Camp Fire Just Keeps Getting Better (On Purpose)
We want to make sure our programs deliver on our promise: to help young people find their spark, lift their voice and discover who they are. That doesn’t happen by accident.
It takes a lot of hard work, a commitment to growth, and honest, deep reflection to track how well our programs are serving Camp Fire kids. The research says just providing programs—and getting kids to show up—isn’t enough. It seems like common sense, but we’ll say it for good measure: It matters how well programs are run. Young people in high-quality programs just do better.
Unsurprisingly, it’s what parents ask for, too. Our research says parents want programs that are fun, yes, but they also want high-quality programs that make an impact.
“Research shows that deeper learning occurs for young people when it is contextualized. Context matters in high quality programs!” says Shawna Rosenzweig, Director, Program Effectiveness at Camp Fire National Headquarters. “The context within which young people are learning makes a difference. And that makes Camp Fire stand out. We’re providing real-life, hands-on experiences that are really true skill-building opportunities.”
Camp Fire works with the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality to continually test how well our programs are doing. We’ve been using the Weikart Center’s Program Quality Assessment (PQA) tools for more than seven years.
The tool measures how well programs meet a progressive pyramid of standards. First, does the program provide a safe environment, physically and emotionally? Second, is the program supportive? Is it welcoming, encouraging and set up to help young people learn? Third, is the program interactive? Does it give young people opportunities for leadership? Finally, does the program allow for high-level youth engagement?
Why do we measure these categories? Because studies show programs that progress up the pyramid help kids learn more, stay interested and challenged, and feel like they belong. High-scoring programs also build young people’s Social Emotional Learning skills, including communication, empathy and problem solving.
“It’s not all about the scores,” explains Nikki Roe Cropp, Camp Fire National Headquarter’s Program Consultant. “It’s more about the process. It’s how we are continuously engaging in a practice to improve our programs—and using the PQA data to inform that.”
Camp Fire uses the PQA feedback to figure out what programs should work on—and celebrate! We create improvement plans for things we want to enhance, using professional development and coaching to boost skills, knowledge and practices.
Many of Camp Fire’s councils use the tool for just that reason. We can get a picture of how our programs are doing on local and national levels and build those plans for improvement as needed. We can track progress over time and also see how normal changes (like high staff turn-over at summer camp or launching a brand-new program) affect scores.
“It’s become part of our every-day approach,” says Nikki. “It’s validated continuous improvement process that we use with all of our programs. It’s that level of commitment to quality that really sets us apart.”
Want to help keep Camp Fire’s high-quality programming going? Support Camp Fire kids through a Giving Tuesday donation on November 27!