S'more then just fun and games: Teachers' perceptions on the educational value of camp programs for school groups
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Learning does occur at camp, but what kind of learning? And do what participants learn at camp transfer to other parts of a young persons’ life after the camp experience? This evaluation research study was designed to compare what a camp program anticipates as its outcomes to what outcomes it actually achieves. It set up an outcome evaluation that sought to understand what program staff at Camp Giving Tree anticipate are the developmental outcomes for students attending a 3-day, 2-night School-Camp Partnership Program (SCPP) as compared with teachers’ perspectives on their students’ developmental outcome achievements as a result of their participation in the SCPP. This study found that camp staff and teachers perceived that at camp, student learning was connected to four main themes: (1) positive risk taking, (2) social competencies and comforts, (3) engagement with creative thinking (4) strength of character. One month after camp however, teachers observed that hardly any transfer seemed occurred in their students’ behaviour at school. Even though hardly any transfer was reported, teachers believed that camp gave their students hope and optimism for their future and that if school was more like camp, their students would be able to learn more. The discussion focuses on three main themes: (1) on the concept of transfer as it relates to program structure and the prediction of behaviour change (2) positive risk taking related to the concepts of positive psychology and optimism and (3) the idea that learning can be more enjoyable if it includes reflection, if it promotes creative thinking and if the learning environment is highly social. This study’s conclusions suggest opportunities in: future research design and future youth programming opportunities (especially related to ongoing support after a single recreation experience). Finally, this study urges people, programs and institutions directly involved with youth development to take on more of a deliberate role in supporting transfer from one experience to another for young people.