A Message From Our Founders
2020 was an extraordinary year for Connected Camps and the world, and a fitting one for offering our first ever annual report. Our team stepped up with a rapid response to the pandemic and childrens’ dire need for fun, safe, and social spaces for learning. We expanded the hours of our free Kid Club Minecraft server, continued esports coaching in over 100 schools, hired and trained 69 new college counselors, and expanded our online summer camp enrollments 1000%. We also doubled down on our commitments to equity and racial justice by hiring our most diverse cohort of counselors ever, the majority of whom identify with a group historically underrepresented in tech.
We are so proud of our administrative team and our counselors who stepped up to meet the moment and serve over 20,000 children who found themselves suddenly stuck at home. Our programs and servers became a lifeline to social and emotional support, learning, and play during the darkest months of the pandemic. In this Annual Report, we share the details and the numbers of this tremendous year of growth and learning for our organization.
– Mimi Ito and Katie Salen
A Year of Growth
We saw a 1000% + increase in campers served. Our team developed dozens of new programs in interest areas as varied as theater or engineering design. We also made our free Minecraft-based Kid Club much more accessible, extending from 3 days per week to every day. During the height of the pandemic, we also offered a similar free, moderated Minecraft server for older teens to hang out with friends.
We recruited 69 new counselors and doubled our administrative staff to account for record-high attendance in courses and camps. We maintained focus on our core values throughout this growth period. Counselors from diverse backgrounds were sought out through partnerships with DreamYard (based in the Bronx) and Cal State Fullerton (in Southern California).
We partnered with Seattle Public Library and the University of Washington’s Information School to design, pilot, and evaluate ways of supporting adolescent well-being within esports play. A specialized cohort of Connected Camps’ coaches were trained in a select group of evidence-based rituals and activities designed to help students focus, visualize, relieve stress, and express their emotions in a supportive setting.
- Coached more than 100 high school esports teams
Great experience! The coach was very encouraging and supportive and gave kids a lot of suggestions that would work in Fortnite and in life as well, like goal setting and strategy.
Camps, Clubs & Courses
Among Us made its debut, joining other popular programs in Minecraft, Roblox and more! With social distancing in mind, we also offered virtual parties and custom pandemic pod programs.
- 16,655 enrollments
- 2014 camps and courses
- 21,156 session hours played
- Majority of learners were 8-13 years old
Minecraft may have been the medium, but coding and creativity were what was taught. My son was consistently excited and enthusiastic about what he learned in class. In fact, the hour after every class was usually spent with him explaining to me what he did in great detail.
Within newly extended hours of our free Kid Club and Connected Craft Minecraft servers for kids aged 8-13, we began offering new themes and challenges, like October “Halloweekends” with Pumpkin Carving, a Monster Mash Halloween Tournament, and a Haunted House Building Competition.
- 1648 players logged in
- 33,228 Hours played – or 3 years, 289 days, 12h 18m 36s
I have taken many camps and classes through Connected Camps, and it is always a fun and interactive experience. I also really enjoy their Kids Club Server because it’s safe, fun, and the Mods are helpful and friendly.
—Cassidy, Age 8
Recruitment: Our recruitment efforts focus heavily on reaching historically underrepresented groups in the gaming and tech industries.
Training: Our internal training program invests in providing over four weeks of paid training to ensure all team members are set up for success, regardless of varying levels of prior experience.
Management: Our management team is dedicated to a human-centered leadership approach founded on empathy.
21 yrs old
In the past year, I’ve been a part of incredibly exciting projects, from designing the Architecture Business Camp and company values icons to helping interview counselor-manager candidates. By far, my favorite moments are from our Kid Club, where I’m able to interact with kiddos, model digital citizenship, and inspire the next generation of minecrafters.
20 yrs old
Coming from an extremely underprivileged background, I understand how crucial and advantageous these classes are to not only helping kids expand their knowledge, but also providing them with these skills at an early age, through a format that is both fun and intellectually challenging.
Lead Counselor, II
22 yrs old
This past year, I worked to develop a curriculum for our new Intro to Minecraft class that provides social-emotional education to kids learning how to safely and respectfully navigate online gaming for the first time. 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.
Operations Team Highlights
Jake Lui (he/him)
Program Media Assistant
Connected Camps has always been a special organization, achieving a very important mission in unique and clever ways. It’s provided me invaluable experience with leadership, designing curricula, teaching kids and learning from them.
Alexis Albertie (she/her)
I had just finished my fifth year teaching high school math when I saw the opportunity to be a counselor manager with CC. I loved that it was not a traditional education model, but provided the space to explore learner interests while pushing young educators to become leaders in and out of the classroom.
Matthew Kreutter (he/him)
I love seeing positive reviews that come in from campers or families that had a truly amazing experience – and, of course, being able to share those reviews with the counselors who ran the program! The biggest goal I have for my work is for it to benefit the “young people” we serve – campers, volunteers, and counselors – in whatever stage of life they are.
Diego De La Peza (he/him)
Our goal is to redefine the traditional, part-time, college job and I believe that we are well on our way already. We are demonstrating that paying young adults fair wages, allowing flexible scheduling, providing meaningful work opportunities, and treating team members with respect and compassion are all possible.
We recruit college students from computer science, engineering and design programs around the country and train them in inclusive project-based online pedagogy. We also empower them to develop innovative programs that grow from their own excitement and enthusiasm for all things gaming and technology-related.
We offer our programs directly to families to sign up online, as well as through schools and community based organizations.
Our work is grounded in decades of research and innovation by our co-founders who are professors at the Connected Learning Lab at the University of California, Irvine, as well as the broader Connected Learning Alliance.
Committed to Excellent Play
We approach our work with professionalism and play in mind. Remember to have fun. We strive to be the best at what we do. Be exceptional.
Models and Mentors
Lead by example. Keep it kid-friendly. We set the bar for how to work responsibly with young people. Help others grow. Share knowledge and experience.
Think of the person behind the screen. Act with empathy. Value the importance of community. Inquire more, judge less. We meet each other as we are. We’re not perfect, we’re real.
We believe that feedback moves us forward. Our goal is to do better today than yesterday. Seek to learn from others. Know you don’t always have the answer. Build, test, iterate, repeat. Use data wisely..
We work together to set each other up for success. No one person or team is more valuable than others. We care more about working toward the same goal, than we do about our own interests. Be humble. We help one another without judgment.
Advocates for Belonging
We aim to create an environment of safety, support, and inclusion for all community members, from teammates to learners. Value all voices and embrace differences. We strive to reflect the community which we serve. We care about equitable solutions.