The research on the benefits of camp is finally coming into its own. For many years, and family generations, it has been presumed that an activities-oriented camp has a positive – and long lasting – effect on youth. The American Camping Association recently concluded a multi-year study to quantify these subjective impressions.
Here is a synopsis of their findings:
- Youth who attend summer camps naturally experience psychological curative factors that provide healthy developmental growth (Durall).
- Camps provide a break from negative experiences and stressors that youth experience in their daily lives. The camp environment is one characterized by happiness and inclusion that promotes harmony, pride, hope and courage. As a result, campers experience emotional and social developmental growth (Durall).
- Camps provide the opportunity for participants to experience a sense of belonging, acceptance and generosity. This experience encourages campers to share these same feelings of cohesion with others when they return home (Durall)
- Campers learn to be altruistic at camp. By giving of themselves for the benefit of others, campers are able to develop a positive self-esteem (Durall).
- Good camps create an atmosphere where the struggles and hard-times of every participant are met with consolation, comfort and hope by positive role models that foster positive change in the participants (Mary Faeth Chenery).
- The outcomes of a good camp experience (positive attitudes and caring social behaviors) are the result of campers being removed from parents and technology, participating in community and living with positive role models (Mary Faeth Chenery).
- Parents, camp staff and children report significant growth in self-esteem, independence, leadership friendship skills, social comfort, peer relationships, adventure and exploration, environmental awareness, values and decisions, and spirituality (American Camp Association)
The study also cites that, “there are four dimensions that create a distinct supportive environment at camp”:
- The outdoor setting: has natural curative, comforting effects that encourage a sense of wonder and gratefulness for nature.
- Campers are accepted as individuals: praised and loved; bullying and put-downs are not allowed.
- Positive norms and expectations of behavior: create an environment that is psychologically safe for campers to take risks with new activities and feelings and learn from failure
- Stability and structure of camp: for campers who know that camp continues to exist while they are back home develop a sense of belonging and community where they can feel secure. (Mary Faeth Chenery)
And, as many parents who attended camp themselves would attest, camp has its own unique properties:
- [Camp is] a sustained experience which provides a creative, recreational, and educational opportunity in group living in the out-of-doors. It utilizes trained leadership and the resources of the natural surroundings to contribute to each camper’s mental, physical, social, and spiritual growth (American Camping Association, Inc.).
- Camp programs are child development experiences. The importance of experiencing the camp setting is more important than ever. Camps protect large areas of natural landscape and foster environmental awareness that cannot be appreciated through hundreds of television channels and video games (Miller).
- The intensity of 24-hour programming makes camp an inherently powerful experience (Mary Faeth Chenery).
- Camps nurture a powerful sense of self-worth in young people (Chenery).
Closer to home, our New England regional director, Ben Mirkin, is pursuing a PhD in Education at the University of New Hampshire. His dissertation is a multi-year study of the positive social outcomes of Adventure Treks. While his data is not yet ready to be published, we are excited to participate and further the growing academic information regarding the positive outcomes of attending camp. And so far the results are encouraging — Mirkin has already clearly demonstrated that there are huge positive social outcomes from attending Adventure Treks.
We are getting very excited to get to know your child and facilitate an incredible and indelible experience this summer.
American Camp Association. Directions: Youth Development Outcomes of the Camp Experience. Martinsville, Indiana: American Camp Association, 2005.
American Camping Association, Inc. 5 May 2008. American Camp Association Web site. 15 February 2010 .
—. Accreditation Process Guide. Monterey: Healthy Learning, 2010.
Chenery, Mary Faeth. I Am Somebody: The Messages and Methods of Organized Camping for Youth Development. Durham, North Carolina: Human Development Research Associates, 1991.
Durall, John K. “Curative Factors in the Camp Experience.” Camping Magazine January-February 1997: 25-27.
Mary Faeth Chenery, Ph.D. “Explaining the Value of Camp.” Camping Magazine May-June 1994: 20-25.
Miller, John A. “What is Camp?” Camping Magazine March-April 1997: 7-8.