At Dragonfly Forest we are constantly getting notes from parents that say things such as, “Because of camp, my daughter walks a little taller, speaks a little clearer, laughs a little louder, and shows a little more confidence. She wants to DO instead of having things done for her. She wants to TRY, instead of fearing the opportunity. She RISES to the challenges instead of retreating into her own space.” 85.6% of parents tell us they see a change in their child after camp. However, these anecdotal comments, do not help measure the impact of camp on our campers.
Motivated by a desire to better understand the results of a child’s experiences at Dragonfly Forest, we have surveyed all campers and their parents to measure the impact of Dragonfly Forest on their lives, from the 2006 camp season through our 2015 season (10 Camp Seasons – over 3000 Campers).
We do this because, while we provide what looks like a traditional camp experience to our participants, we actually are employing an Intentional Programming Model. This model is based on the assumption that all camp activities can lead to learning and growth.
Experiences at camp are as diverse as the children who attend. The results of this eight year study provide scientific evidence that Dragonfly Forest – a unique educational institution – is a positive force in youth development in the following ways:
- Children become more confident and experience increased self-esteem
- Children develop social skills that help them to make new friends and maintain relationships
- Children grow more independent and show more leadership qualities with a lesser reliance on adults and other people for solving problems
- Children become more adventurous and willing to try new things
- Children become more effective when working in groups of their peers
- Children learn new ways to live with their disease/disorder and maintain a healthy life style
Since 2008, we have also interviewed parents nine months after camp to find out if they still see positive changes in their child’s behavior, just as they did right after their camper returned home from camp. During the five years of the study, we have seen that over 62% of campers had the positive results lasting 6+ months after camp.
Children with Autism and Chromosome 22Q Deletion
Since many of the children involved in this part of our program have a very difficult time communicating effectively, we have chosen to present the study to their parents to get them to identify for us what they saw as a change in their camper after the camp experience. Below is a listing of outcomes rated from highest to lowest. It should be noted that the lowest rating still includes some learning of that outcome area, none of the outcomes listed show that the participants did not learn anything while a participant in our program.
Perceived Competency - believe that they can be successful in the things they do (Up from 3.50 in 2012) 3.68
Interested in Exploration - be more curious, inquisitive, eager to learn new things (Up from 3.54 in 2012) 3.61
Teamwork - become more effective when working in groups of their peers (Up from 3.43 in 2012) 3.50
Independence - rely less on adults and other people for solving problems and for their day-to-day activities (Up from 3.37 in 2012) 3.45
Friendship - make friends and maintain relationships (Up from 3.33 in 2012) 3.42
Family Citizenship - encourage attributes important to being a member of a family (Up from 2.95 in 2012) 3.06
Responsibility - learn to be accountable for their own actions and mistakes (Up from 2.93 in 2012) 3.05
Scoring Method: 1 – Didn’t Learn, 2 – Not Sure, 3 – Learned a Little, 4 – Learned a Lot
Children with Sickle Cell Disease, Bleeding Disorders, or Persistent Asthma
(Ages 6 to 9 years of age)
For children ages 6 to 9 years of age who attended our Sickle Cell, Bleeding Disorder, or Respiratory/Persistent Asthma camp sessions, we used the American Camp Association’s (ACA) Youth Outcome Battery of fourteen questions appropriately constructed for young children in one scale. This survey uses an easy, four-point Likert scale (1 – Didn’t Learn, 2 – Not Sure, 3 – Learned a Little, or 4 – Learned a Lot).
82.22% (up from 72.84% in 2012) of these campers felt they learned something about the outcomes assessed in this survey (friendship, independence, teamwork, perceived competence, affinity for exploration, responsibility, and medical). While the Camper Learning scale we use provides a composite measure of the extent to which campers believe they improved in these areas, no specific focus on any one outcome is measured due to the developmental stage of these young campers.
Children with Sickle Cell Disease, Bleeding Disorders, or Persistent Asthma
(Ages 10+ years of age)
For children 10 years of age and older who attended our Sickle Cell, Bleeding Disorder, or Respiratory/Persistent Asthma camp sessions, we used the ACA’s Youth Outcome Battery Scales to measure gains through the camp experience. These outcomes are measured on an easy to use, five-point Likert scale (1 – Decrease, 2 – Did Not Increase or Decrease, 3 – Increased a Little bit, Maybe, 4 – Increased Some, I am Sure, and 5 – Increased a Lot, I am Sure).
The results for each of the survey areas are as follows:
- Camp Connectedness – 87.50% (up from 82.61% in 2012) of campers felt that while at camp they felt welcomed and supported.
