Helping Kids Change Their Stories: What's Next on Our Research Horizon

February 4, 2020
Katie Wheatley
group of campers surround tires

Helping Kids Change Their Stories — A Taste of Camp Measurement North of the Border is a short blog series that explores Tim Hortons Foundation Camps’ summer and school programs and their approach to impact measurement and camp research. The series outlines Tim Hortons Foundation Camps’ research journey from a practitioner perspective, while highlighting challenges and early learnings in their research process. 

When we started our impact measurement strategy in 2017, we were eager to better to understand and demonstrate the impact of our programs. We were curious to learn how the data could inform our curriculum, and we were excited to use the results to inform our practice to keep our programs relevant and meaningful for the youth we serve.

Much like the youth in our programs, we have learned by doing. Amid all of our excitement and enthusiasm toward our new measurement strategy, we were also intimidated by the unknown. With anything new or different, we wondered what exactly we would learn, how our camp communities and stakeholders would respond, and how we would apply the data to build our evidence-base to inform our programmatic and strategic decisions. We were fortunate to have a sound research plan and strategy, but we’ve learned to pivot, adapt, and shift based on what our campers are telling us. Through listening to our youth and responding to camper feedback, we’re continuing to evolve our practice. We’re making data-informed decisions to increase program impact and to deepen camper learning.

We’re proud of what we’ve learned and how far we’ve come. But why stop there?! We’ve gotten a taste of how we can use camper impact data to inform our programs, and we’re hungry for more! There’s work to be done to better inform our programs and to keep our campers at the center of everything we do. To further enhance our research and to increase our understanding how we can meet our campers’ needs, we’re looking to what’s next on our research horizon.

Sustained Gains

  • Once we learned that our fifth-year campers require additional support in making positive connections, we began to determine how we can better support our campers in transferring and sustaining gains achieved at camp back to their home communities. To start, we’re implementing a post-post survey tool to begin determine how campers gage their learnings and positive connections with peers, adults, and their communities six months after completing the program. We will begin this process in early February 2020 and plan to use the results to inform how we support all campers to transfer learnings achieved through their camp experience back to their everyday lives.

Building an Outcomes Culture

  • As mentioned in the blog article “From Activities and Programs to Outcomes and Impact,  we’re continually connecting our programs and activities to outcomes and impact. We continue to examine how we can support our camp staff in connecting activities to outcomes to have even greater impact with our campers. We will continue to focus on enhancing impact sharing and storytelling through training and data visualization tactics.

Qualitative Collection & Analysis   

  • We’ve spent a lot of time over the past three summers focusing on how we collect and analyze survey data and we’re now ready to dive deeper into the qualitative methods used in our strategy. This upcoming summer, we will strengthen our camper interview process to better amplify the camper voice and to capture narratives on program impact and the camper experience.

Our process is ongoing and evolving and we’ve learned to be more comfortable in shifting and adapting based on what our campers are telling us. We’re excited to see what we learn in 2020 from our campers to make their experiences as impactful as possible.

Katie Wheatley, director of program innovation with Tim Hortons Foundation Camps, specializes in data-driven curriculum design for youth who thrive in alternative learning environments. With a background in special education, Katie combines her passion for education and experience in camping to lead the innovation, measurement and development of Tim Hortons Foundation Camps programs in Canada and the US. For more information about Tim Hortons Foundation Camps, please visit timhortons.com/foundation.

Photo courtesy of Camp Common Ground in Oakland, California

Thanks to our research partner, Redwoods.

Redwoods

Additional thanks goes to our research supporter, Chaco.