Social and Emotional Learning: The Key to Healthier and Happier Youth

In accordance with growing research and current trends in youth development, Camp Fire NJ is adapting and enhancing our programs to focus on bolstering social and emotional learning skills. We believe that using this framework allows for us to have a lasting effect on youth that will carry them to build healthy relationships, develop a strong sense of self, and make safer choices, ultimately leading to a healthier, happier adulthood.

We hope everyone is just as excited as we are about giving youth the skills and knowledge they need to succeed!


At Camp Fire NJ, we make it a priority to demonstrate the value and effectiveness of our programming.  Camp Fire NJ programs are evidence-based programs that are assessed each year by a team led by Dr. James Graham at The College of New Jersey and his research team.

Camp Fire NJ is very proud to announce that our Count On Me Kids program has been accepted into the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP) of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).  After undergoing an extensive review process, the program evaluation has been recognized as high quality and the results as promising in helping youth thrive. Our Count On Me Kids profile can be viewed in the NREPP directory.

The results below are from the most recent evaluations of our main programs.

Safe And Sure: Overall, participants in the Safe And Sure program showed significant differences (p < .05) from pre-test to post-test that were not present in the control group. The participants who received the program were less likely to hit someone if they made them mad, less likely to go to a park that their safe adult told them not to, and less likely to take medicine that was not theirs.

Count On Me Kids: Participants in Count On Me Kids showed significant increases from pre-test to post-test (p < .05) in healthy decision making, standing up to peer pressure, feeling unique, bullying prevention, and healthy food choices. Overall, the program proves to be effective over the course of six weeks and instills values and information that can help students make informed and smart choices.

Caution Without Fear: Participants in Caution Without Fear showed significant increases from pre-test to post-test (p < .05) in decision making competency, practical awareness, and interpersonal relationships.

Participants in the control group did not show these changes. Decision making competency focused on knowing what the right decisions were to make and when to make those decisions. Practical awareness was knowing how to stay safe, knowing when to talk to a safe adult, and knowing when it is okay to talk to a stranger. Interpersonal relationships included empathy and conflict resolution.

Peer Proof and Strive to Thrive:  Because these programs are similar in content, these programs have been evaluated together.  The participants in the Peer Proof and Strive to Thrive programs showed the most significant changes (p < .05) of all of Camp Fire NJ’s programs. Participants in the control group did not show positive changes in the assessed domains. Some of the participants had received other Camp Fire programs in the past, so part of the success of these evaluations is attributed the necessity of building Camp Fire programs upon each other each year. Participants showed significant changes in a positive direction for making choices, good decision making, self-esteem, communication, conflict resolution, and stress management.  The program was particularly effective in improving attitudes related to decision making, anti-bullying, and stress awareness/reduction, which are crucial areas during this time in development. 


The Gift Of Giving program evaluation was accepted for publication in the Journal of Experiential Education. The title of this publication is “Service-learning: Implications for empathy and community engagement in elementary school children.” Dr. James Graham is currently working on the a manuscripts focused on Count On Me Kids, Safe And Sure, Caution Without Fear, and Peer Proof results.   Appropriate journals are being located for submission.  Camp Fire NJ is in the process of revamping our research process to use more valid and reliable measures in order to better understand Camp Fire NJ’s success in improving social and emotional learning skills.