Measuring Youth Development Outcomes at Camp and a Camp-Themed After-School Program
Stewart, Shaina N.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Natural Resources
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Summer camps and after-school programs host annually nearly 10 million participants apiece. Since high quality programs in both settings have the potential to generate beneficial outcomes for attendees, camps and after-school programs are ideal sites for facilitating – and studying – positive youth development. The purpose of this research was to investigate whether children perceived growth in outcomes related to the development of friendships, openness to new experiences, and emotional connections to nature after participating in a camp-themed after-school program or attending a residential summer camp. A total of 157 youth (23 at the after-school program and 134 at camp) completed a Friendship Skills (FS) survey, an Interest in Exploration (IE) survey, and an Affinity for Nature (AN) survey from the American Camp Association’s Youth Outcomes Battery. This instrument asks respondents to assess on a scale of 1-5 how the youth program or camp has changed them in relation to certain attitudes and behaviors, with 1 = decreased; 2 = did not increase or decrease; 3 = increased a little, bit maybe; 4 = increased some, I am sure; and 5 = increased a lot, I am sure. At the conclusion of their after-school program or camp session, participants perceived growth in all three outcomes measured, with means for each outcome equal to or exceeding 3.5. Perceived growth as a result of the after-school program (FS M=3.8, IE M=4.3, AN M=4.6) was significantly higher for Interest in Exploration and Affinity for Nature compared to the camp program studied (FS M=3.5, IE M=3.8, AN M=4.0) as well as national norms (FS M=3.8, IE M=3.9, AN M=3.8). Perceived growth in Affinity for Nature as a result of the camp program studied was also significantly higher than the national norms, while perceived growth in Friendship Skills was significantly lower. Results demonstrate that camp activities foster youth development in both afterschool and residential settings, allowing children to experience the benefits of camp all year long. Camp-themed after-school programs with youth development outcomes may be a new way for camps to reach underserved audiences and possibly grow summer enrollment.