“Active ingredients” are one way to describe the elements of a program that are responsible for the targeted change in behavior, skill, attitude, or belief (Li & Julian American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 82(2), 157–166, 2012). This term assumes a connection between program elements (ingredients) and participant outcomes, and assumes that a typical program includes inactive ingredients that are less directly tied to these outcomes. Delineating active and inactive ingredients will help program providers more effectively train staff and design programs to intentionally target desirable camper outcomes. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to identify the ingredients of the camp experience former campers believe most actively contributed to lasting learning. Specifically, we asked 524 former campers between the ages of 18 and 25 to identify the most valuable thing they learned at camp and then to tell us more about the aspects of the camp experience that most directly facilitated this learning. Consistent with the literature, it appears that former campers achieve primarily social-emotional outcomes at camp and that these outcomes are most useful after camp. When asked what at camp fostered these outcomes, participants identified a range of camp features from which we identified active ingredients and their relation to specific outcomes. These include: camp staff and the ways they support campers and serve as role models; camp programming that is novel, active, and provides opportunities to work with peers; a social context that is safe and supportive and fosters interaction among people from different backgrounds; and in overnight camp experiences, separation from home.
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Sibthorp, J., Wilson, C., Povilaitis, V. et al. Active ingredients of learning at summer camp. Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education (2020) doi:10.1007/s42322-019-00050-6
- Youth program quality
- Outdoor education
- Summer camp