Why Camp Now?
How a quality camp experience helps children to become happy, successful adults
In 2004 the American Camp Association embarked upon an
important research project to measure the youth development outcomes of
children in the summer camp setting. ACA
partnered with Youth Development Strategies, Inc., an organization which has
years of experience identifying the supports and opportunities needed in
childhood to help children grow into happy, successful adults and conducting
research into whether these supports and opportunities are being provided in a
wide variety of settings including schools, teams, Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs,
Church youth groups, etc. Eighty camps
YDSI has identified the following supports and opportunities needed by young people.
Relationships, so that youth can experience:
* Guidance, emotional and practical support
* Adults and peers knowing who they are and what’s important to them
* Safety, so that youth feel physically and emotionally secure
Youth Involvement, so that young people can:
* Be involved in meaningful roles with
* Have input into decision-making
* Have opportunities for leadership
* Feel a sense of belonging
Skill Building, so
that youth can:
* Have challenging and interesting learning
experiences that help build a variety of
* Experience a sense of growth and progress.
The results are in and have provided valuable information which has been used to support and improve the programs that we offer. In the Supportive Relationships category, camps in general and Sanborn Camps in particular scored extremely well. Of the 80 camps in the survey between 70 and 90 percent of youth had optimal experiences at camp; at Sanborn Camps, over 90% of campers had optimal experiences. These results were the highest that YDSI has measured across nearly 200 agencies that have conducted the youth survey.
Camps’ results in the area of Safety were high compared with most other youth programs and higher in the Emotional Safety category than in the Physical Safety category. Under 1% of campers indicated through the survey that they did not feel safe at camp. Some campers, especially first year campers, felt slightly less safe at camp than they do at home because of the unfamiliarity of the environment. We have made some changes to enhance the campers’ perception of safety including more communication about the risk management techniques we have in place.
The area of Youth Involvement showed the lowest optimal levels for camps in general and, although Sanborn Camps scored well above the norm in decision-making opportunities and feeling a sense of belonging, and is an area where we have focused a lot of attention in recent years. The development of our SOLE (Sanborn Outdoor Leadership Experience) for 8th graders and CORE (Community Outreach Experience) for 9th graders create a progression in leadership development culminating in our Junior Counselor and Outbacker programs. We’re also working to do a better job of identifying to campers of all ages when they are taking responsibility or providing leadership during camp activities ranging from map-reading on hikes, grooming horses, or planning the living unit’s contribution for skit night.
The Skill Building area is another in which camps scored higher than any other community-based youth organization studied by YDSI. Providing challenging and adventure based activities and trips is one of the strengths of Sanborn Camps and we have worked hard to create a real and meaningful progression in each of our major programs.
The study also concluded that “More youth experienced the highest levels of supports and opportunities at camps during longer sessions (four weeks or more) compared to shorter sessions.”