This One Time...at nErDcamp...
Since its inception seven years ago, nErDcamp has spread to other states (Washington, Kansas, Indiana, Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, and Maine), however the original nErDcamp in Parma, Michigan is by far the largest. This year rumor had it that there were 1500 attendees plus another thousand kids attending nErDcamp Jr. Tickets--which are 100% FREE--were gone in 50 minutes due to limited space.
Since I live only two hours away from Parma, I decided to attend. Since I was a first timer, I was what someone referred to as a “nirgen:” a nErDcamp virgin. I wasn’t alone. Nearly half the attendees raised their hands as newbies as well as many of the authors. I’ve been to some pretty large conferences, so I thought I was pretty prepared. But nErDcamp is an “UNconference,” which I would soon realize means it’s more laid back and definitely less overwhelming.
On Day 1, we were welcomed by nErDcamp founder and organizer, Colby Sharp. This was followed by a panel on Feminism for All moderated by Jen Vincent featuring authors Dr. Patricia Valdez, Laura Shovan, Supriya Kelkar, Alicia D Williams, and Pernille Ripp. This panel was followed by Nerd Talks, brief 5-7 minute talks that are on various subjects. This year’s Nerd Talks were given by Minh Lê, Cece Bell, Laurie Halse Anderson, and Donalyn Miller.
The last session of the day I chose to attend was about advocating for reading joy with Donalyn Miller and Dr. Teri Lesesne. While my 8th grade ELA classroom is already centered around Reading Workshop, I always appreciate anything new I can absorb from this power duo. When they share their knowledge, I increase my ability to justify all the independent reading during class time that my own students do.
The culminating speaker of the day was Jason Reynolds. Before he came on stage, however, a Western School District student did a live portrait of Reynolds while the audience cheered. During his brief keynote, Jason Reynolds shared with us the richness of Washington D.C.’s go go music scene and effortlessly weaved into an inspirational message about how teachers can be the ones to make kids feel seen and heard.
The last part of Day 1 was the book signing. Authors and illustrators were set up around the perimeter of the gym and in the auditorium to sign their books. Many had some of their books to give away that their publishers sent along. Everyone’s books were available for purchase from the onsite bookstore. Usually I am collecting books for my classroom library (ok, I did manage to nab a few for my students), but because my own children have to share me so often with my students, my school, my PhD program, and conferences, I made sure to get them each at least one book signed by the author.
There was a break for lunch and then another Idea Board session for the two afternoon sessions. Like the morning, each session time ended up with about twenty choices each. Attendees are encouraged to “vote with your feet” by leaving sessions that aren’t what you need, and finding something else. For the two afternoon sessions, I went with a session to talk about ProjectLit (my school started a chapter last school year), and then one led by Deborah Wiles about writing personal narratives.
I would encourage anyone in the reading “business” whether that be as an educator, librarian, creator, or otherwise, to find the nearest nErDcamp in 2020 and get there...or better yet, ask how you can help! The volunteers are the ones who made it possible, after all.
Until next week.