August 11, 2016
Yesterday, a visitor arrived for the last days of camp: Dr Chris Hulleman of the University of Virginia.
Chris is researching the positive impacts of the summer camp experience. As you know, Susie Ma’am and I deeply believe that camp provides powerful and important benefits for children. If we can provide documentation of these benefits, we believe that the number of children attending camp would skyrocket. Parents want to provide their children experiences that enrich them and prepare them to shine in the world. If they know that camp does this, they will seek camp out.
I met Chris in person less than a year ago, but he has been part of an ongoing research project that we have been working on with students from KIPP (a charter school that works with underserved families). KIPP had an amazing record of getting children to enroll in college (over 90%!), but less than one-third would actually graduate in 6 years or less. The study we started 4 years ago was an effort to see if one week of camp can increase college persistence for KIPP students. [Note: the preliminary results are incredibly encouraging – a week of camp increased grit, self control and even math scores compared to students that attended one week of summer school. Obviously, it will take much longer to measure actual college persistence, but these intermediate measures predict for persistence. Very cool stuff.]
Chris became part of our study when he spent a year as a Fellow at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) with Dr David Yeager of the University of Texas. The CASBS is a big deal, bringing some of the leading minds in the world to Stanford for a year to share ideas in a interdisciplinary environment. We met David Yeager through Paul Tough (the reporter who wrote “How Children Succeed”). While at Stanford, David and Chris became good friends and co-researchers working with Carol Dweck and Angela Duckworth. [Note: I fear my geekiness is really showing. If you Google Duckworth or Dweck, you will see that they are both on the forefront of developmental psychology and how we can help children be more successful people. Both of them are aware of Camp Champions and what we are trying to do here. I know that most people would not think this is wickedly cool, but I know I do!]
After the KIPP study, Chris proposed to do a new research project. In fact, it is two projects. First, we are looking at ways to help campers “bring home” the benefits of the camp experience using “reflection” exercises at camp and at home. Second, they are visiting 4 different camps, reading all the available literature and creating a “descriptive study” of camp methodology and pedagogy. Our hope is that they will help us understand HOW camp impacts children so that we can 1) prove it to others, 2) maximize the positive impact of camp and 3) help children reap the benefits of camp beyond the camp environment.
Can you tell that I am excited?
We are not changing camp to make it any less fun, so your children continue to have a blast. Today will include giant inflatables to play on, free choice to attend favorite activities, a firework show and a pizza party. There will no deficit of joy today. But know that we are also striving to equip your child for the world – as a communicator, as a leader, as a friend and as a contributor to the world!
PS We thought it made sense for Chris to sample a little bit of camp, so he climbed the Texas Two-Step Tower today.