Teen Staff Perceptions of Their Development in Camp: Insights for Theory and Practice
Keywords:camp program impact, teen staff development, youth-adult partnership, camp outcomes
For 15 years, the California 4-H Camping Advisory Committee has studied the experience of campers and teen staff at 4-H camps across the state. The 4-H Youth Development Program has a strong commitment to youth empowerment and embraces a model of youth-adult partnership across all programs. As such, teenagers, with adult support, plan camp programs and serve as staff for younger youth at California 4‑H camps. Although program evaluations point to positive experiences for all youth, the high school students who plan and deliver these programs consistently report stronger relationships, greater engagement, and more robust outcomes than campers. In this paper, we review archived qualitative data from two previous California 4-H camp studies to examine, from the perspective of teen camp staff members, the components of the program that may lead to such positive experiences for young teenagers serving in leadership roles. Our findings align with prior research about the benefits of teen leadership at camp, and reinforce that research-based concepts, such as youth-adult partnership and opportunities for meaningful contribution, create an environment that fosters positive development in adolescents.
American Camp Association. (2005). Directions: Youth development outcomes of the camp experience. Retrieved from https://www.acacamps.org/sites/default/files/resource_library/report-directions-youth-development-outcomes.pdf
American Camp Association. (2006). Inspirations: Developmental supports and opportunities of youths' experiences at camp. Retrieved from https://www.acacamps.org/sites/default/files/resource_library/Inspirations.pdf
American Camp Association. (2009). Camp Youth Outcomes Battery: Measuring developmental outcomes in youth programs. Retrieved from https://www.acacamps.org/resource-library/research/aca-youth-outcomes-battery
Benson, P., Scales, P., Hamilton, S., & Sesma, A. (2006). Positive youth development: Theory, research, and applications. In Damon, W. & Lerner, R., Handbook of Child Psychology (Volume 1). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
Bird, M., & Borba, J. (2014). The powerful impact of empowering teens in camp program planning and delivery. International Camping Fellowship: 10th International Camping Congress Research Forum. Retrieved from http://www.campingfellowship.org/upload/file/the-powerful-impact-of-empowering-teens-in-camp-program-planning-and-delivery.pdf
Bird, M., Borba, J., Brenner, J., Brosnahan, A., Coutellier, C., George, J., Kong, L., Schmitt-McQuitty, L., Subramaniam, A., & Thomas, J., (2007). Beyond evaluation: Findings from the California 4-H camp study. Davis, CA: University of California 4-H Youth Development Program. Retrieved from http://4h.ucanr.edu/files/4427.pdf
Bird, M., Borba, J., Nathanial, K., Portillo, M., Boyes, R., & Dogan, S. (2014). Lessons learned in utilizing ACA's Youth Outcomes Battery for program improvement. 201 American Camp Association National Research Forum Abstracts, 10-12. Retrieved from https://www.acacamps.org/sites/default/files/resource_library/2014-National-Research-Forum-Book-Abstracts.pdf
Bird, M., & Subramaniam, A. (2008). The impact of empowering teens in camp program delivery. International Camping Fellowship: presentation at the 8th International Camping Congress Research Forum, Quebec, Canada.
Bird, M., & Subramaniam, A. (2011). Teens as teachers enhance environmental education and personal skills through service learning. Youth Development Research and Evaluation from the University of California Cooperative Extension 2001-2010, 32-29. Retrieved from http://4h.ucanr.edu/files/130750.pdf
Brandt, J., & Arnold, M. E. (2006). Looking back, the impact of the 4-H camp counselor experience on youth development: A survey of counselor alumni. Journal of Extension, 44(6). Retrieved from www.joe.org/joe/2006december/rb1.php
Camino, L. (2000). Youth-adult partnerships: Entering new territory in community work and research. Applied Developmental Science, 4(1), 11-20.
Connell, J. P., & Gambone, M. A. (2002). Youth development in community settings: A community action framework. Philadelphia, PA: Youth Development Strategies Inc.
Digby, J. K., & Ferrari, T. M. (2007). Camp counseling and the development and transfer of workforce skills: The perspective of Ohio 4-H camp counselor alumni. Journal of Youth Development, 2(2). Retrieved from https://nae4a.memberclicks.net/assets/documents/JYD_070202final.pdf
Eccles, J., & Gootman, J. A. (Eds.) (2002). Community programs to promote youth development. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Ferrari, T. M., & Arnett, N. (2011). Implementing a work-based learning approach to 4-H camp counseling. Journal of Youth Development, 6(4), Article 110604FA001. Retrieved from http://jyd.pitt.edu/ojs/jyd/article/view/161
Ferrari, T. M., & McNeely, N. N. (2007). Positive youth development: What’s camp counseling got to do with it? Findings from a study of Ohio 4-H camp counselors. Journal of Extension, 45(2). Retrieved from http://www.joe.org/joe/2007april/rb7.php
Ferrari, T. M. & Risch, T. (2013). Exploring 4-H camp counseling as a context for developing responsibility. 2013 American Camp Association Research Forum Abstracts, 19-21. Retrieved from https://www.acacamps.org/sites/default/files/resource_library/2013-National-Research-Forum-Book-Abstracts.pdf
Gambone, M. A. (2006). Community action and youth development: What can be done and how can we measure progress? In K. Fulbright-Anderson & P. Auspos (Eds.). Community change: Theories, practice, and evidence. Washington, DC: The Aspen Institute.
Gambone, M. A., & Connell, J. P. (2004). The community action framework for youth development. The Prevention Researcher, 11(2), 17-20.
