“It’s really amazing to see how curious and excited these kids are, and what we can do to continue engaging their curiosity.”
We can all agree that kids are sweet, right? Like, find me one person who doesn’t think kids are funny and sweet and deserving of the best educational opportunities society can muster. No really, find me one person right now, I’ll wait….twiddles thumbs, watches presidential debate, realizes Donald Trump probably hates kids because he hates literally everything….Okay, I take that back, besides one of the two nominees for President of the United States, find me a person who doesn’t believe kids are awesome and worthy of our best efforts….twiddles thumbs, watches everyone’s faces light up, basks in enormous glow of goodwill towards children….That’s better, that’s better, that was more of what I was expecting.
So, we all agree that kids are cool. We also agree that in regards to education, kids deserve the best. Combine these two ideas and we arrive in present day Utah, where many companies are putting time and resources into increasing educational opportunities for children. Insidesales (through their non-profit, the Do Good Foundation) has been implementing the Kids Coding Initiative, using employee volunteers to teach 200+ grade schoolers how to code. Alongside the United Way, we launched the Startup Santa book drive last December to provide children’s books to Utah’s kids. That has been resurrected this year and we’re confident even more companies will be participating. Things have gotten so crazy, I even went and participated in the 24th Day of Caring, which organized volunteers from over 120 Utah-based companies to go and teach grade schoolers. Imagine myself teaching Utah’s children, it sounds like a doomsday scenario until you realize Chatbooks CEO Nate Quigley was my co-teacher — much better equipped to handle the wiles and energy of children than I — and then you’ll feel a lot better about things.
WildWorks, creators of the wildly popular children’s game Animal Jam, also agrees that kids are cool. This seems reasonable because kids reciprocate that love, playing Animal Jam by the millions and sending handwritten notes to the company expressing their enthusiasm. Part of being a company deeply connected to kids means reaching out to them, interacting with them, and helping them grow alongside the company.
The Spectrum Academy is a series of local charter schools that specialize in teaching kids on the autism spectrum. One of those schools is based in Pleasant Grove, where a teacher reached out to WildWorks and expressed desire for them to come and teach some of the children about technology. As it turns out, Animal Jam is one of the preferred games of choice amongst the students.
“Our game really gives these kids a low-risk way to communicate with their peers, without having to worry about social cues or anything like that, which is something we heard from parents,” said Alex Porpora, Education Manager at WildWorks. “It’s just a fun environment for kids, whether or not they’re on the spectrum.”
Recently, WildWorks rounded up a group of employees to go share their experiences. They taught the children about a variety of subjects (illustration, 3D modeling, coding), hoping to encourage the mindset of “this is a game you love and enjoy, here are a couple of ways that — if you’re interested in it — you can have a career in this industry.”
Children and education is obviously something that WildWorks is very passionate about. They created the Animal Jam Academy, a website that features educational content anyone can use, content that relates to the game itself and teaches kids about everything from engineering to technology to art. They also created the Wild Explorers Youtube channel, a series of videos where the coolest 11-year-old instructor I know, Cami, meets animals and explores the depthless boundaries of science. As part of this educational push, WildWorks sees value in community outreach, which leads them to do things like donate employee time towards teaching kids at the Spectrum Academy and listening to their thoughts, feedback, and concerns about Animal Jam.
“The kids absolutely loved it,” said Porpora. “Giving kids a voice is important and I think makes them feel really valued in our world.”
Do you know what’s also important for kids? Having sweet, downloadable PDF guides when they visit the Hogle Zoo. As another part of their community outreach efforts, WildWorks has created the “Hogle Zoo Wild Explorer Handbook”, a guide for parents and children that is based upon the same concepts of the Wild Explorer YouTube videos — encouraging exploration of the natural world. Additionally, the guide highlights what is known as Hogle Zoo’s BIG SIX, six animals that the zoo is concentrating on conserving in the wild. One of those animals is the Boreal Toad, which can be found in Utah and I’m pretty sure I saw one one time, so that’s cool.
“We wanted to be able to highlight the work they’re doing, which is in alignment with our mission to get kids interested in the natural world and make them feel like they can make a difference,” said Porpora.
As time goes on, WildWorks plans on continuing more community-based efforts like these. They love children, children love them, and together, the educational opportunities available through Animal Jam will continue to grow.
“It’s really amazing to see how curious and excited these kids are, and what we can do to continue engaging their curiosity,” said Porpora.