In 2003-2004 the American Camp Association conducted research with over 7600 campers (aged 10-18) from just over 80 ACA-Accredited camps to determine the degree to which developmental supports and opportunities were reported/received by those campers.

Which of the critical youth development domains do you believe was the strongest in camps, and which presents the greatest opportunity for improvement?

  • Supportive Relationships
  • Safety (physical and emotional)
  • Youth Involvement (including leadership and decision-making)
  • Skill Building

This research results demonstrate that:

  • Camps, more than some other youth programs, provide positive developmental environments for youth, especially in providing supportive relationships with adults and peers, and in skill building.
  • While strengths vary by camp type and sponsor, ALL camps have the potential to provide positive experiences foundational to practicing successful life skills.
  • The value of camp for campers is enhanced by attending camps in multiple summers or for sessions that are as long as practicable.
  • Campers perceive safety at camp differently than adults. Directors were surprised to learn that their efforts in risk management address different safety issues than the ones that concern campers.
  • Campers, other than CITs, report few opportunities for meaningful involvement in leadership and decision-making about things that matter.
  • The greatest challenge for all youth programs, including camps, after-school programs and schools, is to provide meaningful opportunities for youth to learn and practice life-building skills in leadership and decision-making.