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Defining Moments of Summer Camp Experiences: An Exploratory Study With Youth in Early Adolescence

Barry A. Garst, Anja Whittington


Interest in both the objective dimension and the subjective dimension of summer camp experiences has grown among camp scholars. As a building block for understanding subjective elements of summer camp experiences, discrete defining moments may provide insights into linkages between what program providers deliver and the experiences that youth receive. This study identified defining moments of summer camp experiences and examined when defining moments occurred, using interviews conducted with 21 youth in early adolescence immediately following camp. Themes derived from the data suggest that moments involving novelty, challenge, friend-making, tradition, achievement, positivity, and emotional safety are most salient. Practitioners can use the study findings to more intentionally design memorable and meaningful summer camp experiences. Researchers can build on these exploratory findings to examine defining moments of camp experiences across other samples of camp participants.

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summer camp; experience; defining moments; novelty; early adolescence

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