Book Camp Life

Book Camp 2019, Day 4

We ended the day with Men in Black International, which, despite some reviews, was fun and enjoyable. We weren’t alone in the IMAX on a Wednesday night, but nearly so. And after all the work we accomplished, I think everyone needed a bit of dark space to enter someone else’s story.

Let me back up. As ever, we began with morning critiques of yesterday’s work: news articles. These were tricky because the kids are so much more tuned into fiction. Still, no breakdowns!

We wrapped up our morning meeting with a discussion of Juneteenth Freedom Day. I shared these resources with them: History of JuneteenthHow Red Food and Drink Joined the Juneteenth Feast; Juneteenth Celebration Meaning. Although I have consumed red soda and talked about the celebration of Juneteenth for several years with my boys, it hasn’t stuck.

We talked about the importance of remembering the historical moments when something right finally happened. Because we need to remember those things can still happen. We can be a part of that happening. The kids suggested that if Juneteenth were a national holiday, then kids would learn about it in school, parents wouldn’t have to go to work (maybe), and communities could have bigger celebrations. They’re not wrong and they’re not alone.

“Never again,” Americans adore saying. But what do we mean by that? It was a question I put to these adolescents. I asked them if they knew the history of the place in our own state where immigrant children are now being detained. Where Japanese families were interned. Where Native children were detained long before both. They expressed shock and anger. And then a hush fell, because how on earth to the six of us fix something so huge and so bad?

We did not hypothesize on worsening situations in our nation, situations wherein four of us would be safe and two of us might not. Maybe I should have broached that. But today’s problem exists even if none of us have any fear of danger. Action should not be predicated on fear for ourselves. So we talked a while about what we could do. What we should do.

Then we launched into our morning inning all about character design. Using templates for male and female, as well as character description worksheets from before camp, the kids set out to draw their original characters. This has been my favorite activity of the week. Papers, drawing utensils, a giant light board, and five happy kids lounging in various states of creativity. They each gave me permission to share what I have below.

After a leisurely lunch and watching a documentary, we threw ourselves into origin stories for our original characters. They had a ton to say about how their characters came to be themselves. But after they set aside their writings, they battled out on the gaming system.

By the time dinner came around, the mood was buoyant and everybody was ready for some entertainment. We found it, thankfully, and were sated.

Book Camp Life

Book Camp 2019, Day 3

Today we studied journalism! We started the day with critiques of yesterday’s work, and those critiques went much more smoothly. The kids took things in better stride. We were dressed for an outing to the Oklahoma Gazette midmorning. But first, the kids each wrote a nonfiction prompt and traded. They got ten minutes to research their prompts and another ten minutes to write a brief news article on the prompt. Here’s my favorite!

 Don’t worry! We talked about sources, ethics, and integrity.

After chores we headed down to the offices of the Oklahoma Gazette. The operations manager, who had kindly scheduled our tour on short notice, showed us the offices for writing, editorial, ad sales, and graphic design. She told us the silver strips lining the hallways were for checking print layout.

Afterwards, we joined the managing editor in a conference room. She discussed the jobs at the Gazette, how the magazine is funded and made, and how criticism is handled. She went on to discuss book publishing in some detail. The kids got a magazine, three pens each, and a small tablet of stickies. They were psyched!

The youngest among us broke 18 eggs for sandwiches. Lunch passed in a haze of Nailed It and conversation. Then we discussed news articles in more depth, including both the questions that need to be answered and the structure of a news article. The children chose their own topics:

  • car crashes
  • science fiction
  • ocean plastic
  • two-headed turtle
  • black hole

They researched and wrote throughout until late in the afternoon. Then they went back to work on the opus projects they’ve been fine-tuning since April.

As we watch Men in Black 3, pork carnitas simmer, awaiting their final crisping. Watermelon sits ready for our evening indulgence. And happiness soaks into spaces between all of us.

Postscript: Last night after my writing we had a firefly expedition. It was BRILLIANT.

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