Camp Defines and Develops Character in Youth

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Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines character as one of the attributes or features that makes up and distinguishes an individual. Character development is tricky. It isn’t something that can be learned from a textbook or in a lecture — it is learned through teachable moments and experiences. So where can families turn to help provide the right environment for character development? Families can go to camp.

For over a century, millions of families have been benefiting from the positive, supportive environment provided by the camp experience. Camp develops character when:

  • Children and youth feel safe and nurtured, allowing them to take healthy risks and develop character organically;
  • Supporting mentors model positive character traits and lead by example; and
  • Camp provides teachable moments — for example, a disagreement about the rules of a field game becomes a lesson on integrity, honesty, and fair play.

In a study of youth development outcomes conducted by Philliber Research Associates and ACA, campers noted the following:

  • Abigail, nine, said, “I learned how to be honest about stuff.”
  • “I learned a lot about respect and my real values in life, what they really should be,” said Louise, 14.
  • Sam, 12, said, “At camp I learned how to be part of a team . . . sometimes you have to rely on someone to do a task or goal. You have to trust each other.”

About ACA

The American Camp Association® (ACA) is a national organization with more than 10,000 individual members and nearly 3,000-member camps.  ACA is committed to collaborating with those who believe in quality camp and outdoor experiences for children, youth, and adults.  ACA provides advocacy and evidence-based education and professional development, and is the only national accrediting body for the organized camp experience.  ACA accredits approximately 2,400 diverse camps nationally.  ACA-Accredited® Camps meet up to 300 health and safety standards.  Accreditation provides public evidence of a camp’s commitment to the health, safety, and overall well-being of both campers and staff.  For more information, visit

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