By Kasey Saeturn
In a basement computer lab at the City Hall in Richmond, California, more than 20 kids click away on desktop PCs. The room is buzzing, and not just with the sound of computers; kids are laughing and talking loudly to one another, their eyes focused on the screens in front of them. No, it’s not summer school. It’s summer camp online. Instead of sleeping in cabins, kids are building them, virtually, in the wildly popular video game Minecraft.
“Minecraft is all about blocks,” says 9-year-old Lelani Orrejola without looking up. “It’s like, it’s just like all about building.”
The program is called the Summer of Minecraft Camp, and it’s run by an organization called Connected Camps. Educators, like camp organizer [and School of Information professor] Jenna Burrell, see Minecraft as a tool to teach STEM skills, like the fundamentals of circuitry.
She hovers over the shoulder of 10-year-old Jaqui Chavarria and asks to see the house she built in the game. Jaqui points to the screen.
“So the blue part is mine and the boy’s house, and the white house is the snowman’s house,” Jaqui says. A big smile breaks across Burrell’s face. “So a snowman lives there?”, she asks. Jaqui nods noting that she has even added her own security guard....