BOURBONNAIS — Going to school in the summer might not sound like fun, but the faces of kids at Camp Invention said otherwise.

About 128 students in first through sixth grades participated in the educational summer camp last week at Bourbonnais Upper Grade Center.

Camp Invention is a national program focused on using hands-on activities to inspire students to get creative and solve problems with a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) focus. Bourbonnais Elementary School District 53 hosts a camp every year.

Students last week were divided into four to five classes, with each class given a different theme to inspire the creation of STEM projects.

Some building kits were provided, while other projects were made out of materials students brought from home, like water bottles and cardboard boxes.

Grace Strahla, 18, a camp counselor, said students seem to enjoy the freedom the camp gives them to be creative.

“They have every aspect of control, can decide what goes where, what parts to use, and no one is going to tell them they can’t add something to their creation or make it fly,” she said.

The kids also enjoy taking things apart and putting things together, she said. On Thursday, she supervised a group of students building motorized cars in the “Road Rally” room.

“Every single kid wanted to be the fastest car, and yet they all went the same speed,” she said with a laugh.

A 2021 graduate of Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School, Strahla said she still remembers most of the names of the camp counselors from when she did Camp Invention in elementary school.

“I was always by the counselors, always on their hip basically,” she recalled. “When I was little, I always knew that I wanted to grow up and do the same thing because I just loved them so much. I want to give other kids that are that age now the same opportunity.”

After doing the camp for three or four years, Strahla took the next step and was a “leader in training” for two years and a camp counselor for three years.

She still remembers her favorite project from camp — making a catapult out of the shell of an old computer.

“That’s probably my most vivid memory from camp because it was just so much fun,” Strahla said.

While she’s not going into a STEM field (she plans to study criminal justice at Grand Valley State University in Michigan), she said she has had fun at every stage of the program and was glad she got to be a counselor before heading off to college.


Stephanie Markham joined the Daily Journal in February 2020 as the education reporter. She focuses on school boards as well as happenings and trends in local schools. She earned her B.A. in journalism from Eastern Illinois University.