It’s Kinda Time… to End Camp Kinda

More than 40,000 campers joined us on our pandemic-era virtual adventures. Here are 6 big things we learned along the way.

This winter, it’s the end of an era for us here at EdNavigator: We’re putting Camp Kinda to bed.

If you’ve been with us since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, you might remember the origins of our virtual summer camp. A month or so into the first lockdowns, it dawned on us—and parents everywhere—that summer 2020 was not going to bring a return to normalcy. The kids would be home. Still.

We asked ourselves what would be most useful—to us, and to other families with young children. Kids were missing learning. They were missing friends. They were missing so much. What could we give them that would be fun, easy to navigate (with little to no parental intervention required), somewhat educational, and not entirely on screens?

So Camp Kinda was born: a different kind of camp, for a different kind of summer. It would have themed adventures on quirky, kid-friendly topics, with content culled from the best of what the internet could offer for free, plus off-line activities like crafts and at-home games and exercise opportunities.

In that first summer, Camp Kinda was a hit. Nearly 40,000 users signed up, in all 50 states and 90 countries around the world. It was such a success that we kept it going; in 2021, we added new adventures and launched Camp Kinda, Jr., geared toward 3-6 year olds. All told, Camp Kinda and Camp Kinda, Jr. have offered up more than 350 hours of high-quality content for children ages 3-13.

So what did we learn from our Camp Kinda era?

Parents appreciated having a curated selection of content. In the early days of COVID, parents were inundated with online learning opportunities for their kids. This was well-meaning, but also overwhelming for families that were already exhausted managing dozens of different software platforms for remote school. With Camp Kinda, we did the work of sifting through the mountain of content for families, focusing on videos and activities we’d feel good about putting in front of our own kids. By tying together content into weekly themes, campers got to dig a little deeper on curious topics, rather than jumping around the wilds of the internet on their own.

Accessibility and flexibility were critical. We wanted to make it as easy as possible for stressed families to sign up, so in the first year we made Camp Kinda 100% free for everyone, only required an email address to sign up (so we could send reminders about each day’s activities), and offered a Spanish version. We also recognized that families might be squeezing Camp Kinda into other activities or outdoor time, so we structured our adventures so kids could stop and start as their schedules allowed. It was all asynchronous. The last thing anyone needed was another Zoom call.

Offline activities were a must-have. It was unavoidable that our kids spent huge amounts of time on screens during the lockdown-and-school-closures era. Camp Kinda, too, relied on screens for a lot of content, but we also committed to finding creative ways to get kids to back away from their devices. The offline activities, from arts and crafts to dramatic play to neighborhood scavenger hunts and kid-friendly yoga, were big hits with families. We created adventures focused on learning how to draw comics, do magic tricks, imagine fantastical worlds, and more.

There’s good stuff on the internet—if you can find it. Our team partnered with veteran educators to identify great content that campers would both enjoy and learn from. Many of our favorites came from well-known sources like PBS Kids and National Geographic, but there were also some pleasant surprises that we returned to frequently, like SciShow Kids on YouTube, the Love Nature documentaries, and Science Buddies for hands-on activities.

But families still need more free or inexpensive access to high-quality educational content that covers a wide array of topics. We noticed a lack of open content that explains simple concepts and interesting topics in a kid-friendly, entertaining way. For example, we’d love to see more websites offering 101-level videos that answer the kinds of questions kids are constantly asking about the natural world, history, technology, and how stuff works.

In the end, kids need to play and run around. Camp Kinda was hugely popular in the first summer—far more popular than we expected. Participation dropped in its second summer, despite the fact that we’d improved the quality (we had more than six weeks to plan it, after all). In summer of 2020, families needed something right then. Over time, Camp Kinda continued to serve a purpose during school breaks, weather closures, short-term COVID shutdowns, and for families who were more cautious about returning to in-person activities. But as the world opened up, most families opted to get their children back to parks, pools, and in-person play and learning—and that’s the right choice for most kids.

So we’ve come to the end of the road. For now, your children can still access all their favorite adventures through the winter break. But in the new year, Camp Kinda will no longer be accessible. Saying farewell to Camp Kinda is bittersweet for us, but it’s the right time.

Thanks for coming on this journey with us, and happy camping!

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