Comparing Three Overnight Summer Camp Experiences for Marginalized Middle School Students: Negative, Neutral, and Positive Results

Bradley H. Smith, Hanjoe Kim, Gulden Esat, Amy K. Izuno-Garcia, Allison Meinert, Dejon Banks Hawthorne, Mariana Vazquez, Jorge Gonzalez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Summer camps can promote positive youth development. Unfortunately, racial, ethnic, and economic disparities contribute to inequities in camp participation and related research on marginalized youth. Consequently, it is not clear what types of camping programs work best for marginalized youth. Purpose: To conduct a quasi-experimental comparison of three summer camps described as experiential education camp (EEC), recreational camp (RC), and integrated didactic and experiential camp (IC). Methodology/Approach: Black and Latinx middle schoolers completed summer camps with the support of a community organization that also provided social-emotional learning classes during the school year. Findings/Conclusions: Dependent sample t tests and effect size comparisons on self-report collected before and after the camp showed that the EEC had small negative effects, the RC had neutral or mixed effects, and IC had positive effects. Implications: Overnight summer camp interventions can have a range of effects based on the type of activities and procedures. Outcomes may be improved by integrating didactic lessons with experiential education. Other explanations, such as positive behavioral supports and relationships with adults on the trip, could also account for differences in outcomes. Further research is needed to establish best practices for overnight camps to support the positive development of marginalized youth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-156
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Experiential Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Jun

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This program evaluation was funded by a grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Authors 2021.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education


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