Recent research in the Journal of Youth Development shows that attending summer camp helps youth develop skills essential to success in academics and in the workplace. What researchers found by studying camp attendees was that the experiences intrinsic to summer camps – trying new activities, living with your peers, being required to be more independent – all inspired personal growth.
After their experiences at camp, young people displayed higher levels of skills in three areas:
- teamwork and collaboration
- positive self-image
- work ethic and conscientiousness.
Here are some excerpts from the Journal of Youth Development study:
Teamwork and Collaboration
Relationship skills was the most central theme interviewees found applicable to academic and workplace readiness. Almost half of participants thought the relationship skills learned at camp helped them reach out and make friends at school. Relationship skills were also beneficial for participants in their jobs; they felt it helped their ability to provide superior customer service at work.
Teamwork was useful in academics; interviewees commonly referred to their coursework where working in groups was the norm. One individual pursuing an early childhood education degree stated, “I’m working with other people in my field on specific projects in the class. There’s teambuilding skills I definitely learned at camp which helps that process.” Teamwork was also relevant when working with colleagues in the various jobs participants had. Many former campers said they learned how to live with peers at camp; this learning outcome was most frequent in participants who already attended some college. Learning how to live with peers at camp was useful when former campers lived in a dorm with a roommate at college.
Participants indicated they learned emotion regulation, which helped in academics and their jobs. Former campers were better able to manage their emotions with difficult clients at work. One student used emotional regulation learned at camp to deal with issues of being discriminated against at college, “People have said some crazy things to my face but I had to take what they were saying. Instead of freaking out, I had to just respond in a calm manner and have an intentional conversation.”
Confidence learned at camp helped former campers at school when talking to their teachers, “I’m not afraid to ask for help. If I have a question, I’m not scared to go to office hours or to a tutoring session.” At work, participants developed the confidence to talk to older adults (e.g., bosses or customers) or complete an assigned task. One interviewee said, “Camp had an effect at my work helping instill in me a sense of confidence and getting done the task I have in front of me effectively.”
Work Ethic and Conscientiousness
Camp helped individuals learn organization. In academics, participants felt they were able to better organize their time. Additionally, participants used organization learned from camp at work, “the organizational value is really important because we’ll have so much paperwork from so many different cases [at work] and we need to make sure we’re on top of that.”
Former campers learned responsibility from attending camp, which was most useful in their jobs. One individual said, “For my cleaning job there’s not a set schedule and I don’t report to anyone. I kind of just go on my own and clean rooms. Camp taught me how to be responsible because people were always depending on you and the rest of your cabin was expecting you to show up to places on time.”
Participants said camp helped them learn independence, which was useful in college. Generally, interviewees attending college were away from their parents for extended periods of time and camp gave them a setting to develop independence.
Attending camp helped former campers learn perseverance, which was useful in academics. One participant said she has clients as a part of her social work program who can be difficult, and she learned “perseverance with difficult clients.” Some former campers reported career orientation as a learning outcome gained from camp.
Participants indicated they learned to work with kids during their time at camp, which was useful in their jobs. Moreover, former campers reflected on how camp affected their career, job, and college program choices. Individuals were interested in a variety of disciplines due to their time spent at camp, such as environmental sciences, nursing, and social work. One participant said, “I know the most useful thing I learned at summer camp impacting my college career is learning so much about the natural world and the importance of conservation because I’m now majoring in environmental science and education.” It’s important to note that these themes may be overrepresented in these data given the nature of our sampling strategy.