Resource Library

ACA’s 5-Year Impact Study entered its third and final phase in fall 2018. This means that we are well on our way to understanding the lasting impacts of camp and how camp experiences prepare young people for their college, career, and adult lives. By the time you read this, we will have data from current campers and their parents or caregivers, former campers, new staff, and staff who have worked at camp for several years, all of which helps tell a story not only of the benefits of attending camp, but the specific ways camp experiences foster these outcomes. 

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Forget camp as you know it, because the world is changing faster than camp professionals are holding their ground. Forget camp’s unique combination of community living away from home in a beautiful natural setting with a recreational premise. Forget its proven power to accelerate youth development. This 160-year-old concept has a bleak future if current trends continue unchecked. In the coming decades, I predict these seven revolutions.

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Today the American Camp Association (ACA) is at an imperative strategic inflection point in its history. There could not be a more propitious time to set a new course for our Association beyond 2020. This past summer the ACA National Board adopted a bold and ambitious 2020–2024 strategic plan after engaging strategic planning consultants to undertake eight months of research with members, volunteer leaders, staff, donors, and other stakeholders.

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Whatever the Weather
Published Date: 2019-11-01

One of my fondest camp memories is of sitting in a large platform tent with my other new friends during a torrential downpour. Like most suburban kids I knew, I had long been schooled to come in the house when it rained, and this "sorta house" was certainly not what my mother had in mind. I can smell wet canvas, damp forest, and mud right now. Like walking with a flashlight a hundred yards in the dark to get to the latrine, this was also part of the adventure that brought me back to camp year after year. Somehow, even in the 1970s (Wow!

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This column is different from what I usually provide. It poses a vision for the future of our camp community’s health profile. As you read, ask if the ideas reflect your desire for improving our health profile, improvement that has the potential to impact both your camp’s initiatives as well as our national profile. The content flows from the United States’ framework for Healthy People 2030.

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The year was 1918.

World War I was winding down overseas, the Spanish flu epidemic was raging across the globe, and Woodrow Wilson was in the White House. It was also the year Storer Camps was founded on Stony Lake in Jackson County, Michigan, as the summer camp location for the YMCA of Greater Toledo.

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On Being a Mentor
Published Date: 2019-09-01

Two of my professional mentors recently passed away after horrific battles with cancer. Their funerals gave me pause to reflect on the deeply profound impact they each had on who I am today, both personally and professionally. One of these mentors was responsible for inviting me into the camp profession and encouraged me to build my professional camp education and become an active American Camp Association (ACA) volunteer leader. He shared many insights that I wouldn’t have otherwise known and helped me recognize and understand my blind spots.

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It was three years ago when I first wrote about the increasing levels of anxiety that camp directors were seeing in their staff (Ditter, 2016). At the time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta had been reporting that anxiety in children ages 13–18 was at a 40-year high (CDC, 2011). In a survey conducted by the American Camp Association’s Healthy Camps Committee after the summer of 2015, camp directors indicated that anxiety was their number one concern when it came to staff (Gaston, 2015).

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The discussion of communicable illness in the camp environment often centers on the very significant issue of foodborne illness. Every summer significant cases of E. coli, salmonella, and others are spread through inappropriate handling of food. Similarly, every so often there are communicable illness outbreaks, such as the swine flu or Zika, that make national news and present problems for camps and their management.

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ACA’s Impact Study is a multiyear research project designed to identify the lasting impacts of camp from the perspectives of campers, staff, and parents. In the earliest stages of the project, we asked former campers, who are now between the ages of 18 and 25 years old, what they learned at camp and how they are using what they learned in their lives today, specifically at school and in their jobs. The research team identified 18 distinct outcomes from these conversations, each of which transfers to school and work in unique ways.

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