The Woods Project, Inc.
Outcomes from the 2015 Summer Program Evaluation
Report prepared by
Dr. Carla Sharp
Professor of Clinical Psychology
Director, Developmental Psychopathology Lab
University of Houston
The Woods Project, Inc worked with Dr. Carla Sharp and her lab at the University of Houston to conduct an evaluation of TWP’s 2015 Summer Program. The program takes low-income high school students on a two-week outdoor immersion experience to wilderness areas. The evaluation seeks to assess TWP outcomes around skills that TWP target through their program. These skills include self-control, adaptability/zest/curiosity, distress tolerance, grit/perseverance, social competence, and sense of belonging.
To assess outcomes, a case-control design was utilized. Data on baseline skill levels were collected prior to the TWP experience on two groups of children. One group of children was then exposed to the TWP program while the other group of children was not. All children completed outcome measures after 2 weeks post-baseline. This enabled comparison of within-person change as a function of participation in TWP. Without a control group, it is impossible to conclude that within-person change would not have happened anyway as a function of change or regression to the mean. With a control group, it becomes possible to conclude that within-person change may be a function of the TWP experience.
Major outcomes: Data showed that children experienced an overall positive impact by attending TWP in almost all outcomes. Positive impact was most apparent for skills that build personal resilience (Distress Tolerance and Grit).
170 children who experienced TWP completed pre- and post-surveys and were compared with 17 children who did not experience TWP (note that these children did go on a TWP experience later during the same summer period). Some children did not complete all the surveys so the final group sizes were 151 and 14, respectively.
Rising grade level
9th grade: 1%
12th grade: 41%
Kipp schools represented the largest portion of participants in TWP, with a total of nearly 22% from Kipp.
Bellaire: .6%Chinquapin: 5.3%
Cristo Rey Jesuit: 6.5%Eastwood Academy: .6%
Energy Institute High School: 2.4%Sanchez: 5.3%
Harmony: 1.2%Hastings: 1.8%
Incarnate word: 1.8Kipp: 21.8
Lamar: .6%Milby: .6%
Mount Carmel: .6%Northbrook: 5.9%
Reagan: 5.9%Rice Middle School: .6%
Sharpstown: 11.8%Southwest: 2.9%
Spring Woods: 7.7%Westside: .6%
Yes Prep: 3.5%
•Of the children who participated in TWP, 39.1% have not been on a plane. 99% of the adolescents are described to be from low/moderate income homes.
Self-control was assessed through the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale-Brief (BIS-Brief; Steinberg et al). This measure assesses the extent to which someone is able to control their behavior. Self-control is related to a host of important outcomes in adolescence, most notably lowered risk-taking. The results of a paired sample t-test on the teens who experienced TWP showed a statistically significant increase in self-control pre-and post experience (t = 1.95; df = 126; p = .05). While an interaction effect was not detected for group, the figure below clearly shows a trend for the TWP group to have increased Self-control at follow-up, compared to the Home group who remained unchanged.
This construct was assessed with the Curiosity and Exploration Inventory (Kashdan et al.)which assesses an orientation toward seeking novel and challenging objects, events, and ideas with the aim of integrating these experiences and information, as well asabsorptionwhich reflects the ability to self-regulate attention to allow for immersion in these novel and challenging activities.The results of a paired sample t-test on the teens who experienced TWP showed a highly and statistically significant decrease pre-and post experiencein Adaptability/zest/curiosity (t = -3.34; df = 131; p = .001). While an interaction effect was not detected for group, the figure shows a trend for the TWP group to have increased Curiosity at follow-up, compared to the Home group who remained
Distress tolerance skills are used to help us cope and survive during a crisis, and help us tolerate short term or long term pain (physical or emotional pain). This construct was assessed with the Multidimensional Experiential Avoidance Questionnaire (Gamez et al.). The results of a paired sample t-test on the teens who experienced TWP showed a highly and statistically significant increase in pre-and post experienceDistress Tolerance (t = -5.55; df = 131; p < .001). In addition, an interaction effect was detected for group. As shown in the figure, Distress Tolerance significantly increased for the TWP group, but remained unchanged for the Home group.
Social competence is a complex, multidimensional concept consisting of social, emotional (affect regulation), cognitive (e.g., flexibility), and behavioral (e.g., problemsolving) skills, as well as motivational and expectancy sets (e.g., moral development, self-efficacy) needed for successful social adaptation.Social competence is the foundation upon which expectations for future interaction with others is built, and upon which individuals develop perceptions of their own behavior. Social competence in the current study was assessed through the Social Competence subscale of the Self-perception Profile for Children (Harter, 1985). The results of a paired sample t-test on the teens who experienced TWP showed a highly and statistically significant increase in Social competence pre-and post experience (t = -4.21; df = 140; p < .001). While an interaction effect was not detected for group, the figure below clearly shows a trend for the TWP group to have increased Social competence at follow-up, compared to the Home group who remained unchanged.
