Updated: Dec 2, 2020
The New York Chess Academy held a summer camp every weekday from July 1- August 31, 2020. As you know, one of our core beliefs is giving access to all; originally having two sessions a day, we made the decision to change this to three sessions a day in order to accommodate more people, most notably those on the West Coast. The virtual summer camps were headed by FIDE Master Ivan Gil Biag - together with GM Mark Paragua and FM Nelson Mariano. Through the use of Zoom for group meetings and LiChess for the gameplay, we were able to provide an immersive virtual experience.
The summer camp created good experiences for both the coaches and the students. We found that a lot of the kids were very much engaged and attentive, despite the many hours that a session could last. The fact that it was virtual provided more advantages than disadvantages, as kids were able to have fun and make connections with those outside of their states whom they probably would have never met if not for our camp. We have also been made aware that they have continued playing even outside the sessions with their newfound friends. In addition, the kids seem more excited than ever to meet and play against each other in person–and to partake in chess tournaments. As coaches, we are happy to see how truly invested the students have become; we even receive messages from the kids outside the sessions, asking us to review their games.
As with most things, the camp was not without its challenges. As everything had to be online, we encountered some technical issues. Since we offer sessions for all ages, we found that this was most prominent with the younger kids. Furthermore, everyone having their cameras on would have made for a more authentic summer camp experience, but sometimes this was not possible. Lastly, some time had to be taken for everyone–not just the students, but the coaches too–to adjust from in-person to online programs.
Despite these problems, solutions were quickly implemented and issues smoothed out. The virtual camp has been a test of our coaches’ flexibility and adaptability, but we can proudly say that we handled it successfully. We have learned a lot from this complete virtual experience; from here, we will only continue working to make everything better in the future.
Overall, the summer camp allowed us to not only teach but also learn from our students. Many students have forged strong new friendships, and there were many pleasant memories made. We had not envisioned that our camp would have had to be virtual this year, but thanks to this, we even had some of the kids showing off their pets at home to everyone! It was truly an unmissable experience, to say the least.