We recently had a Summer Program graduate and former camp staff, Clayton, speak at a fundraising event for the Foundation. Clayton shared with the group of Tim Hortons Restaurant Owners in attendance at the fundraiser his experience with Tims Camps. Clayton talked about how the skills he learned as a camper and staff member have shaped him into the person he is now. During his speech he noted, “I learned things and stored them in a mental ‘toolbox’ that I continue to use today.” This idea of a mental ‘toolbox’ is exactly the type of outcome the Foundation hopes to achieve for each camper that comes through our gates. We hope that being in this program allows campers to gain skills and mindsets that stay with them as they transition into adulthood.
But how do we know if this is actually happening?
A few years ago the Foundation decided that in order to fully understand the impact of camp we needed to collect data about our campers’ experiences. With the help of an organization called Mission Measurement, we created what we call our Outcomes Framework. This Framework essentially outlines what skills and behaviours we think our camp programs can help build in campers, and what the long term goals are once campers have completed our Programs. In order for us to be able to see if these skills and behaviours are being developed, Mission Measurement helped us create surveys that we use to track our campers’ progress and measure the impact of camp … this is where you come in!
You have probably taken part in, or have noticed, the camper surveys that are now completed in the Ignite, Strive and Navigate levels of the Program. Maybe you’ve filled one out but haven’t fully understood why we’re asking you to do these; or maybe you understand why we’re asking you to do it, but you’re interested in finding out what we’re learning from all your responses – either way, we hope to give you some answers here.
We know that each of you have strengths and skills that exist within you before you even come to camp. What we try to do once you’re with us at camp is build upon those existing strengths and provide opportunities to grow and learn in the camp setting. By asking campers to complete the surveys in the first, third and final level of the program we can see what progress is being made from start to finish of the program. We use this data to see how well we are doing in delivering camp programming that creates positive outcomes for our campers, and we can also use it to see where we could improve. This is what we call the cycle of continuous improvement. Your answers give us a unique view into the camp experience and we are learning important information that allows us to make changes or shift directions with programming, simply from your responses.
What We’re Learning
The surveys ask questions related to various different categories – two of which are Social & Emotional Skills and Learning & Innovation Skills. When we look at the data from the Navigate campers from this past summer we have found some exciting results.
Social & Emotional Skills:
As a result of their 5 year summer camp experience, Navigate campers indicated growth in their self-confidence, self-efficacy and empowerment. Results also suggest that we have an opportunity to better support campers in making positive connections with peers, trusted adults and organizations.
Learning & Innovation Skills:
Survey results show that Navigate campers feel equipped with the interpersonal and cognitive skills required to succeed at home, school, in the workplace and in their communities. We have also decided there will be a focus on increasing organizational skills in the 2020 camp season due to results in that category.
In addition to the information that these numbers give us, there are other learnings we gained from the data that we will take action on. We will:
- Leverage the youth voice through our Youth Advisory Council to ensure that the format of data collection is accessible and user-friendly for our campers.
- Work with staff and campers to understand the “why” behind programs and activities.
- Support campers to understand the transfer of what they learned from the camp experience to their everyday lives.
- Provide opportunity to establish connection back to camp between visits to remind campers of their learnings and stay engaged.
- Facilitate structured reflection opportunities for campers to see their growth and to be able to talk about the benefits of their experience.
Measuring the impact of camp programs through these surveys is giving us valuable information that we’re using to refine and improve everything we do. More importantly, it is showing us that just like Clayton said in his speech, camp is adding tools to your mental ‘toolbox’ that you can continue to use long after you are finished our program.
Tell us in the comments below what tools you’ve added to your mental toolbox!