Garst, B. A. (2010). From what to how: Targeting specific factors that influence outcomes. Journal of Extension, 48(6). https://joe.org/joe/2010december/pdf/JOE_v48_6comm1.pdf
Garst, B., & Johnson, J. (2005). Adolescent leadership skill development through residential 4-H camp counseling. Journal of Extension, 43(5). Retrieved from http://www.joe.org/joe/2005october/rb5.shtml
Jones, K. R. (2006). Relationships matter: A mixed-methods evaluation of youth and adults working together as partners. Journal of Youth Development, 1(2), 33-46. Retrieved from http://jyd.pitt.edu/ojs/jyd/article/view/384
Lerner, R. M. (2007). The good teen: Rescuing adolescence from the myths of the storm and stress years. New York, NY: Stonesong Press.
Lerner, R. M., Lerner, J. V., Lewin-Bizan, S., Bowers, E. P., Boyd, M. J., Mueller, M. K., . . . Napolitano, C. M., (2011). Positive youth development: Process, programs, and problematics. Journal of Youth Development, 6(3), 41-64. Retrieved from https://jyd.pitt.edu/ojs/jyd/article/download/174/160&hl=en&sa=X&scisig=AAGBfm2PGuAvhnfJje0PHVQLW_N2vvuCbw&nossl=1&oi=scholarr
Lerner, R. M., Lerner, J. V., & Tufts University Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development. (2013). The positive development of youth: Comprehensive findings from the 4-H study of positive youth development. Chevy Chase, MD: National 4-H Council. Retrieved from http://www.4-h.org/about/youth-development-research/ https://4-h.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/4-H-Study-of-Positive-Youth-Development-Full-Report.pdf
Lewis, K., Bird, M., Borba, J., Nathaniel, K., & Schoenfelder, E. (2017). Teen staff experiences in California 4 H camps. 2017 American Camp Association Research Forum Abstracts, 19-21. Retrieved from http://www.acacamps.org/sites/default/files/resource_library/2017_ACA_Book_of_Abstracts.pdf
Lofquist, W. A. (1989). The spectrum of attitudes: Building a theory of youth development. New Designs for Youth Development, 9, 3-6.
National Commission on Resources for Youth. (1974). New roles for youth in the school and community. New York, NY: Citation.
Nicholson, D. J., & Klem, M. D. (2016). The value of being a camp counselor: A study of the experiences and personal growth of the Missouri 4-H camp counselors. Camping Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.hfpg.org/files/3214/8553/5933/The_Value_of_Being_a_Camp_Counselor__A_Study_of_the_Experiences_and_Pers....pdf
Ramey, H. L., Lawford, H. L., & Vachon, W. (2017). Youth-adult partnership in work with youth: An overview. Journal of Youth Development, 12(4), Retrieved from http://jyd.pitt.edu/ojs/jyd/article/view/171204FA003
Strauss, A. (1987). Qualitative analysis for social scientists. UK: Cambridge University Press.
Tessman, D., Duda, S.L., & Pracht, D. (2012). Ladders to leadership: What camp counselor positions do for youth. Journal of Youth Development, 7(3). Retrieved from http://jyd.pitt.edu/ojs/jyd/article/view/127
Vaughn, S., Schumm, J., & Sinagub, J. (1996). Focus group interviews in education and psychology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Wood, D., Reed, R. W., & Brown, J. R. (2009). How adolescents come to see themselves as more responsible through participation in youth programs. Child Development, 80(1), 295-309. Retrieved from http://youthdev.illinois.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Wood-Larson-Brown-2009-How-Adolescents-Come-to-See-Themselves.pdf
Zeldin, S., Christens, B. D., & Powers, J. L. (2013). The psychology and practice of youth-adult partnership: Bridging generations for youth development and community change. American Journal of Community Psychology, 51, 385-397.
Zeldin, S., Petrokubi, J., & MacNeil, C. (2007). Youth adult partnership in community decision making. Chevy Chase, MD: National 4-H Council. Retrieved from http://4h.ucanr.edu/files/2427.pdf
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- The Author retains copyright in the Work, where the term “Work” shall include all digital objects that may result in subsequent electronic publication or distribution.
- Upon acceptance of the Work, the author shall grant to the Publisher the right of first publication of the Work.
- The Author shall grant to the Publisher and its agents the nonexclusive perpetual right and license to publish, archive, and make accessible the Work in whole or in part in all forms of media now or hereafter known under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License or its equivalent, which, for the avoidance of doubt, allows others to copy, distribute, and transmit the Work under the following conditions:
- Attribution—other users must attribute the Work in the manner specified by the author as indicated on the journal Web site;
- The Author is able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the nonexclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the Work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), as long as there is provided in the document an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post online a prepublication manuscript (but not the Publisher’s final formatted PDF version of the Work) in institutional repositories or on their Websites prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work. Any such posting made before acceptance and publication of the Work shall be updated upon publication to include a reference to the Publisher-assigned DOI (Digital Object Identifier) and a link to the online abstract for the final published Work in the Journal.
- Upon Publisher’s request, the Author agrees to furnish promptly to Publisher, at the Author’s own expense, written evidence of the permissions, licenses, and consents for use of third-party material included within the Work, except as determined by Publisher to be covered by the principles of Fair Use.
- The Author represents and warrants that:
- the Work is the Author’s original work;
- the Author has not transferred, and will not transfer, exclusive rights in the Work to any third party;
- the Work is not pending review or under consideration by another publisher;
- the Work has not previously been published;
- the Work contains no misrepresentation or infringement of the Work or property of other authors or third parties; and
- the Work contains no libel, invasion of privacy, or other unlawful matter.
- The Author agrees to indemnify and hold Publisher harmless from Author’s breach of the representations and warranties contained in Paragraph 6 above, as well as any claim or proceeding relating to Publisher’s use and publication of any content contained in the Work, including third-party content.
Revised 7/16/2018. Revision Description: Removed outdated link.