width of string, distance crossed, tautness of string, etc) to create the best possible phone system.
After lunch, we headed to Lake Fairfax to spend some more time testing our phones, and then enjoyed quick games of soccer and catch. We concluded our day by coming back to the center and learning about Rube Goldberg machines. The inventors really enjoyed the chain reaction video we watched and set to work sketching their own ideas. We ended by starting work on clay models of the parts of our machines (we will use these to make a stop motion video later in the week). We look forward to exploring George Eastman and the camera tomorrow!
Day 4 Focus: The Mayans
Today we focused on Ancient mesoamerica, particularly the Mayans. We started off our day by learning where the Mayans lived and some of the things they are known for. We discussed the importance of astronomy in Mayan culture and used Stellarium software to look at constellations and discuss celestial navigation. The explorers really enjoyed searching the sky for constellations they could recognize - many of them asked me to let them know how to get the software! It is available here (free download): http://www.stellarium.org/.
Next, we examined photos of Chichen Itza and learned about differences between Mayan and Egyptian pyramids. Explorers were then challenged to build their own terraced sugar cube pyramid to take home at the end of the day. Mr. Vernon's group enjoyed the outdoors briefly in the morning before the heat really kicked in. Ms. Jordan's group stayed inside and moved north, learning about Thule culture and the invention of the first "sunglasses". Explorers made their own paper sun blockers to attempt to block a "snowy" glare (from white paper). The results were mixed, but everyone enjoyed laughing at each other while wearing their paper shades!
In robotics, the explorers were finally introduced to the maze through which their robots must navigate. It was hard work learning how to program the robots precisely enough to take tight turns, drive specific distances, etc, but the explorers made good progress. One team made it halfway through - we will all try to finish the maze by tomorrow! For the afternoon science lab, we revisited our apple mummification project from Monday. The explorers enjoyed seeing their dehydrated (or rotten, as the case sometimes was) apples. They learned that salt worked best overall, though some of the older group's experimental materials had surprisingly effective results (even the grass seed!) To finish the day, we returned to a few projects the explorers ran out of time for earlier in the week. Ms. Jordan's group discussed Egyptian paper making and then made their own recycled paper. The highlight of my day was definitely when they decided to use their blotting sponges to clean the room! Mr.Vernon's group finally had the chance to dissect owl pellets. Once they got past the initial ick factor, they did a great job unearthing and matching bones, and as many of you saw, became very absorbed in the dissection!
Day 4 Focus: Watson and Crick
Today we got a ton done! First we built a huge DNA model, almost 3 times the size of Mr. Vernon's! It was made completely accurately which was very hard. Then we continued to investigate the outbreak of E. Coli at the Barrow County Fair. We were able to determine that the type of E. Coli that everyone has is E. Coli 0157:H7, and that some of the patients had developed a dangerous kidney disease called Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome or HUS. After snack we broke into groups, half went outside while the other half learned about video editing. We used Windows Live Movie Maker to make short movies about ourselves and practice editing. Then we broke for lunch, which was delicious!
After lunch we split back into groups. The first group learned about DNA extraction with Ms. Aisha and I, by using wheat germ, soap, and baking soda! The got really curious after seeing DNA that they started asking about genetic mutation, and reading through college textbooks! They soon realized that DNA was a complicated matter. Especially after watching a video on the discoverers of DNA. They also wrote a script for their final video project. The other group went outside then worked on their video projects as well. One team even finished completely!
Tomorrow we will look at our bacteria cultures under a microscope.
Day 3 Focus: The ocean floor
To start the day, Ms Jacqui's group did an exciting lab all about the ocean floor. We found out that far from being flat and sandy, the ocean floor is full of mountains, valleys, plains and even underwater volcanoes! We made a model of some of these features ourselves out of clay, and then practiced drawing profile views (from the side) and aerial views (a bird's eye view). Then we learnt about some of the ways we can measure the depth of the ocean. We talked about SONAR and also made our own miniature sounding lines. A sounding line is a length of rope, knotted in known increments, thrown over the side of a ship until it touches the sea floor. By counting the knots, you can work out how deep the ocean is. Meanwhile, Mr Vernon's group worked on their stop-motion animations. We have some great 'underwater' movies to show you tomorrow!
After snack, we all headed outside to Lake Fairfax. We went on a nature hike up the river and used our collecting kits for things we found along the way. The explorers found shells, plants and interesting rocks but the fish were too quick for us! Then we had lunch back at the center and watched the oceans movie - we saw some very strange looking creatures today, including the Asian sheepshead wrasse and the leafy sea dragon. In the afternoon, Mr Vernon's group did the ocean floor lab while Ms Jacqui's group spent some time on their stop-motion movies and finishing their sounding lines. We ended the day by reading 'Whale of a Tale' and also looking at some of the books our explorers had brought in to show their friends (tomorrow we will look at those we didn't get to today).
