Brainstorming at Breakfast for Day 2 Learning
If Day 1 of #nErDcampMI was good, I had a feeling Day 2 would be even better. Why? Because on Day 2 is when it is truly an edcamp format. This day is participant-driven which means we, the campers, get to choose the topics of the day. I walked down to breakfast at the hotel with a pad and paper in hand to brainstorm ideas. I had a lovely discussion with many including Erika Victor, Jason Lewis, and Phyllis Sutton. I could have tapped into the brains at that breakfast table for another hour if we had it! But it was time to go.
By 8:30am we had filed into the gymnasium for opening remarks and the AM idea board creation. A Google doc with columns for sessions 1 and 2 projected on a big screen. As people lined up for the microphone, they were given a 5 x 7 index card and Sharpie to write down their topic and their name. They stepped up to the microphone and introduced their topic. Then an organizer took the index card and handed it to Alaina Sharp, who plugged it into a slot for either Session 1 or 2 on the Google doc. We could follow along by going to www.nerdcampmi.weebly.com and clicking on Day 2 nErDcamp idea board 2016.
Surprise “Safe Travels” card from my boys
Did I mention that I left my four-year-old for four days to do this camp? My husband and son surprised me with a “safe travels” ice cream cake and card the night before I left. I took a plane to get here. It was the longest I’d ever been away from them. Needless to say, I was seriously committed to learning as much as possible in the time I had. I got myself in line and filled out an index card. I looked out at the sea of lifelong learners in the bleachers and knew I desperately wanted to learn from them. My chance was NOW. I got up to the microphone and said I was looking to talk to others about forming a Mock Caldecott and/or Mock Newbery group with students.
Here’s the thing: I was not prepared for how many people would also want to talk about organizing a Mock Caldecott and/or Mock Newbery group with students. When I walked in I remember saying, “Oops, am I in the wrong room?” But these people, including a principal, were here to share ideas and learn from one another. It was pretty heady stuff!
I love the organization of the document. The room numbers and notes docs were already included so that Alaina Sharp simply added the topic and person who suggested it at the idea board creation session. We started in our session by asking if someone would like to be in charge of taking notes. However, every participant in the room was free to add notes to the document as the discussion happened. What is super helpful is that we can access notes from every session that took place because, believe me, the worst part of the day is not being able to be in all the sessions that interest you. The other cool part is that if the session is not meeting your needs, you can feel free to leave and go to another session. There are no hurt feelings; we are all here to make the most out of the time we have together.
I attended Getting Teachers Excited about Books led by Tina Stimpson and Micki Uppena for session 2. We know how busy teachers are. It was nice to hear of some ways other librarians let teachers know about new books without overwhelming them. For instance, one takeaway I’d like to try is from Kurt Stroh. He sends an email every Sunday night featuring 5 books- some picture books and some chapter books. This is a bite-sized way for others to digest, they know they can expect it on a Sunday, and they might find titles that could work with a unit they are planning.
It is important to remember that this all takes place at a high school during the summer in the middle of farm land. The planners have come up with inventive ways to meet the needs of their campers. They brought in a well-known coffee shop which always seemed to have a line of customers to keep everyone caffeinated a.k.a happy. They had a snack bar set up in the school cafeteria with dollar snacks and drinks (purchased at a wholesale food club). And they had local food trucks set up at lunch time for a variety of lunch options.
On this day I tried the local cuisine (a bratwurst and their delicious local potato chip brand- the name escapes me) and found a seat with some other women. Somehow we got on the topic of reader leaders. A lunch mate told me how she started a program to give students more voice and ownership through a reading ambassador program. I told her I tried something similar this year with a library council. She said, “Hey, do you think we should propose that as an idea for a session after lunch?” I liked the idea and we made sure to follow each other on Twitter.
At 12:45 we had filed back into the gymnasium for the development of the PM idea board. I got a Twitter message from my lunch mate and new friend Cathy Mere to meet in line for the microphone. We suggested our idea and soon we were heading to the classroom.
To my amazement, the room filled with people. Every desk was taken. I could not believe how many people were interested in talking about giving students more voice and empowerment.
There were a lot of great ideas that came out of that session. This country has so many educators who work with little to no resources and still find a way to get books into children’s hands. And they were genuinely interested to hear how we tried out the idea of reader leaders in our schools.
