Inaugural nErD Camp Ohio

It was supposed to happen in 2020 after several educators from the Wadsworth, Ohio school district attended nErd Camp Michigan. The group, including Vicki Fugate, Lisa Owens, Stephine Schmeltzer, Lisa Smith, and Tricia Claypool, were sad that the Michigan camp organizers decided to take a break. The group joked about staging a similar event in Ohio. The conversations took a serious turn after approaching the Wadsworth Schools’ curriculum director, Dr. Michelle Evans, who was totally on board with the project.

The planning began, and the team had 300 educators and media specialists signed up for what was to be the first nErd Camp Ohio that summer of 2020.

Covid reared its ugly head then, so the team postponed until the following year. 2021 wasn’t looking much better, so once again, the team made the difficult decision to postpone for yet another year.

Finally, on July 25-26, 2022, the very first celebration of books, reading, literacy, and educational opportunities in the classroom was held at the beautiful Wadsworth High School campus.

The first-ever nErD camp Ohio attracted 162 registrants and 24 authors and illustrators of books for children. But Covid still was a factor. According to planning committee member Steph Schmeltzer, “I do think that Covid played a part in the author and attendee attendance rate. We did have some authors that declined our invite because of Covid concerns and we had a few that had to cancel last minute due to Covid. We also had a significant amount of attendees that emailed last minute to say that Covid was somehow playing a part in their inability to attend.”

But, for those of us who were able to attend, what a day it was!

Melia Wolf and Bryan Loar were there from Cover to Cover Books, based in Columbus, with titles from every participating author. It was fun perusing (and buying, I mean, come on!) the titles by the amazing variety of talented authors and illustrators of children’s books, from picture books to YA.

The first day began with an awesome keynote by Margaret Peterson Haddix, who spoke about finding and being with Kindred Spirits. Her reflections were perfectly in tune with the camp, as we, as book lovers, producers, readers, and educators are all kindred spirits. Her latest release, The School for Whatnots, focuses on friendship and being with like-minded individuals.

Following the inspiring opening, we all split into our divided sessions throughout the school. The organizing team did a fabulous job in organizing the sessions so that subjects didn’t conflict, as well as scheduling the workshops in easy-to-find locations.

Session titles included:

Where I’m From: Helping students discover the stories in their own backyards-

Jenn Bishop and Tricia Springstubb

Teaching STEAM Through Fiction and Exploring Diverse Perspectives- Jo Hackl

The Importance of an Inclusive BookshelfValerie Thompkins

So many sessions and only so much time!!!

I had the pleasure of moderating a panel that included Leigh Lewis and Nancy Roe Pimm. Titled “Shining a Light on Little Known Women in History,” Leigh and Nancy shared their biographies of fascinating women whose stories have not been told previously. You must check out Pirate Queens by Leigh, and The Jerrie Mock Story by Nancy.

Author Louise Borden offered a beautiful session on finding the truth in fiction and nonfiction, and shared the term BOOK JOY with us all.

Louise spoke about her various amazing titles and her journey involving finding the truth in the stories, including traveling to Colorado and Italy for Ski Soldier. Louise’s latest work is Full Speed Ahead! America’s First Admiral: David Glasgow Farragut.

It was exciting to see new voices in Middle Grade too, with a panel featuring these debut middle-grade authors; Leigh Lewis, Stacky Nockowitz, Erik Jon Slangerup, and Misty Wilson. Check out their new works!
There were so many amazing sessions, it made me wish I was there as simply an attendee vs presenting author.
Lunch was a “Beach Party” with food trucks in the courtyard, and attendees gathered on blankets and lawn chairs, enjoying a beautiful summer day.
The afternoon featured nErd Camp Jr. with workshops staged by many of the participating authors and illustrators including my session on The Tale of Three (or more!) Writers, sharing the importance of writing and journaling with middle-grade students.
The fun and educational sessions continued on Day 2, with author sessions in the morning, followed by an “unconference” in the afternoon. Attendees volunteered to offer presentations in the afternoon on topics impacting educators.

Planning committee member Steph Schmeltzer summed the whole experience up best, “My favorite part of camp was spending time with other educators, librarians, authors, and illustrators that share the same love of books that I do. Seeing everyone enjoying their time made it all worthwhile. “

A picture speaks a thousand words, and this beautiful video created by Cover to Cover bookstore sums up the BOOK JOY we all experienced.

Click Here to see the video!

Here’s to the 2nd annual nErD Camp Ohio in 2023!

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Julie K. Rubini
Julie K. Rubini is the author three MG biographies, including, Eye to Eye: Sports Journalist Christine Brennan, Virginia Hamilton: America's Storyteller, (Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books, 2018, Outstanding Merit) and Missing Millie Benson: The Secret Case of the Nancy Drew Ghostwriter and Hidden Ohio. Upcoming: Psychology: Why We Smile, Strive and Sing, June 2020. Julie is also the Founder of Claire's Day, Ohio's largest children's book festival.
www.julierubini.com and www.clairesday.org

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