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The Canadian Summer Camp Research Project

Key Message

Camp programs help kids in five key areas of development, including social integration and citizenship, environmental awareness, attitudes towards physical activity, emotional intelligence, and self-confidence and personal development.


Glover, Troy et al. (2011). The Canadian Summer Camp Research Project. University of Waterloo.


This study explored the benefits offered by participating in summer camp programs. It progressed through two stages of investigation: direct interviews with camp directors and a survey instrument used to observe camper behaviours, attitudes, and values.

Direct interviews with Canadian camp directors revealed five themes in the outcomes they witnessed in their campers: (1) social integration and citizenship, (2) environmental awareness, (3) self-confidence and personal development, (4) emotional intelligence, and (5) attitudes towards physical activity.

These themes were then used to create a survey instrument in which camp counsellors observed and reported on their campers’ behaviours, attitudes and values at both the beginning and end of a camp session, allowing the research team to examine any changes that may occur while at camp.


Positive development in all five areas appears to occur over the course of a camp session. Detailed analysis further revealed that camper gender, age and whether or not the individual had attended that camp previously influenced the impact of camp participation. On average, all groups experienced significant positive growth in all five areas but female campers, older campers and returning campers all tended to score higher on the observation instrument, indicating greater development in the areas examined. Female and older campers also tended to experience more growth in most of the observed areas over the course of the camp session.

Significant relationships between the demographic variables and the outcomes demonstrated by the campers were found in certain areas:

  • Male campers showed more positive attitudes towards physical activity and showed a greater increase in their attitudes by the end of the session
  • The age of campers had no significant impact on the overall scores or the rates of change with regard to environmental awareness and attitudes towards emotional intelligence.
  • New campers showed lower rates of social connections but appeared to experience a greater increase in their social integration scores by the end of camp. This finding suggests that new campers made more connections their first time at camp and that returning campers potentially retain the connections made previously.

Higher average rates for returning campers in all areas seems to indicate that changes experienced at camp persist beyond that individual session.

Benefit Statements / Outcomes

Leadership Provided By:

  • Leisure Information Network (LIN)
  • Alberta Recreation and Parks Association

On Behalf Of:

  • Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRAA)

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