A recurrent theme at ACA Nationals this year revolved around the state of camp and the question: “Is Camp in crisis?”
It’s true that the #1 concern of Camp Directors in 2015 was flat registration levels, which camp directors attribute to:
- Family schedules
- Early specialization of kids
- Marketing in the Age of the Internet
What can camps do?
A highly focused-upon topic, OST covers those morning, evening, weekend, summer, school holiday, and snow day gaps parents face between school and work. But the range of OST offerings includes more than just before and after school programs. The space has broadened to include service and learning opportunities, mentorships, internships, and more, as described by the United Way to the right.
In a recent conversation we had with ACA CEO Tom Holland about the future of camp, he identified OST as a real opportunity for the camp space, not only for growth but also to provide value to families and continue to validate “Camp’s rightful seat at the table of education.”
Indeed, a Child Trends Research Brief states that “Over the years, understanding of the value of participation in out-of-school time (OST) activities and programs for children has grown. Once primarily thought of as meeting a need for supervision during non-school hours, OST activities are now recognized as important to healthy development, for both younger and older children.”
Is there a place in the Out-of-School Time for your camp?
Shifting priorities should always start with research. If you’re already meeting regulations for your camp or your school, expanding to the OST may not require much more, but the long term success of your effort can be enriched by recognizing the breadth of the industry and choosing where you would like your organization to fit.
We’ve pulled together a comprehensive list of resources to get you started:
- The ACA’s Out-of-School Time Programs Resources guide is a great place to start. It includes:
- Program culture ideas
- Ways to incorporate “disguised learning” and developmental skills into your program
- Outdoor activities
- Measuring outcomes of your program
- Laws and regulations
- The United Way offers an OST Toolkit which contains resources for:
- Engaging key stakeholders
- Building diverse and representative coalitions and teams
- Strengthening your program quality
- Effective data analysis
- Funding and sustainability
- Communication of results
- Tools, templates and tips
- The Harvard Family Project has a wealth of resources on OST, including:
- The Out-of-School-Time Program Evaluation Database which evaluates nearly 40 OST programs, based on a “variety of designs, methodologies, and findings to serve multiple stakeholder needs.
- The Out of School Time Publications and Resources, an extensive library of OST topical articles.
- OST Grant Opportunities.
- The National Institute of Out-of-School Time (NIOST) is an action-research institute providing a national perspective on the critical issues facing the out-of-school time field and bridging the world of practice and research.
- The Cost of Quality Out-of-School-Time Programs by the Wallace Foundation is a detailed examination of 111 high-quality after-school and summer programs in six cities that includes an online cost calculator to help users figure out the costs of various programs.
- Structuring Out-of-School Time to Improve Academic Achievement is a downloadable PDF from the Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance.
OST and Camp can be a perfect fit. We hope you’ll find what you need here to keep your organization growing and relevant in this challenging day and age!
If your camp is struggling, we’d love to share with you how ACTIVE can help you reverse that trend with camp management software, free marketing consulting, free listings on ACTIVEkids, and more!