It's rough on planet Zak.

When a furious storm supposedly hit on Tuesday, sending rain and alien bugs across a classroom at Red Lion Senior High School, young students took cover under fortresses to shelter themselves.

They fashioned roofs with cardboard and paper and erected walls made of overturned desks. When the storm blew over, they documented the "alien wildlife" and designed paper bag helmets, trash-bag tube tops and newsprint kilts to protect their bodies from the elements.

The students, in grades 1 through 6, "crash-landed" on Zak this week as part of Camp Invention, a summer camp that teaches kids about the sciences and problem solving. The 39 campers are

visiting the planet, practicing cleaning the environment, examining weather patterns, learning the mechanics behind their favorite appliances and using their imaginations along the way.

All about science: "I really like it," said Ricky Schimek, 11. "I especially like planet Zak because it makes me feel like I'm on an adventure on another planet."

The North Hopewell-Winterstown Elementary sixth-grader aspires to be an engineer or architect and improve the world, he said.

"We're not always going to have the same stuff we do right now," Schimek said. "If people didn't have ingenuity and try to tinker with stuff, we wouldn't have the things we do today."

Each student works with science in his or her own way. For Madison Appel, 10, it's all about how the world works.

"I am really interested in science a lot," said the Mazie Gable Elementary fifth-grader. "It involves the world and the things around us."

And it's all about teamwork for Emma Mader, 9.

"Usually, when you work by yourself, it's hard to accomplish stuff," said the Locust Grove Elementary fourth-grader. "I'm having lots of fun meeting new friends and teachers and inventing new things."

Science is also exciting, said 11-year-old Dana Cutti, a sixth-grader at Larry J. Macaluso Elementary.

"I was like, 'OK Mom, sign me up right now,'" she said. "I think it's a great experience. Anybody who likes to explore and invent stuff, I think they should come."

'A great start': The camp runs through Friday, when the creative students will showcase what they've learned and made at the camp, said camp director Erica Fabie.

"This is a great start for them to continue that creativity as they get ready to go into high school and beyond into a career," she said.

This is the first year Red Lion has brought the national camp to local children, said Fabie, a teacher at the school district.

"It is awesome. We are loving it," she said. "We would love to have it come back next year also."

-- Reach Mollie Durkin at