ACA is excited to be launching our new Character at Camp initiative, and based on the initial responses to our survey, you are too! In this initial launch, we have adopted a broad definition of character, like the one the Character Lab provides: "Intentions and actions that benefit other people as well as ourselves." Rather than tell you what "good character" looks like, our intent is for every camp to consider what character means to the communities and youth you serve.

Shortly after announcing this new initiative, ACA built a survey to learn more from the field about how character already shows up at camp. We asked survey participants to tell us about how their camps include character in their programs, how they talk about character with their families, and what barriers exist to introducing or growing character programming at their camp.

The survey has received a record number of responses — over 1,500 to date. Here’s what we’re learning so far:

  • Nearly 80 percent of respondents said their camp already includes character development and skills at their camp.
  • Almost 90 percent of respondents said their camp trains staff to promote specific skills or traits, and a similar number of respondents said their camps design programs around specific character skills or traits.
  • Many camps also include some aspect of character development in their marketing materials (61 percent of respondents).
  • Over half of the respondents also reported that their camps explicitly name character development as part of their mission.
  • Fewer respondents indicated that their camps use existing character education curricula (32 percent) or partner with other organizations to support character development (27 percent).
Chart: what ways does your camp focus on character development

So, what does all of this mean? It is clear that the field is not only excited about this opportunity, but already actively engaged in this work! These results also strongly indicate that this is an ideal time to launch an initiative supporting the growth and expansion of character at camp.

What are the next steps? We will use this information to guide our upcoming deep dive into how the field thinks about and supports character at camp. This information will also inform future phases of the project, which include in-person and virtual training opportunities, educational tools, and other resources for camps. ACA plans to not only improve access to tools related to character, but also to make these tools more usable and help camps better communicate their character development work with others.

If you haven't done so yet, please participate by completing this short survey.

Learn more about the initiative or email with questions.