So, just what IS Nerd Camp?

I reread my last post a couple of times and ...  I said Nerd Camp at least 5,143 times.

Ok, well maybe not thaaat many times, but I said Nerd Camp a lot. Before leaving for this amazing place I threw the title around without any explanation (or shame) to friends and family. Luckily, since they all know me so well, they figured it had something to do with books and reading. They would be right.

So, Nerd Camp is an ed camp and an ed camp is an education conference that is done in a unique way. At ed camps the sessions and schedule are determined on the spot. Educators come to the "camp" either prepared to lead a session on a topic of their choice (related to literacy) or they come to attend sessions and learn from other educators. The sessions are unique and making a choice is HARD. At ed camps they also say you "vote with your feet" and if you get to the session and decide it's not for you, you leave. No hard feelings. No judgment. The conference is a total of two days, with the second day being the the true ed camp style.

Days 1 and 2 are on Monday and Tuesday, but we live almost 8 hours away from the school it is hosted at so we left at 11am Sunday morning, arriving in Michigan at our hotel around 8 that night. For the life of me, I cannot remember what we had for dinner after we got checked in. I must have been too excited for the morning's events! However, we DID run into one very famous book friend in at the hotel ... John Schu was arriving with Lauren Castillo at the same time as us!! When I got out of the car, I noticed a guy that looked a lot like him and I sort of gasped, pointed and said, "Julie!" Julie looks over, realizes it IS him and runs over to him! It was the perfect start of our Nerd Camp experience to chat with him and Lauren as soon as we got there.We said goodnight to John and Lauren, but not before John mentioned that there was a surprise guest coming ... hmmm ... that really left us guessing and even more excited (if that was even possible!)

Day 1: We had a long day ahead of us, but we did not let that stop us. We decided to get to the school right on time early because last year we missed out on ARCs (advance reader copies) of Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate and I wasn't about to let that happen again. We got there so early that I thiiiink we were the first ones there and we ended up having nothing to worry about in regards to missing out on books. We picked up our swag (with one extra special ARC!) and checked in for the Nerd Run 5K that was starting at 9am.

After we walked our 5k (which really only ended up being a 2miler because we skipped a loop) we had some pancakes for breakfast then changed our clothes and got ready for the afternoon's speakers!

After getting cleaned up, we nabbed our spots in the gym and waited for the camp to get kicked off with some of our favorites in the reading world! We heard from Donalyn Miller, Pernille Ripp, Raina Telgemeier and one extra special ... very surprising, well known guest ...

Kate DiCamillo, author of Because of Winn-Dixie! Rumors were swirling that she might be there, but we were so excited when she did actually walk out!

After the speakers there were three sessions. Here is what I chose to attend:
Session 1 - Deborah Hopkinson - Making History Come Alive for Young Readers - I loved this session because I love historical fiction! I had no idea that Deborah Hopkinson had SO MANY books out there!

Session 2 - Sara Rudolph and Amy Ralph - Two Nerdy Sisters Present Best in Historical Fiction - OK, not going to lie. I knew there was going to be a book giveaway in this session and I just had to check it out. I couldn't pass up a chance to check out all the new historical fiction!!! I was lucky to nab a copy of Cold War on Maplewood Street. 

Session 3 - John Schu - Review of books for you and your readers - I got to this session early and I am SO GLAD I DID because I was able to catch Kate DiCamillo and get my books signed! Right after she signed my books (one to my students and one to me) a huge line formed and I was so thankful I didn't have to wait in that line!
John's session was also absolutely amazing and if you have not heard him speak, you're truly missing out. He's such a fun speaker and such a nice guy! I love how personable he is and how he just seems to remember everybody!

After the sessions there was a huge signing party in the lunchroom. All the authors that were at Nerd Camp were set up, some handing out ARCs and signing books. It was so fun! Even if the lines were insanely long. My only regret was not waiting in the line for Raina Telgemeier! Very poor decision by me.

After the signing, it was close to dinner time and we wanted to go back to our hotel, freshen up and then head out to the "Nerdy" dinner party! This year the dinner party was at a large reception hall and food was banquet style. At our table was more people in the book world that we usually just know online, so to have dinner with them was a real treat!

After we ate and visited with our new friends at our table, we headed back to our hotel to get a good night's rest!

Day 2: Today was the day we would have sessions in true "ed camp" style. I love breaking out into small groups. Even though I went with a group of four educators, we all have different roles in our buildings (one is a teacher librarian, another is a reading resource teacher, one is a junior high reading teacher and I'm a fourth grade teacher!) so we had different interests. I loved that we split up and then shared with each other the information we learned!

Here is a link to the idea board and all the notes - this resource is AMAZING. Choosing just four sessions was so hard, so I was really glad that the notes were available online. Here are the sessions I ended up choosing and my thoughts on those sessions.

Session 1: New Books with an Emphasis on Diversity with Donalyn Miller and Teri Lesesne - How could I miss these two?! This session was incredible. At lightning speed Donalyn and Teri flew through quick book talks about diverse books they have read recently. In this session I decided that I would just sit there with my public library's app open and start putting all the books that interest me on hold. It worked like a charm and I came home to STACKS of books.