- Interest in Exploration – 84.82% (up from 75.36% in 2012) of campers felt that while at camp they were more curious, inquisitive, eager to learn new things.
- Perceived Competence – 83.04% (up from 75.36% in 2012) of campers felt that while at camp they believe that they learned to be successful in the things they do.
- Independence – 82.14% (up from 73.91% in 2012) of campers felt that while at camp they learned to rely less on adults and other people for solving problems and for their day-to-day activities. It is interesting to note that when the parents were surveyed, 62.3% of parents saw an increase in the level of independence in their campers.
- Medical – 81.25% (up from 76.81% in 2012) of campers felt that while at camp they learned to be able to live with their disease and stay healthy.
- Teamwork – 77.68% (down from 79.71% in 2012) of campers felt that while at camp they become more effective when working in groups of their peers.
- Responsibility – 76.79% (up from 76.81% in 2012) of campers felt that while at camp they learned to be accountable for the own actions and mistakes.
- Problem Solving Confidence – 75.00% (up from 73.91% in 2012) of campers felt that while at camp they learned to feel more confident in their problem-solving capabilities.
- Friendship Skills – 74.11% (up from 71.01% in 2012) of campers felt that while at camp they increased their skills in making friends and maintaining relationships
Below is a listing of outcomes rated from highest to lowest. It should be noted that the lowest rating still includes some learning of that outcome area, none of the outcomes listed show that the participants did not learn anything while a participant in our program.
Camp Connectedness 4.11
Interest in Exploration 4.07
Perceived Competency 3.89
Problem Solving Confidence 3.79
1 – Decreased, 2 – Did Not Increase or Decrease, 3 – Increased a Little bit, Maybe,
4 – Increased Some, I am Sure, 5 - Increased a Lot, I am Sure
Do the Results Continue Past the End of Camp?
All of the above results are positive, especially if the kids who participate in our program can retain the learning. For the 2008 thru 2012 seasons, we surveyed parents nine months after camp ended to see if the lessons learned were still visible in their kids at various time points (shown below), and found that a majority of parents were still seeing positive changes.
The following are the Top 5 key lessons parents saw their children learn at camp, maintained nine months later:
- Increased Confidence – 92.31%
- Increased Independence – 88.46%
- Solve Problem they Face – 73.08%
- Ability to Get Along with Peers – 69.23%
- Teamwork – 65.38%
- Willingness to Take More Responsibility – 65.38%
Parents believe these results come from the Top 5 key activities that camp allows their children to experience:
- Try New Activities – 96.15%
- Meet Kids with Similar Disease/Disorders – 88.46%
- Make New Friends – 76.92%
- Learn Their own Strengths – 73.08%
- Unplug from Computers, Television, Video Games and Cell Phones – 73.08%
- Provide Me and Other Family Members with a Respite – 69.23%
The results presented in this report, and in the eight year history of the study, are extremely encouraging and validate our programs’ purpose. Understanding the areas where Dragonfly Forest contributes to positive youth development is an essential part of helping us to continually raise the bar in these areas and build further capacity. We appreciate more than ever how the Dragonfly Forest experience nurtures substantial growth in our campers. We will continue to study the results of our program as we believe that the process of evidence-based program enhancement is critical to our ongoing role in assisting young people’s journey to becoming productive adults.
In order to have the most accurate results for this study, Dragonfly Forest uses the Outcome Study developed by the American Camp Association (ACA). The ACA Youth Outcomes Battery (ACA-YOB) provides camps and other youth programs with measures that focus on eight common youth outcomes. The statistically tested scales are age-appropriate tools that can be individualized to a camp, after-school program, or other youth program.
The Specific Youth Outcomes that Dragonfly Forest measures are the followingFriendship Skills (i.e., make friends and maintain relationships), Independence (i.e., rely less on adults and other people for solving problems and for their day-to-day activities), Teamwork (i.e., become more effective when working in groups of their peers), Perceived Competence (i.e., believe that they can be successful in the things they do), Interest in Exploration (i.e., be more curious, inquisitive, eager to learn new things), Responsibility (i.e., learn to be accountable for their own actions and mistakes), Problem-Solving Confidence (i.e., learn to feel more confident in their problem-solving capabilities), and Camp Connectedness (i.e., do campers feel welcomed and supported at camp).
We also added our own Medical outcome which is designed to measure if a camper learns to better manage their disease/disorder.
Our outcome study was administered in four parts based on best practices from the ACA and our knowledge of Dragonfly campers, their program, and their ability to answer study questions.