The Canadian Summer Camp Research Project is a study that provides documented proof that camp does have a positive influence on the development of young people. The project was conducted by the Canadian Camping Association’s National Research Committee and the University of Waterloo and consisted of three phases. The study focuses on different groups involved in the summer camp experience including: camp directors, current campers and camper alumni.
The study showed children and youth experienced positive development in the following areas: social integration and citizenship, environmental awareness, self-confidence and personal development, emotional intelligence and attitudes towards physical activity. Read the findings of Phase 1 and Phase 2.
Phase three of the research project focused on parent perception of changes in children after returning from camp, using findings from surveying 1,405 parents with campers between the ages of 4 and 18. The types of camps their campers attended ranged from residential, day-camp, religiously affiliated, special needs camps and other specialty programs. Attention was paid to whether skills developed or maintained at summer camp were transferable to the child’s daily life in regards to family, educational settings and community life.
Findings showed an overall positive development in all five key outcome areas (social integration and citizenship, environmental awareness, self-confidence and personal development, emotional intelligence and attitudes towards physical activity). According to the changes parents noticed in their campers upon returning home from camp, the findings concluded that:
- Older children tend to experience the greatest changes in attitude and behavior
- Children who stay longer at camp experience greater positive change in developmental outcomes
- Returning campers tend to experience greater positive change than first time campers
- Female campers tend to experience significantly greater levels of social integration and citizenship than boys
Parents have said:
“What’s I’ve noticed about my child is a keen desire to be a leader. He expresses a wish to be a camp counsellor and frequently talks about the life choices he is making now that are in line with achieving that goal. He has since enjoyed teaching and helping other kids in the community.”
“Since returning home, my child signed up for athletics, acting and music.”
“On the first day back from overnight camp my son said that he liked camp way more than his Wii, TV, iPod and iPad. I think that says it all!”
“Since camp, my child is very aware of those less fortunate, aware of classmates struggling with school work or social integration and tries to go out of way to reach and help.”
“Camp has helped my daughter become more self-confident and self-aware. She was very proud that she was able to sleep away from home for the first time.”
Ideas for Using the Research
Barb Gray, Director of Ontario Easter Seals Camps, shared some ideas with Dr. Stephen Fine, Chair of the CCA Research Committee, on how she has used the Canadian Summer Camp Project to her camp's benefit.
"I use the data from the Waterloo Canadian Summer Camp Research Project when applying for grants to make the proposal more professional by providing quantifiable data," shared Barb.
"I also use the research findings when speaking to our Board members, Senior Management and fundraising staff as most never attended camp as children and believe that summer camp is a luxury. I use the research findings with case studies of our campers to make the presentations more powerful. Thanks so much for doing this research and showing the amazing benefits attending a summer camp has for our campers."
Learn more about the findings of Phase Three of the Canadian Summer Camp Research Project.