Pint-sized inventors have fun with science at camp

July 7, 2003

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Platteville first-grader Benjamin Hasker assembles a robot from a mess of circuit boards and disassembled printer parts. "I don't expect it to work," Hasker said.

PLATTEVILLE - Family and friends have called him Rick his whole life, but about 50 children who gathered on the University of Wisconsin-Platteville campus in June know him as none other than Morgan the Magnificent.

"How can you do a science camp without having a wizard?" Morgan asks.

Morgan, known by those over the age of 12 as UWP Outreach Manager for Continuing Education Rick Morgan, organized and directed the week-long Camp Invention program for tri-state area kids. A team of teachers and group leaders helped the children from grades 2-6 have fun with science.

Activities throughout the week taught students more about science and invention by combining subject matter with fun games and imaginary situations. In one project, the classroom was transformed into a laboratory replete with frayed wire and broken circuit boards as the children became pint-sized inventors.

"Each camper is asked to bring in an appliance and we take it apart, so you have gears and springs all over the place," Morgan said. "Then they dream up something you can make out of it."

After designing an invention, the children built it from the parts of disassembled appliances. Other activities focused on specific science topics. From games with marbles, children learned about physics and the laws of motion. In another activity, children learned survival skills from an imaginary scenario of crash landing on an alien planet.

"The kids are going the entire day," UWP Director of Continuing Education Marian Maciej-Hiner said.

Games in the afternoon had kids playing a variety of science-related games with tennis balls, shaving cream and water balloons.

"They combine physical activity and creativity," Morgan said.

UWP Outreach Manager for Continuing Education Rick Morgan donned a wizard's hat as well as the moniker "Morgan the Magnificent" to run the week-long day camp for area kids.

This year's Camp Invention at UWP was the first ever in southwest Wisconsin. Based in Milwaukee, Camp Invention is part of Greater Wisconsin Camps and the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

UWP hosts another hands-on educational program, College For Kids, in July. While College For Kids incorporates a broad range of learning topics, Camp Invention targets science and innovation.

"It's another opportunity for kids to have fun learning. It really seems to stimulate kid's creativity," Maciej-Hiner said.

Morgan said the success of this year's camp has prompted organizers to consider starting a program in Dubuque, and another Camp Invention at UWP next summer is already in the works. Morgan is looking at ways to include more people from the University community, such as students from the UWP School of Education.

"If you want practice in hands-on education, where you get down and dirty with the kids, this is where you want to be," Morgan said. "It's a blast."

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