Bibliographies of Camp-related Research

Bibliographies of Camp-related Research

A sampler of qualitative research in organized camping.
Chenery, M.F.
The Journal of Experiential Education, 10.2 (1987), 13-16.

To advocate for the appropriateness of qualitative research as a method for studying the effects of organized camping. The assumptions on which the researcher's argument is based are:

  • that a multiplicity of realities exist in the camp environment and it is necessary to look at the whole experience of individuals in order to describe these realities in a comprehensive and rich way,
  • that rather than acting as a direct causal agent, the camp experiences may be viewed as providing some of the tools and creating some of the conditions that enable a person to develop the qualities that contribute to a happy and productive adulthood. The focus is on identification of the dynamics that seem to accompany the changes noted as a result of the camp experience rather than on camp as a causal agent.
  • that the camp experience is in large measure unique to each individual camp and even to each summer at a particular camp, making it difficult to use quantitative. The researcher suggests that random samples and controlled variables used to assure generalizability may not yield as much valuable information as looking for patterns that emerge from studies of camp experiences across a variety of settings.
  • that the intense interpersonal nature of the camp experience makes use of objective research methods difficult.

A review of five qualitative studies yielded the following observations:

  • In an observational study of girls ages 8-10, the researcher reported that the girls' perception of what they gained from camp was that they learned to get along with others and to make friends.
  • In a second study, campers reported that they had learned to believe in themselves, they had learned swimming skills, to be honest, to have fun, and not to fight. Attributed the changes to acceptance, experiencing success, and seeing alternative ways to behave. Campers thought the changes occurred due to fun people, doing things by themselves, and the influence of counselors.
  • Senior campers (aged 55 and older) reported camp gave them new perspectives, renewed physical abilities and spirit, and refreshed memories.
  • Staff in one study indicated that friendship was a major influence on their satisfaction with the summer experience. Staff goals for the summer included: friendship, fun, personal growth, personal challenge, and skill development.
  • Staff in another study reported pre-camp expectations about making friends, developing staff relationships, and meeting the needs of campers.
  • The researcher advocates for the use of qualitative research as a basis for understanding the nature and dynamics of the camp experience.