A sense of belongingness is the experience that one is connected to others, valuedand part of a social group.Belongingness is an important predictor and resilience factor against a host of negative outcomes in adolescence. To assess the construct we used the Belongingness scale of the Interpersonal Needs Questionnaire (Van Orden et al., 2006). The results of a paired sample t-test on the teens who experienced TWP showed a highly and statistically significant increase in Belongingness pre-and post experience (t = -6.34; df = 134; p < .001). An interaction effect was not detected for group, and both groups appear to have increased in Belongingness over the follow-up period. This result may therefore be an artifact of the follow-up period rather than a real effect for TWP.
Grit refers to courage, resolve and strength of character. Gritenables an individual to persevere in accomplishing a goal despite obstacles over an extended period. To assess Grit, we used the Grit Scale (Duckworth et al., 2009). The results of a paired sample t-test on the teens who experienced TWP showed a highly and statistically significant increase in pre-and post-experience for Grit (t = -5.55; df = 131; p < .001). In addition, an interaction effect was detected for group. As shown in the figure, Grit significantly increased for the TWP group, but remained unchanged for the Home group.
Summary of quantitative data
TWP appears to be especially successful in increase Distress Tolerance and Grit when compared with staying it home. While TWP also increased Curiosity/Adaptability, Social competence and Belongingness, and Self-Control, it appears that the mechanism of Distress Tolerance and Grit are particularly targeted by TWP, perhaps reflecting the program’s goals of resilience under adversity. These results are reflected in the qualitative reports from teens, which are presented in the tables below.Please explain the biggest change you’ve seen in yourself as a result of your summer experience: / How can you apply what you’ve learned over the last two weeks to your day to day life in Houston?
As a result of this summer experience I have realized that even though I thought I wasn’t good enough at making friends or hiking mountains I was able to be successful at it and I have become more social, self-confident and I have learned to adapt to a new environment. / Based on what I’ve learned these last two weeks I will now be able to go to Houston and say “Hey I’ve hiked a mountain; I can be better in school, socially and environmentally!” I will use less water and I will not litter. I will also work out to stay in shape and I will be more social.
I’ve become more diligent and hard working. / I can pursue anything.
I learned that now I’m more of a cheerful person. Now I enjoy talking to others. / My daily routine will change because in camp I wake up early and do chores plus be more active.
I’ve learned that I can challenge myself and I can push my limits. / When I’m struggling with something, I know I can push through my struggles and problems and know how to solve them.
I have seen that even though something is very hard for me, I won’t give up. / I can do anything I just have to try and do my best. After that I know I can do anything.
In this trip I changed a lot I learned that sometimes it will be hard to get to our goal but with the help of the people that you love you can do it, I feel like I’m more independent. / I can apply what I have learned in my future maybe if school gets harder I know that I have to be perseverant and giving up is not an option anymore.
These last 2 weeks I felt a change. Now I feel like I appreciate more the things I have back home and I feel like I belong somewhere. I met wonderful people that get me. Before the trip I didn’t care much about the items I have but now I do. / When I get back to Houston I’ll start to eat all the food I get and not waste anything like I learned these last two weeks and I’ll also start to journal to see how I feel.
The biggest change I have seen in myself after this summer program is that I am a strong person and that when things gets harder I am not a quitter I pass through my limits without second thoughts. / How I can apply what I have learned to my day to day life is by always having self-control and independence whenever I go. With places that I am familiar with or a different place. To always get along with people and having a way to help them.
I see myself more self-independent. If I can climb a mountain for 9 hours, I can do many more things. / I can’t apply anything I’ve learned in Montana to Houston because Montana is a place like no other state.
The biggest change in me is that I learn that I could push myself more than I thought. / I learned that everybody needs to do their part in everything, and that I should appreciate everything I have in Houston.
I find it easier to open up and connect with people I’ve never met. I’m a bit more confident in my actions. / I can be more open to new people and experiences instead of staying in my bubble.
As a result of my summer experience, the biggest change I’ve seen in myself is that I learned not to doubt myself. I now know that I am a strong young lady and that I can do anything I set my mind to. / I can apply what I’ve learned over the last two weeks to my day to day life in Houston by reminding myself that I made it and because of that I can do anything. I am way stronger than I was two weeks ago.
My confidence has grown and I have a changed mentality to a more positive one. I felt more connected to people. / Get off the electronics, go out and appreciate the time you have with the people around you.
I’ve become more independent and my self-esteem has boosted exceedingly. / I can cut back on energy usage, be a better leader and lead others to a point of view where electronics aren’t so important and I’ll appreciate everything I’m given and have.
I actually feel happy with everything I have done and I also made new friends and I like to talk to people and to get to know people better. / I can actually talk and speak what’s on my mind without people judging me and thinking what others think or what for me overall I will more comfortable.
My biggest change I seen in myself as a person is being nice to people and become more social. / That not to litter and enjoy life and be active.
Developed feelings I thought ii buried. / Don’t give up.
My biggest change I’ve seen in myself as a result of this two amazing summer weeks were that I can push myself to extreme even when I’m in pain and my legs are begging me to stop. But I set my mind and kept going despite the pain. / I can apply what I’ve learned over the last two weeks to my every day to day life in Houston is that if you set your mind to a goal and reach its limits you can go far more extreme than the limit you put on yourself.
I’ve learned not to underestimate myself. There were several times I thought I couldn’t do it, but in the end I managed to do it so I learned not to say “I can’t do it” if I haven’t even tried doing it. / I will be more perseverant and be less of a quitter in school.
I feel more active. / I’ll become more artistic.
I am more physically fit than I thought, better thinker and team player. / Because I climbed a mountain for 0 to 8 miles, I will start to jog for the rest of summer.
The biggest change I’ve seen in myself was leadership because I noticed I cared about others as well as they did to me. / I can apply this on my daily life routine as a self-motivated to keep moving on and succeed my obstacles.
The biggest change that I’ve seen in myself as a result my summer experience is the change in my attitude. At the beginning of the trop I was really negative and worried too much. But towards the end I faced every new challenge with a positive attitude and relaxed way more. / Just change my attitude towards everyday setbacks. It’s all about perception. Once you start being more positive with challenges you have to face, things get easier, and those setbacks just become bumps on the road to what you want to achieve.
I feel that I’ve grown physically, that I can do things more challenging without quitting. / I will respect nature. I can now hike even though there is no mountains in Houston. Every morning, I know what I went through in Montana to get stuff prepared, so back home it is gonna be easy.
I use to just be an observer. I use to hide behind the fantasy of books and live in make-believe worlds instead of the real world. And while books are a great escape, I needed to really like my own life instead of living the lives of the characters in my books. And that’s what has changed, I started living in the moment. / I have to try my best at everything I do. This program taught me grit and perseverance so now I need to go back and go through whatever challenges life throws at me. I am also not embarrassed to be myself anymore so I can live freely without thinking if I am making a mistake or not.
I realized I’m way more stronger than I am. I am capable to do things I didn’t thought I would do. / I can apply mind over matter.
That I can accomplish almost anything if I put my mind to it. / I can appreciate nature and wildlife more than I did before.
The biggest change I’ve seen in myself as a result of my summer experience is having more self confidence in myself, self-control, and perseverance. I no longer give up easily, and determined to always finish the goal I’m trying to accomplish. Before the trop, I would easily give up. / How I can apply what I’ve learned over the last two weeks to my dad to day life in Houston is always push through the hardest challenges/obstacles that come my way, make sure I focus if I’m good, and just know that I can do anything If I put my mind to it.
Leaving a place where I felt like I was at home and alive for these two weeks. I loved Glacier National Park/Montana. / I will “better” myself and imply these life lessons to everything I have in Houston. Even though I enjoyed myself.
I have realized that an open mind and positivity will always help me get through the tough situation and will help me get to the top. My patience will people has gotten stronger as well. / I can use my patience with my peer’s anywhere I go. Having an open mind will always help me when I’m in a tough situation, my grit will lead me to solve my problems
The biggest change I’ve seen in myself is just being more independent. And less stressed and worrisome. I’m more at peace with myself than I was before. / Just taking time by myself to just think like we did at camp. Without my phone!
I’ve become more of a social person and have learned to get to know someone before I jump to any conclusions. / I can now talk to people easier than I used to.
The biggest change I see in myself was appreciating the little things in life, and learn not to complain. / That you don’t always need technology in your life you can always explore.
The biggest change has been my attitude towards myself and others. Before I would be super negative and not want to talk to people. Now I believe in myself and others. / I can start doing more stuff. Getting out more have new experiences, meet new people.
I’ve seen a lot of changes but the main ones are that I can do everything on myself independently and also that I’m pretty a strong person. / I’m going to apply it using the hard methods of not using electricity as much as I used too. And am going to cut off social media.
At the end of the trip I feel more appreciative of the little things. When we were in the woods we didn’t have a lot of resources and it made me realize that I should cherish everything while I have it. / In Houston we have mostly buildings so I want to appreciate nature more. Also, I learned to cherish every moment you have with people you love because they won’t always be there
Pushing my limit physically and mentally when I was hiking mt.Tallac. / To stop being lazy and try hard on what am doing. I learned more about myself by people telling me details.