Urban Youth Perspectives on the Benefits and Challenges of Outdoor Adventure Camp

Edmond P. Bowers, Lincoln R. Larson, Alexandra M. Sandoval


Consistent evidence indicates that urban youth, and particularly youth of color, report relatively low levels of participation in quality youth program experiences and spend less time outdoors as compared to non-urban and White youth. Outdoor adventure camps (OACs) provide an excellent opportunity for engaging these youth in experiences that can help promote positive youth development (PYD). In the present study, we examined the experiences and perceptions of 75 urban youth who participated in a 3-day high adventure camp experience. Through a mixed-method approach, results indicated that urban youth from all racial and ethnic backgrounds grew in several PYD outcomes including social competencies and self-improvement capacities. Many youth also reported growing in their connection to nature as a consequence of participating in the OAC. Youth thought camp was a positive and worthwhile experience, reflecting key attributes of a PYD setting. Overall, the OAC provided a challenging and engaging growth environment for youth. Findings highlight implications for socially just and culturally inclusive outdoor adventure programming aimed at diverse urban youth.


adventure programming; positive youth development; nature connection; mixed-methods; urban youth

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/jyd.2019.809

Copyright (c) 2019 Edmond P. Bowers, Lincoln R. Larson, Alexandra M. Sandoval

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