Camp Discoveries

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Ball State University

Photo Gallery
Images from past camps


Feedback From Parents

"These are the types of activities [offered at camp] that are not currently offered at his school, and the same type of activities that he was dismissed from at his previous school because he did not fit the gifted mold."

What is Camp Discoveries?

The idea for our summer camp for students with learning disabilities who are also gifted (LDG) started in 1996 and was prompted by parents and teachers who were at a loss to meet the needs of twice exceptional students in schools.

In 2003 this idea became a reality when we received a grant from the Indiana Department of Education, Division of Special Education.

Rationale and Philosophy
We chose to focus enrichment on art and science because the unique combination of artistic and scientific inquiry provides a twice-exceptional student with opportunity for success that directly contributes to self-esteem.

In our lessons a core topic is examined from multiple perspectives in each discipline. Students are able to use and further develop their critical thinking, creative problem solving, reflection, and expression skills. Students are challenged and are able to demonstrate their full potential. Campers leave with confidence in their own abilities and enthusiasm for art and science.

Throughout the week, social issues and study skills are embedded in everything they do. We have been assured by parents and campers that the success they achieve at this camp has done wonders for self-esteem and confidence.

Due to the relatively small number of campers we accept, we are able to interact very closely with the students. We emphasize positive social interaction and value the camaraderie and relaxed atmosphere where friendships are forged.

No wonder our campers want to return every year!

Typical Schedule
Camp starts on a Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. when parents bring the campers to the Ball State University campus. Campers stay in Wagoner Hall and that is where Sunday afternoon activities take place.

Parents meet the camp director, instructors, and the camp counselors, and have the opportunity to tour Wagoner Hall. While the director, Nina Yssel, is talking to the parents about study and organizational skills, science teacher Deb Smith, art teacher Mike Prater, and the camp counselors are conducting the first getting-to-know- you activity with the campers. At about 5 p.m. parents depart. Counselors and instructors join the campers for a pizza party, followed by evening activities.

The next five days are devoted to theme-based enrichment in science and art.

Camp ends on Friday. Parents arrive at approximately 10 a.m. and attend a presentation during which activities and student work are showcased. At noon everybody heads home; campers love to take their parents on a tour of campus, including the Atrium where they have had their meals all week. Nina, Deb, and Mike typically start making plans for the next year’s camp and find it hard to leave – exhausted but always excited!

Past Themes
In 2007, the theme was "Change: Transformations and Transitions." This time the emphasis was on how ideas and objects can change physically and conceptually. Students studied how animals adapt to changes in their environment, and how adaptations occur over time. As a focus project the students studied an imaginary planet and designed several species of life that lived there. When a catastrophic event changes the planet's environment, students had to project how their life forms would adapt over time and how those adaptations would change their appearance.

In 2006, the theme was "Hidden Worlds." Students investigated those aspects of our environment that are beyond the limits of human vision. Students investigated microscopic life in water samples, crystals, and artworks created using the unique properties of fluorescent paints. The camp ended with an involved sculpture that appeared to be a large box with view ports. When a person looked through the view ports they could see the amazing hidden world within the box reflecting all the ideas studied in camp.

In 2005, the theme was DaVinci-Style. Students learned about Leonardo DaVinci, the original "Renaissance man." He was interested in everything, and pursued all of his interests with a keen analytical method and a brilliantly creative mind. Students retraced some of DaVinci's steps, solving some of the problems that he posed for himself, and experienced what it was like to combine artistic and scientific sensibilities.

The 2004 camp theme was "Reactions," exploring chemical reactions in science (including making ice-cream!) and reactions in art (reactions to emotions, music). The students learned about Rube Goldberg and designed their own machines based on the work of Goldberg. They created art work that surpassed all expectations. We visited the Indiana Museum of Art in Indianapolis and Ball State Museum of Art, went swimming, had dinner at a local restaurant, and many memorable moments.

In 2003 the theme was "Puzzles, Mysteries, and Picasso." Solving a crime scene was the culminating activity and incorporated everything students learned about art and science during the week. Students took part in a scavenger hunt in the Ball State Museum of Art, went bowling, swimming, and visited the T-Rex Named Sue exhibit.

Camp Director:
Nina Yssel, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Special Education
Ball State University

Art Teacher
Michael Prater, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Art Department
Ball State University

Science Teacher
Deb Smith, M.A.
Science Teacher
Yorktown Middle School
(765) 759-2652