An Evaluation of Developmental Outcomes at a Free-Choice Oriented Girls Summer Camp


  • Dorothy L. Schmalz Clemson University
  • Deborah L. Kerstetter Penn State University
  • Douglas A. Kleiber University of Georgia


youth development, outdoor/summer programming, self-determination


Research indicates that outdoor education environments are effective in facilitating positive developmental outcomes for participants; yet understanding of how outcomes are afforded remains elusive. Evidence-based evaluations of existing programs have the potential to provide insight into the process participants undergo in outdoor settings and to assess the outcomes that the environment yields for development. Free-choice has been shown to facilitate positive developmental outcomes for youth; unfortunately, today's youth have little exposure to environments in which they are free to explore, make decisions, and set goals for themselves. This manuscript is an evaluation of Brown Ledge Camp, a residential girls camp with a free-choice program philosophy. Interviews were conducted to evaluate the developmental outcomes campers gain at camp. Results indicate that outcomes are congruent with the outcomes identified in other outdoor environments (e.g., self-development and interpersonal skills) and the free-choice program is integral to the process.



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