Date of Award

5-2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management

Advisor

Dr. Denise Anderson

Committee Member

Dr. Barry Garst

Committee Member

Dr. Debra Jordan

Committee Member

Dr. Sandra Linder

Committee Member

Dr. Francis McGuire

Abstract

Americans are less connected to society and each other than in the recent past. This disconnection has a variety of repercussions for quality of life, including decreased capabilities for local problem solving, decreased capacity for community youth development, higher levels of crime, and decreased indicators of community health. Research has indicated that if we are to address this growing disconnect, we need to foster civic skills, civic values, and commitment to civic engagement in youth to encourage lifelong civic participation. Summer camps may offer an arena within which to address these civic issues; however, summer camp remains largely underrepresented in the social capital and civic engagement literature. As a result, there is a need for further research on the potential role summer camp may play in fostering civic and social capital outcomes in youth. The purpose of this study was to implement and evaluate the Teens Leading & Connecting (TLC) program, a structured camp curriculum intentionally designed to impact campers' civic skills, civic values, civic engagement and social capital, in order to provide insight into camp's potential role as an avenue to increased civic engagement and social capital in campers' home communities. The methods for this study consisted of an implementation evaluation, including direct observations and facilitator interviews, and an outcomes evaluation, including camper interviews, camper questionnaires, and parent interviews. Findings indicate that the TLC program was delivered with quality and high fidelity and resulted in a variety of skill related, community related, and social capital related outcomes in the short term. Many of these outcomes were sustained three months following camp; however, the social capital outcomes were the least retained of the three groups of outcomes at follow-up. This study represented one attempt to leverage the combined power of the summer camp environment, of structured curriculum, and of program evaluation to explore summer camp as a possible arena to foster youth civic engagement and social capital. This study demonstrated that summer camp has promise to achieve civic engagement and social capital outcomes beyond camp but more research and program development on these crucial societal topics is needed.

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