Connected Camps in 2018

2018 promises to be a big year for Connected Camps, and I am writing to share recent and anticipated changes.

First, a Look Back

Connected Camps was launched in 2015 with the promise to create optimal learning experiences and community for our digital and networked world. As we near our third birthday, Connected Camps has touched the lives of thousands of parents, campers, educators, and young counselors and has run hundreds of of summer camps and afterschool programs online and in schools and libraries. Our programs and content have been featured in media outlets as varied as NPR, the New York Times, Common Sense Media, PopSugar, Huffington Post, and Mind Shift. Along the way we have learned a tremendous amount from all the members of our community, and have continuously adapted our programs. We have a lot to be proud of and a lot of challenges ahead.

Summer 2017 built on much of what we learned from past summers, and we expanded and improved our existing online camps including the addition of our first non-Minecraft programs in Scratch. The bigger change came in the fall, when we launched a new afterschool model which features weekly drop in labs. This was a shift from how we handled our afterschool programs in the past, which had been more traditional scheduled weekly lessons. We’ve loved how this new “all you can eat” model has been working for both our counselors and our families. The big puzzle we were trying to solve was how to give families the flexibility they needed in their schedule during the school year, while also providing consistent and reliable programming that kept kids connected to the community and their interests.

With this change, we are starting to think of Connected Camps a bit like a fitness club, where members have access to a range of classes that they can drop in and out of, as well as hangout spaces that are more informal and social. For Connected Camps, Kid Club has been that informal lounge space for kids and counselors which complements our more structured programs. And this gets me to some changes we are planning for later this month for Kid Club.

The Path Ahead for Kid Club

Photo Credit: Philip Halling

Starting in February, we are reducing our Kid Club hours to Friday between 1-5 PT so that it sits alongside our afterschool labs. Obviously this is a tough step to take and one that will be disappointing to the Kid Club participants who like to login multiple times a week. Our Kid Club Minecraft server has been an anchor for our community since its doors opened in October 2015. It’s been a core part of our mission to provide a free and accessible kid friendly Minecraft server and community. And it’s been where some of our most loyal and committed community members have gathered and contributed, and have leveled up to become community helpers and volunteers.

We have massive respect and love for our Kid Club community but the numbers of kids who are active on Kid Club have fallen significantly in the past year. It’s become easier for families and teachers to spin up their own Minecraft servers, and many more moderated and kid-friendly Minecraft servers are out there. The changes we are making reflect this reality, and our desire to better connect Kid Club to our afterschool program and focus on our unique strengths.

By putting Kid Club alongside the other afterschool labs, we hope that it will become better connected to the rhythm and the growing community of the afterschool program. At the same time, we want to make sure that our Kid Club community can stay connected to one another, regardless of whether they subscribe to our afterschool program or sign up for a camp. Kid Club will continue to be free, and all past and present campers will have access, regardless of whether they are in a paid program. As always, we are open to feedback, learning and adaptation so please feel free to reach out to any of us about these changes.

Farewells, Hellos, and Thank Yous

In other news, we are sad to share the news that one of our own, Gregry Livingston will be leaving Connected Camps at the end of January to pursue new and exciting opportunities. Greg was the architect of our current summer and afterschool programs, and has been the lead mentor for our counselors of the past two years. We are so grateful for his contributions which will live on in our programs and our counselor network.

On a happier note, we will be welcoming longtime counselor Catherine “Krafty7” Fox into a new full time role as Program Manager. Catherine has been with Connected Camps since our very first summer in 2015, and will be bringing both a wealth of experience and fresh new energy to our team.

We are also looking forward to welcoming a tiny new addition to the Connected Camps family in the coming weeks. Sima Patel, who keeps our trains running and many of you know through email and support calls, will be taking maternity leave shortly, to bring a new connected camper to this world.

In 2018 we will be focused on continuing to grow and improve our afterschool labs and announce our new roster of summer camps. We will continue to produce fresh new content for our Connected Parenting Blog, and to hang out in Kid Club.  And most importantly, we look forward to continue to serve and support all our families. Thank you for being part of the Connected Camps community, and for all your support and understanding as we continue to learn and grow.

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