Each year millions of adolescents internationally participate in outdoor adventure programs such as camps and journey-based nature experiences, often in the context of regular schooling. The outdoor programs sector, which includes education, government, not-for-profit, and commercial providers, is a large, multi-national industry providing tailored outdoor experiences across all corners of the globe.

Broadly speaking, the outdoors and camping sector operates on a strong belief that adventure programs have distinctive benefits for personal and social development of adolescents. However, given the extensive use of structured outdoor programs, and the associated costs involved, it is important that such beliefs continue to be tested empirically.

With support from the Australian Research Council, OYPRA initiated a new study aimed at contributing to the evidence base in the field, We designed a quasi-experimental, controlled crossover trial of a structured outdoor youth program with secondary school students in Australia. The trial has taken place over a period of 36 months and involved almost 400 young people. The study employs a number of key design features aimed at bolstering confidence in research findings. Results will help inform policy and practice, and lead to more strategic investment in outdoor programs for learning, health promotion and positive youth development.

To date we have completed the design and delivery of four outdoor programs, with students from two participating schools taking part. Students have completed online surveys on 5 occasions: twice before camp, and three times after, including a 6-month follow-up period. The OYPRA Research Team is currently analysing data which we expect to release in the second half of 2017.