Zora at Camps

About the Project

The Virtual Communities of Learning and Care project (VCLC), directed by Professor Marina Umaschi Bers, provided a unique experience for youth who attended Camp For All’s week-long camp for children affected by cancer or blood disorders. VCLC engaged these campers, aged 13-17, in participating in a virtual community where they could design their own camp, write stories, create characters, chat with each other, and participate in an online support group by using the Zora multi-user graphical environment. VCLC was a research project sponsored by a Career grant #IIS-0447166 by the National Science Foundation and Deborah Munroe Noonan Memorial Fund in collaboration with Camp For All in Burton, Texas. The goal was to explore the potential of virtual technologies to maintain the sense of community and hopefulness found at summer camp.


This research examined the potential of virtual environments to foster positive youth development in adverse circumstances, such as having a severe chronic illness. This project, funded by the National Science Foundation and Deborah Munroe Noonan Memorial Fund investigated how to develop technological environments, such as the Zora virtual world to promote positive development in youth and encourage medical adherence and coping strategies among pediatric patients.

Beginning in May 2009, in collaboration with Camp For All, a camp for critically ill children, a 3D virtual environment resembling the physical camp was created as an arena for campers to maintain their friendships from camp and explore concepts like hope and community. The technology, incorporated into camp programming, was introduced to the campers during their week of camp in June 2009. After that week, they accessed the network through home or hospital computers and joined one another in a virtual Camp For All during the following school year.

Because Camp For All’s mission emphasized ideas such as hope and inclusivity, we aimed at creating a Zora curriculum designed to promote a sense of hopefulness and social connectedness. Once a week, participants met online to share stories about hope, create characters from camp, and chat about the community at Camp For All. Together, they created a virtual space that enabled them to experience the spirit of camp all year long.


Primary Investigator – Professor Marina Umaschi Bers – marina.bers@tufts.edu // marina.bers@bc.edu as of 2022

Research Assistant – Kathryn Cantrell – kathryn.cantrell@tufts.edu

Camp For All Coordinator – Kurt Podeszwa – Kpodeszwa@campforall.org

With support from:

NSF & Deborah Munroe Noonan Memorial Fund