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The summer break is here, and a mother of a devoted gamer finds herself in a dilemma – where to send her son away for vacation? Seaside, mountains, sports camps... it all looked pointless and boring to her son because he wouldn't have his PC there – and that's how it started. "Why don't you make one of those computer camps?" my son said to me. Serbia didn't have anything of the sort, but we didn't give up – we made one! Radoslava Konjević, a computer educator since 1995, with the idea from her son Teodor Sandel-Konjevic, founded the Computer Camp for Kids, Comp Camp, in 2007.
For 9 years, kids aged 8-16 in Serbia have been able to learn about game design and various computer skills in a rural, friendly and safe environment, surrounded by nature. Each summer, around a hundred kids from every part of Serbia and the world come together in camp for 14 days per shift (four shifts per summer).
Technology is becoming more and more important in our daily lives, work and school at an alarming rate, and our children are at the forefront of this digital age. It is only natural to expect a solid computer education in our children in any area of expertise or even day-to-day living. Steve Jobs said that "Everybody in this country should learn to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think". We agree wholeheartedly, and for nine years so far, our motto in Comp Camp has been "Kids, don't just play games, learn how to make them".
Why game design? Simply because it is the most interesting thing after playing games for children. In addition to that, they learn a wide variety of skills necessary in a lot of industries these days: programming, design, storytelling. They also learn that, to make a game, you need to be a team player, and nurturing cooperation is one of the keys to success in pretty much anything you do. We pay attention to the life outside of the computer screen, as well. City kids who don't have the opportunity to enjoy a natural environment find themselves reborn after camp, where they also learn how to take care of their own garden, enjoy various sports activities (Swimming, basketball, volleyball...) or simply taking a walk in the woods, singing camp songs throughout. We want our campers to have fun through learning, friendship and adventure. During their time with us, we also want all campers to become more self-assured and self-confident.
Comp Camp's staff consists of IT students, psychologists and sports teachers. Our counselors and teachers undergo a training to prepare them for their work in camp and to verify their skills in working with children. Having fun is key in camp, so we always look for high energy, fun and friendly staff members to join the Comp Camp family! A very important part of our team includes mentors from
MadHeadGames and Eipix, two of the biggest Serbian game design companies. They help teach our staff the skills they will need to be able to transfer their knowledge to the campers. 75% of our campers are returning each year, and once they grow too old for camp (we call them veteran campers), we invite them back as assistants and teachers. It has been proving that kids learn much more efficiently in a relaxed, fun atmosphere - learning turns into a party when your teachers are the same age as you, and have the same interests.
Every year so far, Comp Camp has been upgrading it's location, providing a better environment for kids to learn and have fun in. Our dream, however, is to design our own
"Digital Village", a learning hub for campers to use throughout the year and come together every summer. A complex of environmentally friendly bungalows and a central space for learning – a computer lab equipped with all the necessary technology for kids to use.
Wonderful talk (Serbian language) by Teodor at the Event Ignite, 2016:
One more talk in English:
TEDxYouth@ISB, Belgrade 2012. : About CompCamp by Teodor Sandel-Konjević
The future is in Informatics Technology and the future belogns to the kids, we all know that. The computer camp for kids is something completely new in our areas, a summer camp in which children and youth learn useful things on computers.