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
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.