Canadian Summer Camp Research Project

Our Findings

Initial findings of the first phase of the study were presented to the CCA executive board in January. These findings were presented in the form of logic outcome models. These models were used to extrapolate the logical outcomes of program components which were described by the camp directors in their interviews.




ExampleArrowModel #1: Example

Logic outcome models track the logical outcomes of programs based on program components such as inputs (the materials, facilities, staff used in the program), activities (swimming, group sessions, overnight trips) and outputs (attendance statistics, demographics of participants etc.). The models used in this study function as a flow-chart moving from the program described at the bottom of the model through to the long term outcomes listed at the top. The important features are highlighted in red in this example model and are the results of the “if…then” thought process addressing how/what children first learn at camp, what they do with that learned material and what impact it then has on who they become.




Social capital modelModel #2: Social Capital

The concept of social capital describes the number and type of social connections an individual holds. Bonding capital refers to the strong personal ties between the individual and others (e.g. friends and family members) while bridging capital describes the social networks the individual has access to beyond their close community (e.g. parents’ co-workers, school staff). This model links the social structure of camp programs to increased social connections for camp alumni both directly with those they attended camp with and within the broader camp community as a whole. A review of academic literature found that children with increased levels of social capital were more successful in school and later in life.







Risk Taking

Model #3: Unwrapping the bubblewrap

The ability to take appropriaterisks and face challenges is an important skill for children to learn as they develop. Today’s social climate often results in children being sheltered from all risks or “bubblewrapped” by parents concerned about their safety. From driving children to and from school to “hovering” over their free playtime, these children experience less independence than those of other generations. Camp settings allow children to experience independence from their parents in a safe, monitored and supportive environment.
This model links both the activities and environment of camp programs with increased ability to take risks and face challenges throughout life. The variety of activities and the freedom to choose what they participate in allows campers to choose levels of risk they are comfortable with while the supportive and fun environment encourages them to move outside their normal comfort zone. This is not to suggest that campers are encouraged to participate in unsafe or inappropriate risks and challenges but that they are encouraged try activities which may cause some fear and/or anxiety such as high ropes courses, performing in front of large groups, or wilderness camping experiences.





Environmental impactModel #4: Greening our kids

With increased levels of programmed activities and the attraction of electronic media, it has been argued that children are experiencing decreasing amounts of time play in natural settings. The impact of this decrease has been linked to obesity, anxiety and a decreased sense of stewardship1 . By allowing children to play freely in natural settings, camp programs offer what has become an increasingly unusual experience for today’s children. Through this direct exposure to natural settings, children have the potential to develop more of a personal connection with the environment and thereby, an increased sense of responsibility for the state of our planet. Through specific programming, many camps teach children about the ecological impact f their actions and discuss alternative behaviours which can minimize that impact such as recycling, littering, destruction of plants etc.






Model #5: Physical ActivityPhysical Activity

Childhood obesity has become a serious issue in North America with the increasingly sedentary lifestyles of most children being suggested as a main contributing factor. Concerns about safety, increases in organized activities and the dramatic increase in electronic media consumption are often listed as contributing factors to this trend.
Summer camp programs generally centre around activities which are physically active and often purposively exclude more sedentary pastimes such as television, movies, and video games. Incidental physical activity is also often part of camp programs as campers walk to each activity (e.g. from the cabin to the waterfront and then to the dining hall or from the community centre to the soccer field and then to the local swimming pool). For children who are increasingly being driven to and from school, activities and friend’s houses, this type of incidental activity can not only increase general levels of fitness but can also foster values appreciating activity.






Model #6: Cultural CapitalCultural Capital

The term “cultural capital” refers to the experiences, skills and resources an individual possesses which are valued by the dominant culture in which they live. The level of value associated with those traits is conceptualized as a commodity then possessed by the individual which grants them status within that culture. For example, if a child who is valued by his peers in his country of birth because of his cricket skills moves to Canada and the children in his new school place no value on cricket, he will lose that level of status associated with his athletic abilities.
            Camp programs offer children the opportunity to increase their cultural capital by exposing them to Canadian experiences and opportunities to increase their skills in activities associated with the dominant ideas of children’s play (e.g. camp fires, canoeing, arts and crafts, group games such as “capture the flag” or “red rover”). By increasing their Canadian cultural capital, children will be better able to fit in with peers as school and participate in Canadian society as a whole.
            This is not to say that all children must be assimilated with Canadian society in order to succeed, merely that if parents are concerned their children are not able to fit in or are struggling with issues of culture, camp program offer a supportive environment in which children can experience “Canadian immersion”.

1 Louv, R. (2006). Last child in the woods : saving our children from nature-deficit disorder. Chapel Hill, NC.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill