A young child riding a horse led by two adults.Each semester, students in Janet Peters’s “Statistics in Psychology” course partner with a regional nonprofit to analyze data and turn it into usable information.

“When I started doing service learning in my classes, the first question I asked was ‘How do I help students understand the power of the skills they are learning?” said Peters. “It becomes so much more apparent when you are helping somebody. That is what truly changes their perspective. They are learning for a purpose. When they see the benefits to their community, it changes the culture of the classroom.”

Students have the opportunity to apply their knowledge of statistics and learn about the many different ways a career in psychology can help people and regional organizations.

Students in her fall 2020 class partnered with Camp Korey, a camp for children with serious medical conditions. The data analysis will help improve recruitment strategies and further refine camp programming to meet the needs of the children and families it serves.

Peters, an associate professor at WSU Tri-Cities, was connected with Camp Korey through WSU’s Center for Civic Engagement Academic Program. The center works closely with faculty and instructors to integrate service learning into numerous courses across the WSU system, partnering for more than 1,500 opportunities.

Changes amid COVID‑19
Camp Korey provides year‑round camp programs for children with life-altering medical conditions free of charge. It offers traditional summer camp activities, which are modified to meet participants’ specific condition or circumstances. It also offers a year‑round hospital outreach program known as “Camp to You,” which brings camp activities to children while they receive treatment in the hospital setting.

“This year, we had to creatively and quickly pivot our programming to a remote, virtual experience for campers and for our volunteers,” said Kimberly Puhrmann, director of marketing and community engagement for Camp Korey. “While we normally think of camp as an analog activity, in 2020, we found ways to blend analog fun in a digital experience as we strived to stay connected with our campers and community.”

A young person learns archery.
Photo by Camp Korey staff

Working in groups, students collaborated virtually to analyze data for a variety of factors, ranging from identifying camp participant sense of belonging, feelings of isolation, confidence levels, as well as general demographics. All factors were compared using data from before and amid the COVID‑19 pandemic.

Analysis revealed that the camp was doing a great job in a variety of areas. For example, camp participants did not report feeling any more isolated in 2019 as compared to 2020 amid the pandemic, despite the switch to virtual offerings.

Analysis from other components revealed areas that could be further fine‑tuned in their programming and supports. For example, female camp participants saw a decrease in continued participation from year to year after the age of 10, whereas male camp participants saw peak participation in their mid‑teens. Stemming from research, the students indicated that one reason for the difference could be that male participants tend to participate more in outdoor activities than female participants for that age range.

“The data analysis and impactful insights provided by Dr. Peters and the psychology students will be instrumental when making future key decisions in the strategic planning of our camper programming, mission development and community outreach initiatives,” Puhrmann said.

Rewards of applying course learning to community
Many students in the class said the opportunity to work with Camp Korey provided them with an extensive insight into the possibilities with psychology, gave meaning to their coursework, and made a course that can be intimidating much more approachable.

Person in a wheelchair with arms raised high enjoying themselves while water falls from above during a summer activity.
Photo by Camp Korey staff

“Knowing that we were analyzing data for an organization like Camp Korey motivated us to stay dedicated to learning the material and produce quality work to be able to share with our community partners,” psychology student Angelica Mendoza said. “I personally felt so inspired by Camp Korey’s mission.”

Psychology student Jocelyn Martinez said it helped open her eyes to the world of research in psychology and the impact that it can have, regionally.

“My favorite aspects were analyzing their data and creating the final presentation,” she said. “It did open my eyes to research psychology, since I was leaning toward a career in clinical psychology. It helped me see that with research, I could learn more about different ways of treatment … It was very meaningful because a lot of times, you don’t have a lot of chances to work with nonprofits. It also helped me learn the material way better than I expected.”

The WSU Tri‑Cities class will continue to work with Camp Korey this spring semester to analyze some additional sets of data. The class is now examining factors as it applies to diversity, equity and inclusion.

“The next wave of data will help guide and inform how we engage the process of recruitment for staff, volunteers and especially our campers and camp families,” Puhrmann said.

Top photo: Camp Korey provides year-round camp programs for children with life-altering medical conditions free of charge (photos by Camp Korey staff).

By Maegan Murray, for WSU Tri-Cities and WSU Insider.