Camp Invention® (CI) is a week-long summer enrichment program with hands-on modules that develop creativity, inventive thinking, and problem-solving skills. Camp Invention is a program of the National Inventors Hall of Fame. The weeklong program gives students from kindergarten through sixth grade the opportunity to explore STEM concepts in a hands-on environment.

Breanna Dehrkoop, an Ottumwa Community School District teacher, serves as CI Director. As she entered her 5th year in the head role, she said, “Access to quality STEM-based summer enrichment is an important factor in empowering students to pursue a STEM career. However, many families in our community cannot afford such enrichment, and those children may miss out on the chance to explore and innovate. Of our six elementary buildings, where kindergarten through fifth-grade students attend, four of those buildings have almost 90% of students qualifying for the National Free and Reduced Lunch program, an indicator of financial need.”

Covid-19 raised additional concerns heading into this year’s summer break. “Summer recovery programming is critical for combatting summer learning loss and ensuring the most effective education opportunities, especially for students from underserved communities. Recent studies predict that COVID-19 related learning loss may widen the achievement gap, disproportionately affecting underserved students. Evans Middle School has a Free and Reduced Lunch rate of 50%, indicating a significant population of underserved children. Given the data on distance learning accessibility and learning loss, historically underserved children are at a greater risk than ever of falling further behind. Effective and accessible out-of-school programming for these children will play a crucial role in keeping opportunity gaps from widening further. CI is designed to provide equitable STEM education for all children during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.”

A $2500 grant awarded by the Legacy Youth Alliance provided ten underserved youth the opportunity to participate in this summer’s Camp Invention, held at Evans Middle School from June 21-25.  Lydia Roling, a sophomore at Ottumwa High School, is a member of the Legacy Youth Alliance. When evaluating Spring 2021 applications, she said the group voted to fund Camp Invention because it “directly benefits kids in showing them fundamental life skills, such as teamwork and communication.” Lydia also served as a Leadership Intern at Ottumwa’s Camp Invention, where she was part of the largest cohort in the program’s five-year history, with 100 students enrolling.
“I was shown just how much kids could flourish when put in an environment that interests them,” she said.

To learn more about the Legacy Youth Alliance and its grant opportunities, visit https://www.ottumwalegacy.org/for-grantees-scholars/legacy-youth-alliance/.