New Camp Industry Research Series, Part 1: Promoting Diversity & Inclusion at Camp

May 9, 2017
Laurie Browne, PhD and Cait Wilson

Hello Camp Evaluators!

Each year, the American Camp Association conducts rigorous industry research to help better understand the camp industry and to support camps in their work. The Site, Facilities, and Programs Survey is one of three surveys administered on a rotating basis every three years (the others are the Business Operations Survey and the Staff Compensation and Benefits Survey). To ensure reliability of the findings, the survey is sent to a random sample of ACA Accredited camps across the country and findings specific to day and resident camps are made available to camp professionals and others interested in the most accurate and update industry data available on camps in the US.

This year, Cait Wilson and Melanie Gauci, Research Assistants for the American Camp Association, prepared a sneak peek into some of the findings from the 2017 Site, Facilities, and Survey.

Read on for what we learned about diversity and inclusion at camp, and stay tuned a series of posts on what the 2017 Site, Facilities, and Programs Report tells us about environmental stewardship, intentional camp programming, and fostering healthy habits at camp.

Here’s Cait:

Hi my name is Cait! I am a doctoral candidate at the University of Utah and a Research Assistant for the American Camp Association (ACA). This blog is part of a series that gives a snapshot about the results of ACA’s Sites, Facilities, and Programs survey. About 2,426 ACA-accredited camps responded to the survey and this post features what we learned about diversity and inclusion at camp.

Who are the campers that attend camp?

Findings from the 2017 Site, Facilities, and Programs Survey related to who participates in camp were not surprising: Campers who attend summer camp are predominantly white and come from middle- and high-income earning families. We learned that there are more campers who represent diverse income levels, race, and abilities; however, these changes are just a small piece of what the work that needs to be done to ensure high quality camp experiences for all kids and their families. Let’s break it down!

In residential camps, about 11 percent of campers live in poverty and 17 percent are from low-income families. Camps serve more Black/African-American (10 percent), Hispanic/Latino (8 percent), bi-racial or multi-racial (4 percent), and Asian (3 percent) youth than in the past. Day camps reported slightly more diverse demographic trends than residential camps. Almost half of overnight and day camps offer specialized programs or services for campers with disabilities with the most common focusing on youth with ADD/ADHD, youth on the autism spectrum, and youth with food allergies and dietary restrictions.

What can camps do to promote diversity and inclusion?

While some camps have a long history of promoting diversity and inclusion, it is important now more than ever before that the camp industry works towards increasing access and outreach to diverse youth and staff to reflect the changing demographics in the US. Many camps are starting to ask what does our camp do to promote an inclusive camp environment? What do we do to increase access to diverse campers and staff? Is diversity and inclusion a topic of conversation among camp staff?

Camp operations and dialogue that have a focus on diversity and inclusion can be difficult to implement. ACA has some resources that can help get you started!

Educational and Panel Sessions

At the 2017 ACA National Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, one trend among the educational and panel sessions was an emphasis on social justice, diversity, and inclusion. There were over 20 sessions to choose from! Some examples included, “Creating More Racially Inclusive Camp Environments,” “Social Justice in Camps: Roundtables,” and “Deepening the Conversation: Exploring How Cultural Humility Supports Camps to Be Even More Effective Agents of Change.” Next year’s conference is sure to host more educational and panel sessions focusing on diversity, so plan to attend one or more of these sessions at the 2018 National Conference in Orlando.

Online Resources

There are also several resources specific to diversity and inclusion on the ACA website. Check out Camping Magazine’s series on social justice, which includes recent articles such as “Social Justice and Camp – Talking About It,” “Attracting Diverse Staff and Campers,” and “The Inclusion Audit: Evaluating Your Camps Effort to Include Diverse Populations.”

As an industry, we all benefit when we work toward increasing access to transformational summer camp experiences to diverse groups of both campers and staff members. We need to ensure that we are striving to create an inclusive camp environment, increase efforts to recruit diverse campers and staff, and increase the dialogue about diversity in camps.

Want to read more? Check out the full report here.

Thanks to Chaco for their ongoing support of Research 360.

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