Day 3 Focus: Polar Regions
Today explorers focused on explorer Ernest Shackleton and his famous expedition to Antarctica. Explorers learned about the dangers faced by Shackleton and his crew and discussed some of the factors that ultimately destroyed Shackleton's ship. In our science labs, explorers began with an in-depth exploration of thermometers. We started with a seemingly simple question - how do thermometers work? The explorers were able to explain that the liquid inside went "up" as it grew hot, but were puzzled when asked why. We discussed the expansion of heated liquids and the explorers did some critical thinking about why, in a thermometer, expansion means only going "up" (nowhere else to go!). Explorers then created their own thermometers by mixing rubbing alcohol, water, and food coloring in a bottle and inserting a straw held up by clay. Explorers had fun choosing new colors for their thermometers and were surprised how much some of their liquid really did rise up the straw when heated (Lucas's shot out the top!). We then switched our focus to something else arctic explorers are likely to encounter - glaciers. Using marshmallows, explorers learned about how compression forces from heavy layers of snow create a compact, icy block.
Outdoors, we headed to Lake Fairfax to discuss the importance of resourcefulness. Explorers thought about the limited materials available to Shackleton and how he and his crew had to think creatively to attempt to survive. Explorers tested their own ingenuity and resourcefulness by using long bamboo sticks and duct tape to cross a "crevasse" in the park. This was a great exercise in teamwork for the explorers, and through trial and error, each group made a successful bridge! It was also great to see their creativity in incorporating rocks, extra sticks, and found items to make their bridges more stable. The explorers rounded out their day by completing new robotics projects. Mr. Vernon's group challenged their skills with a pecking bird build, while Ms. Jordan's group whipped through the "dancing birds" and had fun adding new sound effects. The explorers also continued compiling photos and research for their biome projects. We look forward to turning to the skies with the explorers tomorrow!
The Age of the Dinosaurs
Day 2 Focus: Extracting Fossils & Reconstructing Skeletons
Today our paleontologists had great fun extracting the fossils that they had made yesterday. It was quite hard work to carefully chip and brush away at the plaster but we finally found the imprint fossils! We learnt the difference between 'mold' fossils (a negative image imprint of the organism) and 'cast' fossils (formed when the mold is filled in). We also discussed the layers of the earth using a hard-boiled egg as a model. We discovered the crust (shell), mantle (white), outer core and inner core (yolk).
We continued with our SAM animation projects by practicing making movies with plastic dinosaur models and working more on our storyboards before we start filming with the clay models tomorrow. Outdoors was spent at Nottoway Park - we ventured on a short nature hike through the woods today before having some free play time. Some explorers found a tree that looked like a long-necked dinosaur! We also started watching the Dinosaur movie - we will watch a small part every day. The story so far involves a baby dinosaur being raised by lemurs!
For our second lab, we were introduced to the difficult process that scientists have to use when attempting to reconstruct dinosaur skeletons. With no map or instructions, the explorers had to use their problem solving skills to figure out how the dinosaur looked from just its wooden 'bones'. They did a great job and were able to finally identify a triceratops and a tyrannosaurus rex! We also talked about our own skeletons and how we can use x-rays to make radiographs. We viewed radiographs of various bones in our body (teeth, vertebrae, ribs, pelvis, femur, humerus, etc) on a light box and we also looked at some of animals and eggs. Our explorers were great bone detectives!
Day 2 Focus: Our environment
Today our explorers began their day by looking deeper into the aquatic environments we discussed yesterday. Using digital microscopes, the explorers each took samples of pond water to exam. While examining the plant life, explorers were excited when Mr. Vernon showed them how to find the cell walls of plant cells on their microscopes. A few explorers were also able to find tiny aquatic insects! Afterwards, explorers returned to the case of the Mystery River and worked together to incorporate new evidence. The explorers discovered that overuse of farmland in Capitol City may have led to runoff and disturbed the Shawnee River's ecosystem. They also researched into the potential threat of chemical spills. The explorers are realizing that answering big questions without clear answers can take patience and sometimes feel tedious, but they continue to show great imagination in coming up with possible causes for the mussels' disappearance and are learning how to pull pertinent facts from the information they find.
Explorers next headed out to Nottoway Park to unwind from their morning of research. We enjoyed another day of beautiful weather and the explorers wore us out with some intense games of tag! We brought our lunches outside and enjoyed them in the shade. Back at the center, explorers headed to the robotics room to begin the Green City Challenge. We discussed how this week, we will be building Lego Mindstorm robots and programming them to perform tasks helpful to our environment. Explorers saw the Lego model of a hydroelectric dam that they will set in motion using their robots, as well as a wind turbine. They paired up and began constructing their tankbots. The real excitement during robotics came from our unexpected adventure - the earthquake! The center definitely shook, but everyone was safe and everything around the building stayed in place. After the initial scare, most explorers were excited to have felt a real earthquake!
We ended our day by discussing a threat to our environment - acid rain. Explorers learned how poisonous gases condense alongside water vapor to create potentially harmful acid rain clouds. Explorers set out to discover how we can tell if rain is acidic, learning how to use pH test strips. Explorers enjoyed watching their strips change color as the practiced taking the pH of a variety of liquids. Tomorrow we will review the results and take the pH of the steam water we collected to check for safe acidity.