PALS: A summertime booster shot

Purdue Football player B.J. Knauf, wide receiver, puts participants through their paces with a bag relay race.

PALS swimming instructor Evan Grant helps a participant become comfortable remaining prone in the water.( Purdue University/ Mark Simons)

New findings are expected from the 13th PALS camp held this past summer. Lindley McDavid, one of McDonough’s doctoral students, is studying the effect of a staff training intervention designed to help staff improve the important social relationship skills at the camp. McDonough also is collaborating with Frank Snyder, assistant professor of health and kinesiology, to study the connections between social relationships and behaviors that put children’s health at risk.

Snyder says he is investigating how effective PALS is in curbing negative or risky behaviors in children. “We’re looking at health-risk behaviors such as substance use and violence, along with children’s social relationships,” he says. “We are interested in anything that would put children’s health at risk now or in the future.”

Snyder’s past research into a comprehensive social-, emotional- and character-development program in 20 elementary schools in Hawaii made a positive difference in both academic performance and overall behavior. School scores in tests for reading and math improved, as did rates of absenteeism and disciplinary suspensions and grade retention.

It’s hoped the PALS data that McDonough and Snyder collected this summer will help PALS directors enhance team-leader training to help the leaders best forge the connections with their campers that are associated with positive results for the children.

“The research takes place behind the scenes, but it is essential to camp function and helps us improve the camp each year,” Harper says. “A few years ago, the researchers picked up on a theme of campers referencing local gang activity, so we adapted the programming to have anti-gang speakers and work more closely with local anti-gang resources. These research findings also inspired us to adopt themes related to kindness, fairness, courage and caring.”

In addition to the College of Health and Human Sciences and the Department of Health and Kinesiology, PALS is supported by community and campus contributions, including the Division of Recreational Sports, which provides the fields, pool and other areas for activity stations, and Housing and Food Services, which is host for the campers’ breakfasts and lunches.”

Some of PALS’ funding comes from Purdue Federal Credit Union and the Brees Dream Foundation established by Drew Brees, Purdue’s former All-America quarterback and quarterback for the 2010 Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.

Click here to view images of PALS Summer Camp 2014.

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