Children’s Perceptions of Summer Day Camp Program Staff

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American Camp Association National Research Forum Abstracts


Due to the number of working two parent and single parent families, children need care when school is not in session. Safety and support for working families are two positive outcomes for children but after school and summer programs also contribute to academic gains and a reduction in misconduct (Afterschool Alliance, 2013). Researchers are continually studying the quality of after school and summer camp programs related to child outcomes. Expanding Minds and Opportunities: Leveraging the Power of Afterschool and Summer Learning for Student Success (Peterson, 2013) provides evidence that quality summer learning and after school programs make a positive difference in youth, families, schools, and communities. In 2005, the American Camp Association published the first large scale national research project to study the youth development outcomes of the camp experience. Children between the ages of 8 and 14 years from 80 ACA accredited day and resident camps participated in the study. Results indicated that the camp experience was a positive influence on youth development in four domains (i.e., positive identity, physical and thinking skills, social skills, and positive values and spirituality). Our study adds to the literature and examines the psychosocial relationship between children and program staff at a summer day camp from the viewpoint of the children enrolled and based on program observations. The purpose of this research was to assess if children’s psychosocial perceptions of program staff changed over time, and if children’s perceptions were related to program quality. A summer day camp operating in one elementary school facility by a parks and recreation program in South Georgia for nine weeks in the summer of 2013 was selected to participate as a convenience sample. All of the approximately 160 children, grades Pre-K to grade 5, who were enrolled in this summer day camp were asked to participate in the study via an email sent to parents from the summer camp director, and face-to-face requests at drop off and pick up times.

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