On July 29, 2010, Representative Carolyn McCarthy (NY)  introduced legislation that would direct the Secretary of Education to carry out a grant program to fund pilot projects to explore how the camp experience promotes physical activity and healthy lifestyles among children and youth, reduces summer learning loss, and promotes academic achievement. The American Camp Association is working with Representative McCarthy to advocate for the passing of this bill. (Access the list of key ACA volunteers working on this project.)  Shortly, we will be calling our community to action to ask for their support in contacting their legislators. Watch this page for details.
- We cannot expect to positively impact the healthy and productive development of our nation’s children and youth without investing in programs that specifically address these issues during summertime.
- Several existing program models are in place, that if tested, replicated and supported, could help to eliminate obesity and summertime learning loss. For example, every summer, over 10 million children learn health and wellness habits at summer camps while developing academic and life skills that promote success in the classroom and beyond. Unfortunately, with only 10 million school-age children annually participating in camp experiences, this leaves more than 40 million children without the benefit of these transformational camp experiences.
- This bill would direct the Secretary of Education to carry out a grant program to fund pilot projects to explore how the camp experience promotes physical activity and healthy lifestyles among children and youth, reduces summer learning loss, and promotes academic achievement.
- Grant recipients would be required to work with local educational agencies and schools to provide activities that complement the academic curriculum taught to the students and to address the academic and developmental needs of the students. While all camp programs are eligible, priority will be given to programs that target students who attend schools that have been identified as in need of improvement under section 1116 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.
- Camp is unique when compared with other youth development settings.
- Children and youth attend one- to eight-week periods of intense experiences rather than short experiences spread out over time and thus youth often receive greater learning outcomes.
- Children are not getting sufficient amounts of physical activity. A national study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 62% of children aged 9- to 13-years-old did not participate in any physical activity (PA) during nonschool hours and 23% engaged in no daily physical activity.
- Hickerson (2009) found that children in day camps take (on average) about 12,000 steps per day. Children in residential camps were taking 19,500 steps per day, on average, which is well above the recommended guidelines of 10,000 steps per day.
- The effects of summer learning loss on children can be significant. During the summer months, summer learning loss equals up to two months of instruction (as measured by grade level equivalents) on standardized math and reading test scores; thus on average, children's tests scores are lower when they return to school in the fall than scores were when students left in the spring.
- While some learning occurs in formal school-based settings, learning involves acquiring behaviors, skills, values, and understandings that are not always traditionally academic in nature. The American Camp Association’s (ACA’s) research into the developmental outcomes of camp indicates how the camp experience prepares children and youth for learning.
- Camp provides an opportunity for the development of deep friendships with peers and other adults, supports a focused and positive self-identity, provides multi-faceted skill development, stimulates career exploration and reflection, and provides opportunity for young adults to be a contributing part of a community. This by no means suggests that camp is the only setting that can facilitate such transformation, but the duration and intensity of camp experiences are particularly critical in influencing this growth towards adulthood.
- Camp is an intensive experience whose impact results from a combination of context and relationships.
- Youth, who often deny their true self in order to fit in and to be accepted by peers, exit the familiar and enter the novel at camp. Research with campers suggests that young people reinvent themselves through the camp experience by getting the opportunity to escape the negative impressions of others and revising their self-identity (Garst, Franz, Baughman, Smith, & Peters, 2009).
- This self-transformation is influenced by the equalizing context of camp. Many of the status symbols in young people’s homes, communities, and schools are less prevalent at camp. Campers eat the same food, participate in the same activities, and sleep in similar beds in the same large shared spaces. The inequalities that create the “haves” and the “have-nots” are minimized at camp.
- Campers have opportunities to explore and establish their own identity and build relationships with peers and adults.
- Once immersed in the equalizing context of camp, youth reach out to other campers and staff for normative standards to guide their behavior and often readily build relationships in this safe and secure environment.
- The capacity that camp creates for youth for personal change and relationship-development provides an intense opportunity that is often realized through one’s own camp experience.