Mama Madison: Next generation of bloggers

Kids are great chroniclers of niche topics

This past week I had the privilege of leading a series of "Blogging for Beginners" workshops for the elementary and middle school students participating in the Greater Madison Writing Project Young Writers Summer Camp.

It was fun to sit among the roses and wildflowers for a couple of hours (the camp is held at Olbrich Gardens) and share my thoughts on identifying your audience and how to come up with fodder for posts. Then, I closed each of the sessions by asking the kids to come up with a few ideas for topics they think they might be interested in blogging about.

Many of their proposals were sweet, but somewhat expected given the age of the attendees. I heard lots of pitches for blogs about the Brewers, feline friends and middle school gossip. But some of the ideas, like the ones that follow, really made me sit up and take notice.

One camper, Nancy Drew's self-professed biggest fan, suggested a site where other Drew-o-philes "could talk about our favorite books on-line, offer tips for solving mysteries in our own lives, and discuss who we think Carolyn Keene (the pseudonym of the series author) really is." The young lady who suggested this blog also thought it would be great to host a contest guessing in which state Nancy's fictional town, River Heights, was located.

An eleven-year-old girl suggested a blog dedicated to kid kitchen fails. You know, stories of peanut butter sandwiches gone awry. Videos of chocolate chip cookies that spontaneously combust. I offered to pen a guest post recalling the one and only time in third grade that my mom let my best friend and me loose in the kitchen. We somehow managed to flip the Bisquick box mid recipe and ended up making something that could be best described as early fusion cuisine (half strawberry shortcake, half chicken pot pie). Sometimes the unexpected convergence of flavors is delicious. This was not one of those times.

A sixth-grade girl thought a blog dedicated to summer camps that don't, but should, exist would be very useful. She had tons of ideas for her weekly posts. A camp that just lets kids sit around and read all day. A camp that teaches kids how to French braid. A camp where you hold baby animals, but never have to clean up after them.

An extremely energetic nine-year-old boy was charged up to start an online kid's discussion that focuses on international current events. He planned to cover the situation in Gaza, Russia/Ukraine and the Ebola outbreak in Africa. "Wouldn't kids from around the world want to know what a kid in the US thinks about all these things?" he asked. "There really aren't enough kid websites out there that deal with world affairs." I think he may be right about this being an untapped market. And how refreshing to meet a fourth grader who cares, and is so knowledgeable, about something besides Minecraft.

Perhaps my favorite blog idea came from the youngest child I met that day. According to this eight-year-old, unicorns actually lived at the same time as dinosaurs, but because their bones were so fragile, when they died out, they left no fossils. He proposed to start a blog that would encourage scientists to look for evidence that the famed one-horned, flying mythical creature wasn't so mythical after all.

Yes, volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.

And just as importantly, in a world of depressing current events, there is little that makes me smile broader than entertaining the idea that unicorns may have once frolicked with leprechauns and mermaids. So I'm off to do a little myth busting of my own.

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