Motivated by a desire to better understand and mold children’s experiences at Dragonfly Forest, we have surveyed all campers and their parents to measure the impact of Dragonfly Forest on their lives, from the 2006 camp season through our 2012 season (7 Camp Seasons – over 2,100 Campers).
We do this because, while we provide what looks like a traditional camp experience to our participants, we actually are employing an Intentional Programming Model. This model is based on the assumption that all camp activities can lead to learning and growth.
Experiences at camp are as diverse as the children who attend. The results of this seven year study provide scientific evidence that Dragonfly Forest – a unique educational institution – is a positive force in youth development in the following ways:
Since 2008, we have also interviewed parents nine months after camp to find out if they still see positive changes in their child’s behavior, just as they did right after their camper returned home from camp. In the four years, we have seen that a majority of the positive results have lasted - as we describe below.
NOTE: Dragonfly Forest uses the Outcome Study developed by the American Camp Association (ACA). The ACA Youth Outcomes Battery (ACA-YOB) provides camps and other youth programs with measures that focus on eight common youth outcomes. The statistically tested scales are age-appropriate tools that can be individualized to a camp, after-school program, or other youth program.
The Specific Youth Outcomes that Dragonfly Forest measures are the following Friendship Skills (i.e., make friends and maintain relationships), Independence (i.e., rely less on adults and other people for solving problems and for their day-to-day activities), Teamwork (i.e., become more effective when working in groups of their peers), Perceived Competence (i.e., believe that they can be successful in the things they do), Interest in Exploration (i.e., be more curious, inquisitive, eager to learn new things), Responsibility (i.e., learn to be accountable for their own actions and mistakes), Problem-Solving Confidence (i.e., learn to feel more confident in their problem-solving capabilities), and Camp Connectedness (i.e., do campers feel welcomed and supported at camp).
We also added our own Medical outcome which is designed to measure if a camper learns to better manage their disease/disorder.
Our outcome study was administered in four parts based on best practices from the ACA and our knowledge of Dragonfly campers, their program, and their ability to answer study questions. These four parts and the overall results for 2012 are shown below:
Children with Autism and Chromosome 22Q Deletion – Summer Camp
Since many of the children involved in this part of our program have a very difficult time communicating effectively, we have chosen to present the study to their parents to get them to identify for us what they saw as a change in their camper after the camp experience. Below is a listing of outcomes rated from highest to lowest. It should be noted that the lowest rating still includes some learning of that outcome area, none of the outcomes listed show that the participants did not learn anything while a participant in our program.
Perceived Competency - believe that they can be successful in the things they do
Interested in Exploration - be more curious, inquisitive, eager to learn new things
Teamwork - become more effective when working in groups of their peers
Friendship - make friends and maintain relationships
Independence - rely less on adults and other people for solving problems and for their day-to-day activities
Family Citizenship - encourage attributes important to being a member of a family
Responsibility - learn to be accountable for their own actions and mistakes
Scoring Method:1 – Didn’t Learn, 2 – Not Sure, 3 – Learned a Little, 4 – Learned a Lot
Children with Sickle Cell Disease, Bleeding Disorders, or Persistent Asthma (Ages 6 to 9 years of age) – Summer Camp Program
For children ages 6 to 9 years of age who attended our Sickle Cell, Bleeding Disorder, or Respiratory/Persistent Asthma camp sessions, we used the ACA’s Youth Outcome Battery of fourteen questions appropriately constructed for young children in one scale. This survey uses an easy, four-point Likert scale (1 – Didn’t Learn, 2 – Not Sure, 3 – Learned a Little, or 4 – Learned a Lot).
72.84% of these campers felt they learned something about the outcomes assessed in this survey (friendship, independence, teamwork, perceived competence, affinity for exploration, responsibility, and medical). While the Camper Learning scale we use provides a composite measure of the extent to which campers believe they improved in these areas, no specific focus on any one outcome is measured due to the developmental stage of these young campers.
Children with Sickle Cell Disease, Bleeding Disorders, or Persistent Asthma (Ages 10+ years of age) – Summer Camp Program
For children 10 years of age and older who attended our Sickle Cell, Bleeding Disorder, or Respiratory/Persistent Asthma camp sessions, we used the ACA’s Youth Outcome Battery Scales to measure gains through the camp experience. These outcomes are measured on an easy to use, five-point Likert scale (1 – Decrease, 2 – Did Not Increase or Decrease, 3 – Increased a Little bit, Maybe, 4 – Increased Some, I am Sure, and 5 – Increased a Lot, I am Sure).The results for each of the survey areas are as follows:
Below is a listing of outcomes rated from highest to lowest. It should be noted that the lowest rating still includes some learning of that outcome area, none of the outcomes listed show that the participants did not learn anything while a participant in our program
Interest in Exploration
Problem Solving Confidence
1 – Decreased, 2 – Did Not Increase or Decrease, 3 – Increased a Little bit, Maybe, 4 – Increased Some, I am Sure, 5 - Increased a Lot, I am Sure
Children with Autism (Ages 7 to 14 years of age) – After-School / Spectrum Program
For the after-school outcome study we asked the parents to indicate if their children we learning any of the key outcome areas we targeted with the program. 68.8% of parents told us that their program participant had increased independence after attending the program. Below are the results of the new 2012 after-school program for children with Autism.
Post Program Skill
% who learned
to look forward to trying new activities?
to be better at doing things with group of other kids?
to feel good about things that they did well?
how to get along with other kids when they are in a group?
how to be better at making friends?
how to do more without your help?
We know bullying is a common problem with children with Autism in some setting. 62.5% of the children who attend the Dragonfly Forest after-school program have been bullied at least one time in places such as school, home, friend's houses, camp, etc. 93.8% of our program participants said they felt that The Spectrum program was a safe bully-free environment for our participants. Our goal is to get this to be 100% of program participants.
Do the Results Continue Past the End of Camp?
All of the above results are positive, especially if the kids who participate in our program can retain the learning. For the 2008 thru 2011 seasons, we surveyed parents nine months after camp ended to see if the lessons learned were still visible in their kids at various time points (shown below), and found that a majority of parents were still seeing positive changes.
The following are the key lessons parents saw their children learn at camp, maintained nine months later:
The results presented in this report are extremely encouraging and validate our programs’ purpose. Understanding the areas where Dragonfly Forest contributes to positive youth development is an essential part of helping us to continually raise the bar in these areas and build further capacity. We appreciate more than ever how the Dragonfly Forest experience nurtures substantial growth in our campers. We will continue to study the results of our program as we believe that the process of evidence-based program enhancement is critical to our ongoing role in assisting young people’s journey to becoming productive adults.
The following is our headquarter information
1100 E Hector Street, Suite 333Conshohocken, PA 19428267-434-0100 (Fax)