Finally, we have documented proof of a belief that camp directors have held since organized camping started in Canada over one hundred years ago – camp does have a positive influence in the growth and development of young people.
The scientific proof is presented in a twenty-page document, The Canadian Summer Camp Research Project, recently released by Dr. Troy Glover and his research team from the University of Waterloo in Ontario. The study was funded by the Canadian Camping Association/Association des camps du Canada and the University of Waterloo. Through interviews with staff and observations of campers across Canada, the five-year study examined the outcomes of the Canadian summer camp experience. The research identified five areas for review: social integration and citizenship, environmental awareness, attitudes towards physical activity, emotional intelligence and self-confidence and personal development. Camp counsellors observed and reported on their campers’ behaviors, attitudes and values at both the beginning and end of a camp session. The research team then examined any changes that occurred while at camp. The analysis of the surveys indicated significant positive growth in all five areas.
The statistics reveal that at camp children experience a sense of belonging. In this comfortable environment, new friendships are made and at times these friendships are with persons seen as different from themselves. Results showed that campers resolved personal conflicts in a positive manner. Over half the campers in the study showed improvement in learning how to protect the environment and developing environmentally friendly attitudes and behaviours. Almost two-thirds of the campers demonstrated improved attitudes towards physical activity by the end of their camp session. Amid growing concerns regarding sedentary lifestyles and childhood obesity, this result is significant. Almost seventy percent of the campers showed positive growth in the area of emotional intelligence, the ability to recognize and deal with one’s own emotions and the emotions of those around you at an age-appropriate level. Sixty-seven percent of all campers demonstrated growth in their independence and self-confidence.
Although the results differed depending on age, sex and camp experience (first-time or retuning campers), what is evident is that, regardless of these differences, all campers experienced positive outcomes and growth. Experiences at camp can foster distinct change in interpersonal and personal development over a relatively short period of time.
What do these research results mean for the camping community? We now have documented proof to support our conversations with parents about the great benefits of the camp experience. We can educate our staff about the significant influence they have on the campers in their care. We can provide justification to our boards about the importance of the work we do. We can appeal to our funders with proof of the importance of making the camp experience available to as many young people as possible.
After a century of camping in Canada, Dr. Troy Glover and his research team at Waterloo have proven that camp is a great place for children of all ages and abilities to learn and to grow.
Click here to view a summary of the report.