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I rode a Segway!

I returned home from Camp and couldn’t wait to tell my family and friends about the exciting things I learned that day. No, this isn’t an excerpt from my fifth grade journal. It just happened this July, and yes, I really rode a Segway; the Personal Transporter. I had only read about these new toys and watched others ride them on television. Now, I was a rider rather than a watcher. Yahoo!

Sure, I am 57 years old, but my excitement at trying something new by exploration, and then finding success, hasn’t left my system. It is really what good education is all about; learning in an exciting way that leaves a lasting impression, and a desire to learn more. I am definitely hungry for more; in fact I will take the whole buffet.

This wasn’t a special day camp for fifty-seven-year-olds. (Although that isn’t such a bad idea.) I still have plenty to learn about the world in which I grew up, but also about the world in which we currently live. Actually, I would really like to learn more about what the world will look like ten years from now, but I will have to save that for another day. No, this camp was Camp Invention, hosted at the Bird Museum. And what a camp it was!

My visit on a sunny Friday morning, the last day of camp for these eager young scientists, was a reminder about how exciting learning can be. When I arrived, approximately 100 students were working with teachers, volunteer parents, and each other, making a beautiful noise. If it had been indoors, there would have been an audible hum in the room. Instead, their eager voices were exchanging ideas and hypotheses on blue sky day. There was laughter and a few groans when ideas didn’t pan out as expected, and much laughter around the subject matter. It was learning at its best.

Students were taking apart simple and complex machines to learn how things worked. They were designing crash proof vehicles. They were exploring propulsion. They were working in teams, collaborating around ideas. They were using their minds to understand their world and the scientific principles that underlie the widgets, gadgets, and machines that we take for granted every day. Most importantly, they were learning they have the capacity to change the world by opening their minds and applying their creativity to problems that face our world, be it world hunger, transportation, or medical science.

Guiding this week long activity was a great team of teachers from Lake Pend Oreille School District and Sandpoint Charter School. Their enthusiasm was as clearly evident as that shown by the students. Seeing Farmin Stidwell teacher Nicole Dash dressed up as a princess from another planet was worth the trip to Sagle. Parent volunteers who dropped their children off on day one were so enthused they remained for the entire week, fascinated by the learning taking place not only for their children, but also themselves. Finally, moving about the structured chaos and orchestrating with enthusiasm and commitment, were the Birds. Their love for science, children, and the human capacity to make the world a better place was clearly evident. They participated, encouraged, problem solved, and gave their energy and talents to the children who attended the Camp from Lake Pend Oreille, Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene school districts, plus homeschoolers and students from private schools. There may even have been students from other planets.

It was Pam Riddle Bird who was responsible for getting me on the Segway. Unsure of myself at first, and a little reluctant, I did jump on. I wobbled a bit, leaned forward to accelerate and I was off at less than one mile per hour. I soon increased the speed and began to experiment. Like a mentor teacher, she left me to myself to learn more. I didn’t crash… I learned… and I smiled. I then wondered how and why this little machine worked - which was the point of the Camp for kids - asking why and then figuring it out.

Back to the Segway. Do you suppose we can get one that will run in snow or climb through the woods? Don’t be surprised if one of the students at Camp Invention doesn’t invent one five or ten years from now!

Thanks to Camp Invention, the team of teachers and inventors, but mostly the Birds for encouraging our children to develop their creativity and spirit to learn. What a gift!

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Author info

Dick Cvitanich Dick Cvitanich is the Superintendent of Schools for the Lake Pend Oreille School District. He has been an educator for 33 years, and became superintendent for LPOSD in 2006. He was educated at the University of Washington where he earned a BA in History and a Superintendent's Credential. He has been married to Diane for 32 years and they have raised three sons who "taught us as much as we taught them." "I have a passion for public education and the role it plays in our democracy. In my free time I read, ski ... come to think of it, I don't have that much free time."

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