The CANOPY (Camping – Adventure – Nature: Outdoor Programs for Youth) Study set out to examine the experiences of young people participating in a range of existing, secondary school-based outdoor and camping programs. The project involved surveying participants of existing outdoor programs using an online questionnaire to investigate self-reported benefits.

We worked in collaboration with our outdoor industry partners to identify schools that had existing outdoor camps or programs in place that met certain criteria. These criteria were modelled on findings from our National Survey that characterised “typical” or “common” outdoor programs in Australia. For example, we specified that camps needed to be between 5 and 8 days’ duration, include a journey-based component and overnight camping, be delivered in a natural setting and be offered to students between the ages of 13 and 17 years.

Three schools matching these characteristics were approached to take part in the study. Approximately 160 students attending camp at participating high schools completed online surveys. Student questionnaires contained robust measures of wellbeing, resilience and mental health (including questions relating to health behaviours, psychological strengths, psychological maladjustment, social relationships, and relationships with nature) and were completed online. Students were asked to complete the survey on three occasions: i) three weeks before they went to camp; ii) one week before camp; and iii) one week after they returned from camp.
We also developed a separate survey for group leaders of outdoor programs. Program leaders completed surveys about the outdoor camp experiences, reporting on program characteristics such as the camp length, activities undertaken, student group sizes, and program goals.

With data from students and leaders combined, we have a very rich dataset comprising over 37,000 data points. Our research team is currently analysing this data, with a report of findings coming soon.