Connectedness as a Predictor of Academic and Youth Development Outcomes at a Summer Day Camp for Low-Income Youth


Organized camp programs impacted over 10 million youth in the United States in 2019 (American Camp Association, 2019). While residential camp programs have shown ample evidence of their potential to produce opportunities for growth and learning (Garst et al., 2011; Wilson et al., 2019), less is known about the benefits of summer day camp programs. Day camp programs have the potential to serve a more diverse group of campers than residential camps (Kimmelman, 2011), and have become popular formats for summer programs designed to enhance academic skills and prevent summer learning loss. This study sought to understand the factors that influenced self-perceptions of academic attitudes and positive youth development at a summer day camp program offering academic and recreational activities for economically vulnerable fourth to ninth graders (n=240). Specifically, the study was interested in the role that camp connectedness played in influencing perceptions of outcomes (Sibthorp et al., 2011). The study found that campers who participated in a summer day camp program reported that their interest in academic subjects increased over the course of the camp. Campers who had higher levels of connectedness to camp reported significantly stronger academic and youth development outcomes than those who had lower levels of connectedness. The study also found no significant differences in connectedness based on camper characteristics such as gender, age, race, ethnicity, school attended, or language spoken at home, suggesting that these variables were not salient in whether a camper felt connected to camp. These findings provide implications for the design and delivery of academically focused day camp programs to enhance feelings of connectedness, including the importance of using an intentional curriculum, offering a variety of academic and recreational activities, employing trained educators and youth development specialists, and being mindful of class and group sizes.


Recreation Management and Policy

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Journal of Park and Recreation Administration


Sagamore Publishing LLC

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