Sorry, iwanttobeforeveryoung, for forgetting your byline for 19 hours! —Sparkitors
I’m a geek, a nerd, a whatever-you-want-to-call-me. My parents decided several years ago that I “was not being challenged enough” in school, so they signed me to be tested for some programs for gifted kids, which meant I took the SAT as a 7th grader. Long story short, I passed. The result? Summer academic camp. Here’s a normal day for me:
6 a.m.: My alarm blares “Mr. Brightside” by the Killers. My alarm is strategically placed across the room so I have to get up to turn it off. I stumble to the clock, hit the power button, and go straight back to bed. My roommate does not move.
6:10 a.m.: My phone—my backup alarm—blares a noise that sounds like a static-y fire alarm. This time when I get up, I stay up. I groggily grab my towel and toiletries and shuffle down the hall to the communal bathroom. Ick. I don’t actually have to get up this early; theoretically, I could sleep until 8:45, the designated time for kids to meet on the quad, but this is the only way to be sure there won’t be a line for the two shower stalls.
7:30 a.m.: I’m all dressed with the lanyard that holds my meal card and keys around my neck. Yesterday I braided it and wore it as a bracelet but I was maiming too many people with my keys while high-fiving. My friend from a neighboring dorm texts me that she’s ready to go to breakfast. We’ve gone to the same site for the last few years, though this year we were put in different halls. 🙁 I round up my friends who live in my hall and we all go down to the dining room.
7:45 a.m.: I grab a plate of eggs, bacon, and potatoes and join my friends at their table. We discuss the merits of these potatoes versus the ones at the site we were at last year. We deem these “inedible”…but we eat them, anyway.
8:30 – 8:45 a.m.: Everyone hangs out on the Quad until our instructors come to pick us up and take us to our classrooms. Us girls discuss the merits of Mr. Darcy as a present-day suitor. The boys come close to killing us with the Frisbee.
9 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.: Morning class. You can study anything from ethics, to astronomy, to Latin (or Ancient Greek), to utopias and dystopias, to fast-paced high school biology, chemistry, or physics, for those students who want to skip the class in school. The morning session is usually spent waking up and pestering the teacher’s assistant for the Frisbee so we can play during break.
10:30 – 10:45 a.m.: Morning break. The girls and boys rush the TA in two separate groups, both hoping for the Frisbee. Theoretically, we could all form one big group and play together, but we never do. I get hit with the Frisbee a couple times and decide to bow out of the game before I sustain any more bruises and get carted off to the health office. I talk to some of my friends who have break at the same time as me. I can’t quite get how they find paleo-biology or astronomy so fascinating, but to each one’s own.
10:45 a.m. – Noon: More morning class.
Noon – 1 p.m.: Lunch. Our class treks back to the Dining Hall to eat. We grab food and find friends to sit with. We compare the pizza selection to last year’s.
When we’re done, we go back out to the quad to hang out. Today some kids are trying to create soda explosions. They got some soda from the dining hall and have shoved Mentos into the bottles. The three test bottles fizzle and sputter in front of a crowd. I have a feeling they’ll try again tomorrow.
1 – 2 p.m.: Afternoon class. We spend most of the time devising clever ways to get the teacher to allow us more break time. Alas, it doesn’t work.
2 – 2:15 p.m.: Afternoon break. More lobbying for the Frisbee ensues.
2:15 – 3 p.m.: More afternoon class.
3:30 – 5:30 p.m.: Activities. Activities are divided into two blocks, the first ending at 4:30. Activities can be anything from Water Balloon Volleyball, Acting Improv, Harry Potter Role-play, Quidditch (most of us are Harry Potter fans….), to more typical things like kickball and soccer. Everyone signs up for activities the day before on a sign up sheet that is posted in our dorms.
5:30 – 6:45 p.m.: Dinner. Everyone goes straight from activities to dinner. My friends discuss their teacher’s lecture on “genital smashing.” They’re in Intro to Bio-Med and I decide not to ask. After you’re done eating you’re allowed to go back into the dorms, but only at 6:15. Before that you’re required to stay in the dining hall or on the quad.
7 – 9 p.m.: Study Hall. Usually only the TA is there and everyone works on things from earlier in the day. We get a short break in the middle and spend the time badgering our TA about why Pop Cult (people who are writing their “critical essay” on popular culture) gets to spend their entire study hall on the quad. We don’t get a satisfactory answer.
9 – 9:40 p.m.: Actual Quad Time. This is the only time on the schedule that is actually, technically, quad time. We discuss mastication, the act of chewing your food so it’s soft enough to swallow, while we eat the rest of the apple pie left over from someone’s birthday with the only utensils we could find, chopsticks. Half the camp is clustered around the middle of the quad where some kids are reenacting some Monty Python sketches. There is laughter and more card games.
10 – 10:15 p.m.: Hall Meeting. Each hall has a get-together during which RAs make announcements about the coming days, usually with interpretive dancing, and post the sign up sheet for activities.
10:15 – 10:30 p.m.: We’ve got 15 minutes to get ready for bed. Some people rush the shower stalls, but I simply stay on the couch in the lounge where I had been sitting during the meeting. I just don’t have the energy to get up.
10:30 p.m.: Lights out! I was lucky enough to get an RA this year who lets me brush my teeth even after lights out. I go to bed, use my flashlight to read whatever book I may have managed to borrow from someone, and eventually drift off to sleep. And do it all again the next day!
A day at nerd camp is 40% learning, 20% discussions about everything, 30% eating, 15% laughter, and 5% avoiding the Frisbee on the quad. Nerd Camp’s official name is the Center for Talented Youth, which is run by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. There are other programs similar to it run by other universities in other parts of the country.