So what exactly is bliss for a group of 7- and 9-year-old like-minded boys? I’d say it was the recent summer camp my son Zach took part in. Each weekday, I’d drop him off in a room filled with the shared contagious energy of his camp-mates and friends. All 10 of them ecstatically working together and independently sharing mounded boxes of colorfully sorted Legos, complete with motors, gears and cables, constructing and actually grasping engineering, architecture and physics concepts. 

 

So what exactly is bliss for a group of 7- and 9-year-old like-minded boys? I’d say it was the recent summer camp my son Zach took part in. Each weekday, I’d drop him off in a room filled with the shared contagious energy of his camp-mates and friends. All 10 of them ecstatically working together and independently sharing mounded boxes of colorfully sorted Legos, complete with motors, gears and cables, constructing and actually grasping engineering, architecture and physics concepts.    Each morning Zach could hardly contain his enthusiasm, anticipating the intriguing projects he’d be challenged with for the day. In fact there were a couple of times, while still at home, that I thought he’d gone missing but really he’d already strapped himself into the car’s back seat, drumming his fingers impatiently; this before I’d even packed his snack, turned the key to the back door and made my way to the garage to make the 10-minute drive to the camp location. Each day was just that stimulating and fun.   On one day, every boy constructed a motorized conveyer belt illustrating the use of a gear drive and the application of conveyer belts. The next day they built a gear car showing the applications of different gears and the relationship to speed as well as the related concept of torque. Later they incorporated hinges into the construction of an inchworm car showing circular to reciprocal motion. A belt car revealed the concept of energy from battery pulleys, introducing the more advanced notion of pulley ratios. And on another day, they each worked on skid a steer vehicle to illustrate polarity, friction and turning radius. Animated chatter and unbounded excitement filled the space as they maneuvered their motorized individual creations across the carpet.   The credit for all the learning zeal goes to the talented camp instructor. An elementary school math teacher by trade, he skillfully and patiently led the boys on a weeklong learning and problem-solving experience demonstrating advanced building principles that for some college-age students can be monumental. His summer gig with a company called Play-well TEKnologies (www.play-well.org) provided a unique camp with a dash of added expertise offered to Play-Well’s instructors through specialty training.     Through a multilevel curriculum, Play-Well participants gain hands-on knowledge of the practical uses of engineering, preparing them to become the “engineers of tomorrow.” I have no doubt that a few of Zach’s summer camp graduates are well and eagerly on their way.   Deb Adamson, who lives in Connecticut, is a home school mom who writes about the joys, trials and adventures of days teaching and learning with her 7-year-old son. She can be reached at debadamson@comcast.net.