Date of Award

Spring 2019

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Robert J Barcelona

Second Advisor

Cindy L Hartman

Third Advisor

Cari A Moorhead


The following dissertation includes an overarching introduction and three conceptually linked articles described below. First, the introduction describes the educational and programmatic components of summer camp, a non-formal educational setting, based on the foundational writing of educational philosopher John Dewey. The introduction also identifies key definitions, concepts, and theoretical frameworks related to outdoor education, creativity, and motivation. The three articles, briefly described below, are self-contained and include distinct introductions, discussions, and implications for future research. Article 1. Summer camp is often anecdotally described as a context which may support creativity due to its unique programmatic features. For instance, residential summer camps are often located in natural setting, provide varied activities, and lack distracting technology. These features may provide ample opportunities for camp participants to try new things and exercise their own creativity. However, only two empirical studies have specifically explored creativity in a summer camp context. This article contains two sections which aim to unpack the mechanisms of summer camp being considered a creative venue for participants. Part one provides a theoretical foundation which includes a brief historical review of summer camp and psychological components of creativity. Part two positions Sociocultural theory, dynamic system approach to novelty, and communities of practice as theoretical foundations for creativity in the context of summer camp. Ultimately, well-run summer camps, which strive to create a creative and supportive context, should provide opportunities for participants (both camper and counselor) to introduce new ideas regardless of experience level. Article 2. Camp directors spend countless hours recruiting and hiring seasonal employees only to repeat the same process the following year. Unfortunately, competing internships and the sentiment that camp is not considered a ‘real job’ are primary reasons for camp workforce shortages across the United States. In fact, staff retention has been identified by the American Camp Association as the number two (of seven) major emerging issues facing the camp industry. To mitigate staff turnover and retention issues, camp directors may need to consider different training methods, adjustment of workplace culture, and redistribution of workplace tasks, which may better support the needs of the staff. Aside from competing internships, more nuanced factors may influence a camp counselors’ willingness to work at camp the following summer. Basic Needs Theory (BNT), a sub theory of Self Determination (SDT), describes overall motivation, satisfaction, and well-being in various contexts (including work contexts). BNT provides a foundation for understanding camp counselor perceptions of autonomy, competence, and relatedness as primary predictors of willingness to return the following year. Article two focused on camp counselor basic need fulfillment and camp experience variables (i.e. number of years as camper and counselor) throughout the course of the summer. as predictors of a counselor’s willingness to return to work at camp the following year. Ultimately, camp directors need to focus training and the culture of camp on the support of basic needs among counselors as one way to create a healthy and sustainable workforce return rate. Article 3. Creativity is a valuable skill needed for idea generation, innovation, and empowerment. People who feel supported in their creativity can make choices freely, feel a sense of autonomy, and are more intrinsically motivated and passionate in their pursuit of goals. Certain social contexts (i.e. work, relationships, school, etc.) are shown to either support or inhibit creativity based on facilitation values, and culture. Due to its programmatic features (varied activities, communal living) and unique context (outdoor, rural, technology free), summer camp is anecdotally considered a work context which may support creativity among camp counselors. However, no known empirical studies have specifically addressed perceptions of workplace creativity among counselors in a residential camp setting. Furthermore, differences may exist between first year and returning staff in their confidence, capacity, and general support for creativity in a residential camp work context. Article three explored differences in organizational support for creativity in a summer camp workplace among first year and returning camp counselors. The third article uses both quantitative and qualitative methods to explore workplace creativity at the beginning and end of one season of employment.