Transformative learning and the 4-H camp counselor experience

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Leff, Donna
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Michael Retallick
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Agricultural Education and Studies

The Department of Agricultural Education and Studies was formed in 1989 as a result of the merger of the Department of Agricultural Education with the Department of Agricultural Studies. Its focus includes two these fields: agricultural education leading to teacher-certification or outreach communication; and agricultural studies leading to production agriculture or other agricultural industries.

The Department of Agricultural Education and Studies was formed in 1989 from the merger of the Department of Agricultural Education and the Department of Agricultural Studies.

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Many studies about the youth development outcomes of the camping experience focus upon the youth who are campers, but relatively few studies examine the outcomes of the experience for counselors. Camping has a strong tradition as a part of the 4-H program, but studies about 4-H camp also focus mostly on campers. This study examines the extent to which 4-H camp results in transformative learning for the older 4-H members who serve as camp counselors. It also examines the perceived changes that occur within counselors and the factors and characteristics of camp that result in personal transformation.

The population for this study was 4-H members who served as counselors at regional 4-H summer camps during the summer of 2012 in Minnesota. Data was obtained using the "Transformative Learning and the Camp Experience Staff Member Survey," which was administered online. Even though the population was small (N = 37), the results add data to the research available about transformative learning among camp counselors and provide baseline data and a framework for future research about the 4-H camping program in Minnesota.

The participants in this study experienced transformative learning as a result of their experience as camp counselors. Returning counselors experienced more personal transformation than first-year counselors, but many of the same aspects of camp resulted in transformative learning for both groups. Major changes involved developing skills for working with children and exposure to new people, activities, and experiences. Factors leading to personal transformation included the opportunity to be role models for children and impact children positively, opportunities for leadership and challenge, and camp traditions. Characteristics of camp leading to personal transformation included counselors feeling accepted, feeling like they belonged, and camp feeling safe and being a place where counselors could trust others and be open.

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Tue Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2013