Camp is fun, and we don’t need to plan or measure that. Beyond being fun, camp also has both immediate and long-term impact. We intentionally plan, measure and use information to continually improve upon what we do and how we do it. We have data to support how we deliver our programs, the outcomes youth experience in our programs, and the impact of our programs after campers move on.
Program quality refers to the ways in which camp programs are facilitated for youth. This includes staff practices that create environments for campers that are safe, supportive, interactive, and engaging. Youth participation in high quality out-of-school-time settings, such as camp, is associated with greater positive outcomes.
In summer 2021 Tims Camps participated in the Camp Program Quality Initiative (CPQI) with the American Camp Association. As part of this project, we were asked to pilot the Camp Program Quality Assessment tool to understand program quality at our camps and determine opportunities for improvement. We piloted the assessments during our e-camp offerings in 2021, and in 2022 we had the opportunity to assess the quality of our in-person summer program.
In summer 2022, our program quality score was 68%. Our goal is to increase this score to 73% during summer 2023.
Overall, we learned that we’re doing well in some areas and that we have opportunity for improvement. Interestingly, we found similar areas for improvement as during our eCamp programming assessments: emotion coaching, promoting responsibility and leadership, and furthering learning. This indicates to us that we should update our programs and focus on staff training to ensure campers have the best experience possible.
How we’ll incorporate our learnings going forward: Click here
Learn more about our focus on program quality as part of our measurement approach : Click here
Outcomes and Impact
At Tims Camps, our goal is to make a positive impact on youth development and support our campers in achieving important life skills. When campers are with us, we can often see the changes and learning happening in front of our eyes, but we measure those changes too.
TIMpact365 is our measurement strategy. Key parts of TIMpact365 are measuring the outcomes and impacts of a camper experience. For additional details about TIMpact365, including outcome and impact definitions, click here.
We began the first cycle of outcome and impact measurement during spring 2022. We request campers complete three online surveys annually to help us understand how they’re learning and growing throughout their time in our program.
|Timepoint||Number of survey respondents|
|Before camp (Spring 2022)||954|
|After camp (Late summer/fall 2022)||636|
|Mid-year check in (Winter 2022)||788|
Camper outcomes are measured twice annually as the 5Cs of positive youth development, on a scale of 1-4. The 5Cs is a common measure of positive youth development, and research has shown that higher scores in the 5Cs (i.e., closer to 4) are associated with greater success in young adulthood. Here’s what we found:
|5C Outcome||Before camp (average scores)||Mid-year check in (average scores)||Notes|
To get a full understanding of how campers are doing, we also asked them about their general wellbeing (scale 1-7) at all three time points. Here’s what the data said:
|Before camp (Spring 2022)||5.4|
|After camp (Late Summer/Fall 2022)||5.6|
|Mid-year check in (Winter 2022)||5.5|
Short-term impact is captured through camper surveys as youth progress through the multi-year program. We want to know how a Tims Camp experience is impacting young people in their lives now.
Long-term impact is not captured in a week away or even a summer. It’s measured years, and sometimes decades later, in post-secondary school graduations, in healthy and supportive relationships, in stable jobs. We learn more about this by connecting with alumni years after the Tims Camps experience.
At Tims Camps, short-term impact is framed within the Big 3 elements of self, community, and future. These elements are directly connected with the 5Cs outcomes we strive to support in campers.
Self is related to personal goal setting and understanding oneself and what you need.
Community is focused on positive social interactions with peers and others in the community.
Future is measured through participants’ hope for success in various aspects of their lives in the future (e.g., attending college, getting a job, having positive relationships, being happy).
Higher scores in these Big 3 elements are associated with greater success in young adulthood.
Campers responded to questions related to the Big 3 before and after their camp experience. Here’s what we found:
|Big 3 Element||Before camp (average scores)||After camp (average scores)||Notes|
|Self (scale of 1-18)||9.1||9.6||Significant increase*|
(scale of 1-5)
|Future (scale of 1-5)||4.1||4.2||Non-significant increase|
“Throughout my time in THFC camps, I was allowed to be myself, and myself was enough. It didn't matter where I came from. I knew...that I needed to carry this with me into my life back home. For me personally, it took a lot of strength and courage to be comfortable in my skin and find internal motivation, rather than external motivation. THFC camps reminded me that I was worth it and gave me that power.”
“My fondest memory is when my cabin group was on overnight. We were all sitting by the water since we were on an island. We all were just talking and laughing, we were all tired from the days prior of canoeing laughing at nonsense. I remember feeling as if in that moment we were all family; it didn't matter our popularity status, our looks, or if we had high-end clothes like it does in school. We were all equal, we all had gotten to know each other.”
“I struggled growing up with anxiety, self-consciousness, and the feeling that nothing I ever did would be enough. When I start to feel those feelings creep back into my life, I think back to one of my last nights of a canoe trip, my last year of camp. My friend and I watched the sun set. Everything in the world was very quiet. This was one of the first times in my life I felt like I could slow down and be happy just existing. It all hit me in that moment how far I had come in this program.”
“The day I carried a canoe by myself was a big deal and something that gave me a great deal of confidence as a young girl. I knew I was strong even if it didn’t look like it. I still love that.”
Overall, participants reflected fondly on their time at camp and described it quite positively. Common one-word descriptions were “amazing,” “lifechanging,” and “empowering”.
The quantitative results suggested that Tims Camps were important experiences during the alumni’s youth. Three main takeaways can be drawn from the results:
- Our youth don’t have the opportunity to learn these skills elsewhere.
- The results suggest that attending Tims Camps was critical to the development of skills that remain important in their life today.
- The results suggest that outcomes such as willingness to try new things, affinity for nature, appreciation for diversity, and perseverance are particularly salient for Tims Camps alumni.
- When prompted to consider the primary setting the skills were developed, participants reported that Tims Camps were the setting where they most developed these skills for all but one outcome—responsibility—which was most developed at home.
- Greater years of camp = greater impact.
- The results suggest that the more years that alumni attended Tims Camps as a youth, the more they reported camp being important to their learning of skills that are important to them today. This communicates the power of a multi-year program for youth.
- Tims Camps opens doors/creates opportunities for education and employment.
- The results suggest that attending Tims Camps is related to educational and employment attainment later in life. More specifically, for each year of camp attendance, alumni were 1.25 times more likely to attend college or university. Further, for every year of camp attendance, alumni were 1.5 times more likely to have earned at least a bachelor’s degree. Post-secondary education is a stepping stone to gainful employment.
A peer reviewed academic publication about this alumni study was accepted in the Journal of Youth Development. The study is available for free download in English only here.
*Note: Responses were received from a total of 628 former campers. For the purposes of statistical analysis of long-term impact, responses from alumni 18 years or older were included (449). These participants would have completed the program at least a year previously.