Hi! My name is Mary Rogers, and I am the executive director of Sherwood Forest Camp. I am also the chair of ACA’s Committee for the Advancement of Research and Evaluation (CARE). One of our jobs is to recognize camp researchers and camps who engage in research and evaluation through two annual awards: The Marge Scanlin Award for Excellence in Student Research, and the Eleanor P. Eells Award for Excellence in Research to Practice. In this blog, I want to tell you about why the Eells award in particular is important to me and why I think you should nominate yourself or another camp you know that is doing research or evaluation.

One of the great benefits of being a member of the American Camp Association is learning from our colleagues. Membership in ACA has opened the doors to so many wonderful learning experiences at the local, regional, and national levels. As a standards visitor, I have greater insight into the workings of other camps by seeing them in practice the day of the visit.

I also volunteered, on behalf of Sherwood Forest, to participate in ACA research projects over the years, starting with ACA’s first outcomes study. This experience fueled my passion for research and for all that we can learn as a result of its findings. Through all of these experiences, I recognize that a big part of what drives camp professionals is the desire to get better at what we do and to improve our practices so that we can provide even better and more powerful camp experiences for our campers and staff.

One great way to do that is by recognizing camps that are doing research and evaluation so other camp professionals can learn from what works. Soon, you will be able to nominate a camp or camp program to be considered for an Eleanor P. Eells Award for Program Excellence or for Excellence in Research in Practice.

The latter award is the newer of the two. In 2013, the American Camp Association approved the addition of the Eleanor P. Eells Award for Excellence in Research in Practice. The first recipient, Sherwood Forest Camp in Missouri, was recognized at the 2014 National Conference for its research project on developing a camp reading program to help children develop more positive attitudes about reading in school and for pleasure.

In 2015, The Fiver Children’s Foundation in New York was recognized for its research project to better understand “four core areas of focus in its programs: environmental education, health, wilderness survival, and public speaking in order to determine which character attributes students are internalizing, and to use these results to look more deeply into programming for each age group.”

At the national conference last year (2016), two camps (both in Colorado) were the recipients of this award: Round Up River Ranch for its research to better understand “how to help campers maintain the ‘glow’ of camp throughout the year and to help camp planners create programming that would not only be fun, but beneficial for campers once the summer sessions ended,” and Sanborn Western Camps for its evaluation project to “measure campers' experience and growth, develop new and improve current programming, design more intentional staff training sessions, and demonstrate, through data, that they are doing what they say they are doing.” You can read more about both of last year’s winners here.

And so I challenge you, as my colleagues and friends, to see your camp as a learning organization, to find the research or evaluation project that helps your camp grow and improve, and to consider that work worthy of being nominated for the Eleanor P. Eells Award for Excellence in Research in Practice. 

Mary Rogers is the executive director of Sherwood Forest Camp in St. Louis, MO. She also serves as the chair of ACA's Committee for the Advancement of Research and Evaluation (CARE).

Photo courtesy of Camp Manito-wish YMCA in Boulder Junction, WI.

Thanks to our research partner, Redwoods.


Additional thanks goes to our research supporter, Chaco