In 2004-2005 the American Camp Association completed a Program Improvement Project with twenty-three ACA-accredited camps to learn what strategies and approaches would help strengthen the experiences of youth in four important developmental areas:
- Supportive Relationships
- Safety (emotional and physical)
- Youth Involvement (including decision-making and leadership)
- Skill Building
Most of the camps experienced improvement in one or more of these areas and their associated domains. We learned that:
- Camps of all types increased the benefits for campers by specifically targeting improvement areas and using a continuous improvement process.
- In fact, 83% of camps in ACA’s study showed significant improvement in one or more dimensions vital to positive camper development. These dimensions included areas such as peer relationships, emotional safety, decision making, and challenging activities.
- Getting feedback from campers and staff on their perceptions of camp programs, procedures, and relationships is critical to developing strategies that will work in camp.
- Simply selecting another camp’s strategies is not nearly as effective as using a process for self-examination that results in strategies that are designed by campers and staff and intentionally applied to the camp setting.
- To improve the likelihood of having a positive impact on camper growth, strategies need to integrated into the camp’s structures, policies, and activities.