Does Theming Camp Experiences Lead to Greater Quality, Satisfaction, and Promotion?

Andrew Lacanienta, Gary Ellis, Allen Taggart, Jenny Wilder, Mark Carroll


Using themes (such as the Wild West or Survivor or Star Wars) in camp settings may enhance the quality of camp activities and youths’ overall camp experience. We evaluated the effect of theming camp experiences on the quality of subjective experiences of campers. Campers (N = 231) in 3 sessions of a residential 4-H camp participated in the study. One camp session was fully themed (all activities used tangible and intangible props, cues, and imaginary story contexts), a second was partially themed (intangible cues and stories only), and the third was not themed. Questionnaires measuring the quality of immediate subjective experiences (N=1,847) were completed following each of 8 activity sessions (e.g., climbing, fishing, swimming). Campers also completed a questionnaire for the purpose of overall camp evaluation at the end of their camp sessions. Activity-level data were analyzed using linear mixed modeling techniques. Ordinary least-squares regression was used to analyze campers’ overall camp experiences. Results at the activity level revealed significant theme-by-activity interaction effects. At the camp level, a hypothesized causal sequence linking theme to likelihood to recommend was supported.


narrative; summer camp; theme; theory of structured experience; quality

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