Intentionally designed thinking and experience spaces: What we learned at summer camp

Tove I. Dahl, Lisa Sethre-Hofstad, Gavriel Salomon

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    How do young people experience camp, and how might that experience help us expand our understanding of what is possible in non-formal learning environments? In-depth interviews consisting of forced-choice and open-ended questions were conducted with 59 Concordia Language Villages residential camp participants who partake in a linguistically and culturally enriched grand simulation. This study focused on (1) quantitative assessments of their sense of safety and belonging, and (2) open-ended questions about the nature of the camp environment in general and as a learning place. From the qualitative data, we distilled participants' sense of camp as a learning place by analysing their responses in terms of theoretically-driven categories of thinking space qualities and data-driven categories of experience space qualities. As a thinking space, participants described the camp environment as a safe space characterized by support for thinking and development, room for identity-supportive interactions, room to experiment, and a place with mentoring adults and a second-home feeling. As an experience space, they emphasized the centrality of the program's daily activities (particularly simulations), the qualities of the people around them (diverse and community-focused), the physical setting of the program (particularly its aesthetics) and the instructional methods used (particularly language and cultural immersion). The relationship of these findings to our understanding of the nature of the thinking and experience spaces as program-specific and program-general phenomena is discussed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)91-112
    Number of pages22
    JournalLearning Environments Research
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Apr 2013


    • Camp
    • Concordia Language Villages
    • Experience space
    • Non-formal learning environment
    • Simulations
    • Thinking space

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Education
    • Communication
    • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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