Camp Innovate Creates New Possibilities

by Erika Solberg

Students at Camp Innovate have been busy reimagining the world this week as they focus on innovation in five disciplines: Math, Art, Science, Clowning, and Language Arts. On Tuesday, new ideas were everywhere.

Learning about stories in Language Arts.


In Math, teacher Amelia Watkins of Bowling Green is focusing on graphing in four quadrants, a concept not usually taught until sixth grade that innovates students’ perceptions of graphing. On Tuesday, the screen at the front of the room showed a graph with Mario Brothers characters at different points, and the students were working on a coordinate graph mystery picture. By plotting the given ordered pairs and then connecting the points, they created a drawing of a sun. Other activities this week include playing Battleship by plotting ships on a graph and using ordered pairs to make guesses, creating a story map by mapping important locations from a favorite story onto a graph, and building a 3D maze.

When asked how to plot points on a graph, Renata Martinez-Herrera of Bowling Green was ready with an explanation: “This is the x-axis, and this is the y-axis. The first number is the one that goes out to the side, and the second number is the one that goes up or down. You find where they go, and you put a dot.”

Amelia Tabor of Calvert City gave some examples: “If it is (3, 6), then you go over three and up six. If it is (3, -6), then you go over three and down six.”

When teacher Amelia asked if the students wanted to do additional mystery pictures, the class gave a resounding, “Yes!”


In Art, teacher Andee Rudloff of Bowling Green is having students work in as many media as possible and approach each media in an innovative way. On Tuesday, she shook up their idea of drawing by teaching them to create a hand that appears to be three-dimensional. First, they traced their hands on a piece of paper. Next, using a ruler, they drew straight lines across the paper — but not through the outline of the hand. Then, they connected the lines with an arcing line that went through the outline of the hand — “Think about the thickness of your hand as you do this,” Andee told them.

Finally, using markers, they colored in between each line. Andee suggested using color consciously: she reviewed the concept of the color wheel and encouraged them to use complementary colors, such as yellow and purple, to make the drawing “really pop.”

Andee had samples on the screen for them to look at and told them, “Take your time with the process — come up with an idea of how to do it that I haven’t thought of!”

Innovating in Art.

Even with everyone following the same set of instructions, the results varied widely. Hand shape, position on the paper, number of lines, shape of the arc lines, and color patterns all allowed for many possibilities and innovations.


In Science, Iesha Eaton of Elizabethtown is having her students explore innovation by redesigning an already-existing toy. Class began on Tuesday with teams of students making presentations based on observations they had made the day before on various types of Frisbees. The teams had made Venn diagrams of the toys’ features and kept in mind the benefits and risks of each design, such as durability and the possibility of being a choking hazard.

Next, Iesha read to them the story Leo Cockroach, Toy Tester by Kevin O’Malley. In the story, Leo evaluates many different toys, including some that are excellent (such as a toy plane that he flies in), and some that are not (such as the Stringless Yo-Yo and Baby’s First Fireworks).

With Leo’s experiences as a model, they next did their own toy-testing. In teams of two, they evaluated toys including a yo-yo (string included), toy car, spinning top, spiral art set, Slinky, tiny Lite-Brite, and build-your-own plane. They were charged with rating them for safety and fun according to the age range listed on the toy and explaining which they would pick to take home or give as a gift and why.  

Rarely is a group so well-qualified for a task!


Innovation can also be applied to one’s self, and in Clowning, students are working on a whole new set of skills — not just making balloon animals and applying makeup but also persevering in the face of a challenge. On Tuesday, teacher Nick Wilkins of Bowling Green introduced them to juggling. He began with a cascade where three bean bags travelled from the inside to the outside. Then he asked, “Want to see me juggle backwards?”

The students cried yes, and he turned around so his back was to them and continued to juggle. Laughter and groans ensued.

Next he demonstrated the reverse cascade, where the bean bags travel from the outside to the inside. He also showed them how he was tossing each bean bag up in the air on a diagonal. Then it was time for the campers to try. “Start with scarves and work your way up to chainsaws,” Nick joked.

Working on Venn diagrams in Science.

Some campers chose scarves and some bean bags; some started with two items and some charged ahead with three. Concentration, surprise, and smiles decorated the faces as campers caught, dropped, and scrambled on the floor for errant beanbags. No matter how easy or challenging they found the task, Nick was there with positive reinforcement, saying such things as, “Look at you!” and “Are we having fun?” He also moved around the room making adjustments to techniques and giving tips. “Look where my hands are,” he told one camper. “There’s a juggler!” he told another.


In Language Arts, teacher Amy Wallace of Bowling Green wants students to know that innovation is everywhere in stories. By the end of the week, they will innovate an old story — such as a Greek myth, a tale from the Arabian Nights, or an old English fable — by making changes to various literary elements. On Tuesday, they reviewed the literary elements they had discussed the previous day, including plot, character, and point of view. Then Amy read them the opening of Jon Scieszka’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, where the wolf explains he is going to tell his side of the story. “Whose perspective are we getting in this story?” she asked.

“The wolf’s!” the class answered.

“And whose perspective did we get in the original story?”

“The pigs!” they said.

In this version of the familiar story, the wolf innocently knocks on the pigs’ doors to borrow a cup of sugar and blows down their houses only because he cannot hold in a sneeze. Amy asked the class what made the story innovative, and the class decided it was the wolf’s perspective, which changed him from the villain to the hero of the story. “Changing perspective can change your whole perception of the story,” she told them.

Whatever perspective one uses, new ways of thinking and doing are easy to find at Camp Innovate!