Session 2: Creating Passionate Readers in MS and HS with Pernille Ripp - So you might be asking yourself why I chose a session for secondary teachers. I'm a fourth grade teacher. Well, I absolutely adore Pernille and I figured that this information would still be relative to upper elementary. I was right! I am glad I attended this session! One thing that Pernille mentioned that I just love is 5 minute book talks at staff meetings. One of my big goals as a leader in my building is to get teachers reading more kids books with me and then ultimately improve the building's reading culture.

Break for lunch and then regroup to propose and set the schedule for sessions 3 and 4.

Session 3: Picture Books to Read and Share - This session was also with Pernille as well as Jillian Heise. In the past I haven't been a huge picture book fan, but I have been slowly creeping over and after this session I am in love. I have been checking out stacks of picture books from the library and loving it. I so look forward to reading them to my daughter when she gets old enough to sit and listen! In the meantime I will definitely be picking them up more often for a read aloud in my classroom.

Session 4: Creating Passionate Reading Communities Through Reading Rituals - Anything to get my kids to really engage in reading! This was a really fun session and I got some great ideas! The session was absolutely packed!

After the last session it was almost time to say goodbye! :( Last year we were given the opportunity to take the mic and say what we loved most about Nerd Camp. I was so nervous to do it last year, but I did and I got a free T-shirt. I did it again this year and was lucky enough to nab a copy of Paper Wishes (anyone that is brave enough to speak gets to choose something from a pile of goodies to take home).

Nerd Camp is amazing. Never during the year will you be with SO MANY like-minded educators that have the SAME reading goals for their kids. I dream of working in a district with so many people that just get it like everyone there does. I leave feeling refreshed and invigorated for the upcoming school year. There is no "conference" better than Nerd Camp.

Nerd Camp, I will see you again in 2017.


Nerd Camp 2016

Toward the end of the 2014-2015 school year, my good friend Julie DeMicco mentioned something about "Nerd Camp" and I was instantly intrigued. Julie and I have similar reading lives and interests and, more importantly, we have the same goals for kids. I have learned so much from this woman, so if she was interested in Nerd Camp, I was interested in Nerd Camp. I knew it would be awesome and I quickly signed up.

At that time I had never heard of the Nerdy Book Club and I had only just recently discovered Donalyn Miller (thanks to Julie, of course). I was finishing up my second year of teaching fourth grade, I was in my first year of marriage, and my husband and I had just found out we were expecting our first child. It was safe to assume life was busy for me - in all the best ways possible.

I am so grateful that Julie did mention Nerd Camp, invited me, and introduced me to the goodness that is Donalyn Miller and the Nerdy Book Club. These things have changed my reading life and enhanced my goals as an educator in so many ways.

Just a few weeks ago we came home from our second year at Nerd Camp and it is now safe to say that it is one of my favorite parts of the year! A sort of, Christmas in July, if you will. We come home with so many books it really is like a holiday... This year was the first time I left my daughter, and it was hard, but I know that interests like this are healthy.

This year I knew what to expect at Nerd Camp and I knew that I was not going to take anything for granted. I want to experience EVERYTHING. From 7am Monday morning until 5pm Tuesday evening we are just going, going, going. Running from one session to the next, talking with other educators that just get it and learning more innovative ways to reach our kids and pass on that love of reading.

As hard as it is to admit, last year I let the momentum slip away after I got home. This year I made a vow that I would not do that. This year I am much more focused and know exactly what I need to do, what I would like to do and what I should put on the bench for next year.

Some of the things I decided that I need to do this year are:
  • A Mock Newbery - if you want to know more, check out this amazing post from Amanda! (I have already set up a Donor's Choose page and am hoping to get all the books I need before school starts at the end of August! If you are interested in donating, please contact me!)
  • Revised reader's response logs  
  • Use more picture books in my fourth grade classroom 
  • Continue to work on fine tuning my lessons so they are short mini lessons so we can right to small group work and try to confer more with individual students while they are up at the group table. 
  • Continue to use audio books in the classroom and look into using more Playaways

My library books after getting home from Nerd Camp. During many of the sessions, instead of writing down the titles, I was quickly adding them to my hold list via my library's app. It worked like a charm and since my librarian's are AMAZING these were waiting for me when I got back home to Des Moines.

Ahem. All the books I bought or received while at Nerd Camp. A few I purchased at Barnes and Noble with some of my end of year gift cards from students, but most are from Nerd Camp and purchased from the amazing bookseller Book Bug which is out of Kalamazoo, MI. 

Thank you for reading my first post! I could not be more excited that you are here!

So, what can you expect in upcoming posts? You can expect a lot of book reviews. LOTS. This blog will be very focused on books and reading, so if that is not for you I will not be offended if you leave. I will occasionally post photos of my family and probably a little about what is going on in my life. I am sure I will blog about my kids and what I am doing in my fourth grade classroom. We like to do BIG things and I hope you stick around and check it out. :)

In my next post I will be explaining what Nerd Camp actually IS and sharing more details about the sessions I attended. Stay tuned!

Back to Top