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Bishop Nash/The Herald-Dispatch Ella Kinsey, seated, gets pulled across the gym floor by Lennox Holbrook, left, and Kasey Thompson in a tarp relay during Southside Elementary School’s fourth annual Camp Invention on Monday, June 10, 2019, in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON — School has been out for less than two weeks, but it didn’t take much arm-twisting to court 74 local students back to Southside Elementary School during the summer break.

Starting Monday, the school began its fourth year hosting the much-anticipated Camp Invention, a summer STEM camp for incoming kindergartners to incoming sixth-graders, drawing mostly students from various schools in Cabell and Lawrence (Ohio) counties. A sister camp for the eastern reaches of Cabell County is also held this week at Ona Elementary School.

Sponsored by the National Inventors Hall of Fame, the weeklong camp is stacked with hands-on and educational classes built around STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) concepts.

Activities are lightheartedly themed but rooted in core principles of science. In an ocean-themed class, students pick through sea fossils and shark teeth, and design a seaworthy vessel. In another, students must manage the ins and outs of a high-tech farm.

There’s still plenty of time allotted for basic summer fun, like playing “line tag” (basic tag, but students can only move following the lines on the gym floor) or a tarp relay, a race where two students pull another student on a tarp across the floor.

“They really learn to do a lot more in this camp than what they thought they could,” said Jaime Matthews, camp director and Southside teacher.

While the camp comes at a price ($230 per student for the week, though there are scholarship sponsors to cover enrollment), many kids come back each year, and some have been all four years. Even a handful who have aged out return to help out as volunteers.

“This camp just has developed a good reputation, and we strive to make it better every year,” Matthews said.

Founded in 1990, Camp Invention has seen more than 1.5 million children from across the country come through over the past three decades. The program now offers more than 1,600 camp locations each summer.

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