Summer Camp as a Force for 21st Century Learning: Exploring Divergent Thinking and Activity Selection in a Residential Camp Setting


  • Myles L. Lynch University of New Hampshire
  • C. Boyd Hegarty Independent Creativity Reseacher
  • Nate Trauntvein University of New Hampshire
  • Jonathan A. Plucker Johns Hopkins University



divergent thinking, creativity, summer camp, activity selection


This study investigated change in divergent thinking (DT), an indicator of creative potential, at two gender-specific residential summer camps. Additionally, this study examined whether the change in DT varied by gender and by the type of activities campers self-select. Quantitative methods, using a quasi-experimental design was used in order to understand differences in camper scores. A total of 189 youth, 100 girls, 89 boys, between the ages of 9 and 14 years participated in the current study. Participants were administered a modified version of Guilford's (1967) alternate uses task, a measure of DT, in which respondents were asked questions such as name all of the uses for a brick or name all of the uses for a plate before the camp session started, and then again at the end of the two-week session. Results indicate overall mean significant increases in DT across all scoring methods of fluency, flexibility, and originality. Participants who self-selected one or more artistic activities (e.g., drama, arts and crafts, dance) had significant increases on the tasks as opposed to participants who did not select any artistic activities (e.g., basketball, baseball, archery). Finally, girls significantly increased across all scoring methods, whereas boys slightly increased in fluency and flexibility but not in originality. These results indicate residential summer camp may provide a creativity "benefit" for youth in attendance, especially those who participate in certain activities. Practitioners should use this study to understand their own programming in terms of creativity, activity offerings, and camp culture.


Author Biographies

Myles L. Lynch, University of New Hampshire

PhD Candidate in the Department of Education at the University of New Hampshire with a focus on creativity, divergent thinking, and motivation among youth and adults in recreational settings

C. Boyd Hegarty, Independent Creativity Reseacher

Independent Creativity Researcher

Nate Trauntvein, University of New Hampshire

Associate Professor Department of Recreation Management & Policy University of New Hampshire

Jonathan A. Plucker, Johns Hopkins University

Julian C. Stanley Professor of Talent Development at Johns Hopkins University, where he works in the School of Education and the Center for Talented Youth


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