During the last session I went to see Sandy Otto on the topic of Teaching Our Students to be Effective Communicators. She talked about an author named Erik Palmer who has written Well Spoken and Good Thinking. He talks about how important it is to explicitly teach students how to speak in front of others if you are expecting them to present what they have learned. He came up with the Six Traits of Speaking with the acronym PVLEGS- poise, voice, life, eye contact, gestures, speed. You can learn more about it at pvlegs.com. Again, another interesting session topic that left me walking away with my head brimming with ideas.
At 3:30 we came back to the gymnasium for the closing of #nErDcampMI. The organizers put out a lot of swag – books, etc. for anyone who came up to the microphone to say what they got out of their experience over the past two days. Again, I sat there so incredibly grateful and incredulous that I was among such greatness.
Rockstar teachers Melissa Guerrette and Jason Lewis, Reading Royalty Mr. Schu and Margie Culver-Myers and me
But for a lot of us, the day was not over. We still had #nErDcampMI Junior to look forward to. I volunteered to take a group of students around for four sessions (one being a dinner session). All the volunteers were given shirts to wear and a quick dinner before heading to the auditorium for a debriefing on the night. I got a yardstick with my group number to hold up in my row. Parents brought students into the auditorium and dropped them off to the volunteers.
As students found their groups, Raina Telgemeier and Jenni Holm, both incredibly well-loved and famous graphic novelists, took the stage to face off in a drawing contest with audience participation. The MC did a great job getting the kids engaged and involved. Illustrators Aaron Zenz and Eddie Pittman joined the fun as well. The whole time I kept thinking, “None of these people are getting paid for this. They are here giving their time and energy because they care about kids. What an amazing feeling to be a part of this.”
I took my 13 upcoming fourth graders to meet author/illustrator Ruth McNally Barshaw (Ellie McDoodle Diaries) for the first session. She taught them how they could draw various creatures using the same oval shape as the basis. She was so friendly and kind, and the kids were drawing along with her in their notebooks.
The next session was dinner so we headed to the cafeteria. The kids dined on pizza, chips and a juice box. We took advantage of some down time for kids to take a bathroom break.
Our third session was with author Louise Borden (The Journey That Saved Curious George) who talked to the children about her book and the research process. The students got a chance to decorate their own passports using old-fashioned stamps and stickers.
Our last session of the night was with author/illustrator Jenni Holm. I love Ms. Holm for her book Turtle in Paradise. However, the kids in that room were all about her graphic novels Baby Mouse, Squish, and Sunny Side Up. Jenni taught the kids how to write a comic using a four step process.
She was so fun and did an excellent job keeping the children’s attention even while a huge thunderstorm took place outside the classroom window.
At the end of the fourth session, we went back to our original room with Ruth McNally Barshaw. She signed a book for every child. Parents came down to the room and showed me a name tag that matched up with their child’s in order for me to release their child to them.
From there families could go to the cafeteria to get books signed by any authors at #nErDcamp Jr.
The night was so well-run and I’ve tried to capture all the pieces (I could see) that went into the thought and planning of the organizers to bring 700 children through a four-part session in about two hours. It was quite an undertaking but their commitment to children and passion for reading, writing, creating, and learning drove every aspect of the night.
Today was about designing my own learning. It was an incredible feeling of community to talk with other passionate educators about topics that truly interested me. It was by far the best professional development I’ve had in years. I’d love to see an edcamp format adopted by school districts for at least one professional development day a year. I think administrators would be pleasantly surprised to see the buy-in of staff once they’re given the chance to choose topics they genuinely want to learn more about.
Tonight was about seeing how a #nErDcamp for kids could be run. I love the possibilities of trying some version of this as an arts/literacy extra for kids on a weekend. We have so many talented local writers and illustrators who might be interested in this concept.
The next morning we piled into the Nerd Van for the hour long drive back to the airport. And, yes, that is almost a 50/50 ratio of authors/illustrators to educators in that van picture below. I left Michigan with a grateful heart, zillions of ideas, new friends, and so many amazing memories. In a world that can be negative, I choose to surround myself with the positive energy of the kid lit community. May we always shine that positive light on the students we have the privilege of working with.