Smarty really enjoyed the camp even though she lamented that the week felt too much like a school week - waking up with an alarm clock to make it to camp by 9 am, coming home even later than on school days (the camp ended at 4 pm and we were home by 5 pm) and having little time to herself. At least there was no homework! Smarty loved being able to work in a real chemistry and bioengineering labs - even though she was frustrated with limitations a chem lab presented for a cooking class - like making rice and pasta on hot plates that would not bring water to a boiling temperature. She felt that she learned a lot in bioengineering, but she was somewhat disappointed with chemistry portion of her chemistry of cooking class. According to her, there was very little that she did not know already in chemistry material presented in class. But what she was mostly disappointed about was, as usual, her camp mates.
Coming fresh from Yunasa camp, Smarty was looking forward to meeting "other students like her" (she herself is uncomfortable using the "G-word"). She knew that other students will be older, since the class was for rising 9th graders and up, but she did not have any problems connecting to older kids at Yunasa. However, she came from the camp on the first day looking glum and saying that she did not see anyone who she could see as her friend or even a temporary buddy. For once, many kids came to the camp with friends (a big advantage for Yunasa when everyone is new to each other except repeat campers). Second, according to Smarty, girls were talking about "music and makeup" and not about science. And they refused to engage with class the way Smarty engages with class - answering and asking questions, raising their hands, etc. Smarty told me with frustration, "I cannot believe I am the only one who knows that cellular respiration produces carbon dioxide and water. I learned this in the fourth grade! I don't understand why they are in the science class when they don't seem to be interested in science". I pointed out to her gently that maybe her enthusiasm and extensive knowledge is a bit intimidating to other students and she replied, "Why should I be sorry? When I am in a science class, I want to learn more and to ask questions and not just to sit there being bored! I know that there are other kids like me somewhere, it's just there are not too many of them."
What I loved about this exchange is Smarty's intense passion about wanting to be who she is even if it sets her apart from the "norm". So many girls at her age desire to fit in. So far I don't see it in her. She just wants to be true to herself, and I think this quality should be cherished rather than squashed. I do hope that she will eventually meet more of her true peers on her journey to adulthood. One thing that I hope that she will consider doing for the next summer is to try and apply to COSMOS program on one of California UC campuses. Granted, it's a long program (4 weeks!), but it could really give her a taste of college life, introduce her to real research projects and let her meet new friends, since COSMOS is quite selective. If not, perhaps she will consider some other selective programs where she is more likely to meet other driven kids like her and make friends. In the meantime, she will have one more chance for new connections this summer - when she goes to AI and machine learning camp in August. We will see how that camp plays out - in the meantime, she can email with her friends from Yunasa camp.
Do your kids feel different from the "norm" and how do they deal?