Camp is out of this world |

Camp is out of this world

NEW CASTLE – The weather on Planet Zak has been a bit blustery this week. So blustery that kids taking part in Camp Invention at Riverside Middle School are getting hurt. “I lost an eye in the acid rain,” said student Max Sommers. Sommers was helping his friends Tuesday morning rush to build a shelter before another storm blew in, shooting lightning from the heavens and drenching the middle-schoolers in the make-believe flesh-eating acid. The storm may have been a minor setback in the class’ efforts to build a spaceship before the weekend, but they learned how to work together as they constructed their acid-rain shelter out of recycled materials. It’s a dire situation for these kids stranded on Planet Zak. Marooned on the alien world since Monday, when their spacecraft crashed on this dark, inhospitable planet, they have five days to figure out how to blast themselves back to Earth before the end of the week, lest they turn into aliens themselves. The stakes are high – if they fail, they’ll have to learn how to cool their food by boiling water. What’s more, said Sommers, the alien warning them about the strange amenities of Planet Zak “eats weird food.”And eating weird food just isn’t cool when you’re in the sixth grade. It’s a pretty backwards world, this fictional Planet Zak – a scientific simulation of a dire survival situation. It’s also part of Camp Invention, a hands-on science program Garfield School District Re-2 is offering this week. District gifted-and-talented program coordinator Lisa Doherty said the program created by the National Inventors Hall of Fame is used by local school districts all over the country and gives kids hands-on science experience they don’t often receive in the classroom anymore. Planet Zak, where kids learn how to solve daunting problems and think inventively, is only one of five different modules in Camp Invention. The students also take on designing a skateboard, experimenting with Newton’s laws of physics, designing a theme park with all kinds of rollercoasters, and learning about getting a patent. In another room down the hall, elementary school students spent Tuesday learning how to design a car on which they will soon strap an egg and crash it into a wall. The goal is to design a seat belt for the egg so it won’t break when they crash the car. The catch: Student’s won’t be able to test the seat belt before they crash the car and the egg into the wall. With 30 kids from Rifle, Silt and New Castle participating this year, Doherty wants to see Camp Invention double in size next summer and include kids from Glenwood Springs. The camp cost kids $209 for the week, and Doherty said she hopes to start a scholarship program next summer for kids who want to attend but can’t afford tuition. Contact Bobby Magill: 945-8515, ext.

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