Since 2015, Connected Camps has empowered young people by providing them with connected learning experiences. By tapping into the power of diverse young tech experts, we’ve built a global online community for kids to build, code, play, and learn from one another.
Connected Camps is a non-profit that relies on donations as well as families supporting our programs through Outschool. The pandemic highlighted how important safe, social, online learning experiences are for kids and 2020 saw huge demand for our programs. We’re turning to our members, supporters, and friends to make a tax-deductible donation so we can continue to provide these opportunities to as many young people as we can.
Our co-founders, Mimi Ito and Katie Salen, are professors and learning scientists at the University of California. They donate their time and expertise to Connected Camps to further their life work of creating positive online spaces for children. Their research has validated how beneficial our programs are to kids from all backgrounds.
In addition to programs that families pay for on Outschool, Connected Camps also operates a free Kid Club Minecraft server, offers programs through public schools and community-based organizations, and supports a robust professional development program for our counselors. These programs are only possible through individual donations and philanthropic support.
Kid Club: A Safe Online Play Space
Our Kid Club Minecraft server provides a safe space for kids to explore and play in one of their favorite games. It’s free to join — but it’s not free for us to maintain the server or train the counselors and keep them online during several hours each day.
Before, during, and now almost-after Covid, Kid Club has provided youth a place to play online and stay socially connected with others. In 2020, we provided fun, safe, and social programmingfor a broader youth audience in need of distance learning options and social connections with their peers. In fact, kids spent 33,228 hours playing in our Minecraft servers last year!
When we asked participants what they thought about Kid Club, one said it is the “perfect combination between fun and chaos.” It takes a great counselor to find that balance! Another said it is “the best server ever with best moderators.” This kid summed up the experience and the social benefits: “A good server. Good friends. A fun place to be.”
Reaching Youth through Schools and Community Based Organizations
Connected Camps has offered programs to over a hundred public schools, libraries, and community based organizations over the years. This included offering Minecraft training to librarians in the first years of the organization, as well as offering programs in public schools in Minnesota and the city hall of Richmond, California for low-income families.
More recently, Connected Camps provided free coaching to 100 competitive high school esports teams across the country in 2020. Students on those teams learned not only how to improve their game, but how to be better team members, how to regulate emotions, how to communicate, and more.
One staffer at a high school said, “A lot of our [esports] kids haven’t been coached in any kind of activity before so they don’t really know how to be good losers because they’ve been brought up by the internet and they tend to be toxic when they start losing or even when they’re winning.” Our coaches, well-trained and relatable college students, were able to develop mentoring relationships to help youth develop personal skills that will benefit them throughout their lives.
This quality coaching was provided free to schools and students, but the program was labor- and training-intensive. We hope to receive philanthropic and individual support to enable us to provide meaningful esports and other tech-based coaching to youth in the future.
Our Counselors Make All the Difference
Connected Camps counselors set us apart from other kids’ programs. Our counselors are college students recruited from diverse colleges and universities around the country. For most of them, Connected Camps is their first work experience. We make a serious investment in their professional development and a positive online work culture and community. This also means supporting their career development through their college years and preparing them for jobs beyond Connected Camps after they graduate. Your donation will help Connected Camps continue to offer this paid professional development experience to as many college students as possible.
The depth of our counselors’ engagement impacts kids’ behavior in and out of our programs. Carter Wilken, one of our Lead Counselors, worked to develop a new curriculum that provides social-emotional education to kids learning how to safely and respectfully navigate online gaming for the first time. They said, “Connected Camps has given me the incredible opportunity to apply my education in helping our kids learn and form friendships across the world, even in the middle of the pandemic.”
Alexis Albertie, a former high school math teacher and now our counselor manager, said she values the opportunity for counselors to develop themselves at Connected Camps. She said that working here “pushes young educators to become leaders in and out of the classroom.” We invest heavily in the training and development of our counselors, and the youth participants in all our programs benefit.
Please Support This Valuable Work
If you believe in our mission to empower young people in making safe and socially connected online learning experiences, please make a tax-deductible donation to help make our programs accessible to kids from all backgrounds.