How do you know whether a camp experience is good? Besides the “I’m coming back next summer right?” phrase being uttered on check out day from camp how do you know that the camp experience was a good one and that you or your child should return? The simple answer is that you need to delve deeper into the experience by asking yourself or your child the following questions:
- Did you feel safe?
- Were you in a caring environment?
- What was the most exciting thing that happened?
- What did you learn?
- Was it enjoyable?
- What appears to be different about your behavior?
- More responsible?
- Interact more positively with others?
- Respecting others?
- More mature?
- Able to work as a part of a team better?
- Do you highly regard your interactions with camp staff?
- Are you able to identify different skills you learned?
- Did you lead anything? If so, what did you learn?
- Were you challenged?
- What stood out to you the most out of your camp experience?
By answering these questions you are able to give yourself an honest and open evaluation of what the outcome of the experience at the summer camp was. Not only that but you are to recognize both the highs and the lows of the camp experience. These questions may seem similar because they are on a lot of camper evaluation surveys that camps may hand out at the end of the camp session to gain feedback on what they are doing right, what they could improve on, and what they are not accomplishing at all.
The American Camp Association (ACA, 2014) gives summer camp professionals an outcomes battery of assessments that includes multiple areas to assess for. These outcome areas include:
- Affinity for Nature Scale
- Camp Connectedness Scale
- Family Citizenship Scale
- Friendship Skills Scale
- Independence Scale
- Interest in Exploration Scale
- Perceived Competence Scale
- Problem-Solving Confidence Scale
- Responsibility Scale
- Spiritual Well-Being Scale
- Teamwork Scale
- Young Camper Learning Scale
The benefits of these scales are in their evaluation of how well camp is doing on developing a community that promotes affinity for nature, camp connectedness, citizenship, friendship, independence, curiosity, problem-solving, responsibility, teamwork, and personal growth. With all of these awesome factors in play what do you think you is the most important for the camp experience to give someone? That’s right. In order to evaluate the camp experience you need to know what you hope to get out of a camp experience and what you believe camps should be giving consumers the opportunity to do. Evaluating the camp experience takes time for self-reflection and more importantly conversations with anyone who participated in the program. Effective programs leave the consumers wanting more of what they are providing instead of an over abundant sense of being full.
Here’s what my experience of working at Vanderkamp Center has taught me. Throughout the week relationships are built through intense work on the part of the summer camp staff. As I have previously mentioned, if you have ever experienced a superb quality summer camp then you know that the staff are interested in the youth, young adults, and parents that come for camp as soon as they have registered for a camp program. These quality summer camp programs have directors that take time to try (if not accomplish) learning each and every campers name, check in on programming, and evaluate their staff. The summer camp staff themselves invest themselves deeply into their relationships with those who come for summer camp programming in an attempt to help their campers achieve and develop to their greatest potential (Ugalde, 2014). By asking yourself and reflecting on your answers to the questions listed above you will find that as a consumer if you have evaluated the summer camp program before going that the experience will be as fruitful if not even more so than what you imagine it to be. Quality programs that live up to a standard of care that involves promoting affinity for nature, camp connectedness, citizenship, friendship, independence, curiosity, problem-solving, responsibility, teamwork, and personal growth while managing risk and giving participants access to fun and engaging opportunities will not just represent themselves through their promotional materials but through the testimonials given by the campers that come and experience their programming. A quality standard, caring staff, and engaging programming are the large pieces that let you know that the camp experience was beneficial and worth repeating; the finer pieces are in the memories created throughout the experience and what you take away from them.
In order to continue exploring this topic feel free to check out my references and come back to explore with me in future posts. Have an idea on you have known that a camp experience was beneficial? Have an opinion on what summer camps should do for consumers? Join the conversation by replying.
American Camp Association (2014). “ACA Youth Outcomes Battery”. Retrieved on December 27, 2014 from http://www.acacamps.org/research/youth-outcomes-battery
Ugalde, J. (2014). “Summer Camp: What does the research say?” Retrieved January 24, 2015 from https://jonugalde.wordpress.com/2015/01/12/after-the-outcomes-discussion/