Committee for the Advancement Research and Evaluation (CARE)

Committee for the Advancement Research and Evaluation (CARE)

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Hello Bar Raisers,

Laurie Browne from the American Camp Association’s Committee for the Advancement of Research and Evaluation (CARE) here to tell you a little bit about the work we do and how we can support your Bar Raising efforts.

I am an Assistant Professor in Recreation, Hospitality, and Parks Management at California State University- Chico; I am also a former day camp director, current camp parent, and passionate advocate for the value of measuring camper outcomes. You can learn all about CARE here, so in this post I am going to focus on our current goals and ways CARE can help you measure outcomes at your camp.

First, just a quick overview of who we are:

  • 5 volunteer committee members who apply to serve on the committee and recommended by existing CARE members for appointment by the CEO so that the committee represents a breadth of expertise and camp experience.
  • CARE members serve 3 year terms with a maximum of 2 terms; we are lead by a Committee Chair (currently Dr. Ann Gillard, Director of Research and Evaluation at Hole in the Wall Gang Camp) and work to support the ACA’s Director of Research, Dr. Deb Bialeschki.
  • Each member is assigned a “portfolio” of specific projects or areas of focus. My role as “RTB Liaison” is one of my portfolio items.
  • We meet 4 times annually, twice in person and twice by phone, in order to discuss current projects and strategize new initiatives. However, we are a “working committee” so actually work on our projects between set meetings. A highlight of our work is the Research Symposium and Research Social (we think we are pretty funny when we say “No, this is not an oxymoron!”) at ACA’s National Conference each year. The Symposium features approximately 12 presentations, each of which were selected by blind peer review, on current research projects involving camps or campers. We also host a Poster Session that features each of these presentations as well as 6-8 additional projects— all described in our annual ACA Camp Research Forum Book of Abstracts. More and more people, mainly camp professionals attend and engage in these sessions each year, and the conversations are always exciting and inspiring.

Now to our current goals.

Perhaps at the top of this list is a continued interest in helping camp professionals measure outcomes and use their results to provide high quality camp experiences. To do this, we are currently working on training professionals to use ACA’s Youth Outcomes Battery (YOB) tool. New for 2016 is an online tool available on ACA’s website that can be used to administer the basic version of the YOB surveys (digitally or paper), organize and analyze data, and print graphs and charts of the results. We will conduct a training session at the 2016 National Conference as well as upload short training videos to the ACA YouTube channel. CARE has also worked with Dr. Jim Sibthorp and his team at the University of Utah to establish “norms” for the YOB surveys, which will be super helpful for camps who want to compare their YOB results to a national sample of camps, or to help compare changes in their results over time. A staff observation version as well as a parent version of the YOB has also been designed—originally designed for programs with very young children but works well with any age group. Working with RTB, and supporting the research and evaluation needs of RTB members fits under this broad interest area.

A second area of interest for our CARE work is promoting social justice at camp and in the communities in which camps operate. This new area for us is, quite frankly, a bit intimidating given its enormity and critical nature. Ann and I facilitated a session at last year’s National Conference to get a sense of how camp professionals approach social justice and work to promote justice and equity through their camp mission. We are hosting another session at this year’s conference that will feature three camp professionals and the specific strategies they use to promote social justice at camp. This is an emerging area of focus for us, but one that we feel is essential as the ACA moves towards its 2020 Vision.

Here are a just a few of our additional areas of interest:

  • Camp parents- how can camps work to support the unique needs of today’s parents?
  • Mental, emotional, and social health (MESH) at camp- how can camps support campers given the growing awareness of MESH today?
  • Research translation and practice- how can we make research findings more accessible and useful for camp professionals?

Given these areas of interest, CARE is especially excited about the opportunity to work with RTB. We have lots of tools, from webinars, briefing papers (short summaries of current research often related to outcomes), reports on current enrollment and industry trends and issues, and other online tools available to support Bar Raisers to measure outcomes and use what they find to continuously improve camp programs and operations. We also love to answer questions and work with camps one on one to set up and implement evaluation programs, so don’t hesitate to send me an email (lpbrowne@csuchico.edu) if you have a question about measuring outcomes at your camp. 

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