Research in Outdoor Education


The purpose of this article is to examine the impact of specialized, residential camp programs on children and youth with disabili­ties. In general, the question is: "Does the camp experience result in positive or negative impacts on development, and do these changes transfer to home or school?" Camps are rich in social (both Vgotsky's and Bandura's con­ceptualizations; Gredler, 1992) and experien­tial (Kolb, 1984) learning. In camps, learning occurs while doing tasks within the functional, meaningful contexts of daily and social life in the camp community. Moreover, the naturally occurring consequences of one's actions are immediate and salient. The extensive litera­ture on transfer of learning in special educa­tion suggests that these aspects of the camp experience can contribute to successful transfer of learning (Westling & Fox, 2000). An­other important factor in the transfer of learning for children with disabilities is the op­portunity to counter prior experiences of fail­ure by being able to demonstrate to oneself one's ability to perform skills. When this oc­curs, motivation and self-confidence may in­crease to use the skill in other situations (McKeogh, Lupart, & Marini, 1995). It ap­pears that camps contain programmatic as­pects that could foster transfer of learning for children with disabilities.