Clemson professor’s expertise in youth development outcomes outside of school informs national research report
Barry Garst, associate professor in Clemson’s youth development leadership program, has played an integral role in a major national report being released today by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
The report, “Shaping Summertime Experiences: Opportunities to Promote Healthy Development and Well-being for Children and Youth,” examines the effects of summertime experiences on children’s outcomes. It identifies gaps in youth access to summertime programs and services and recommends actions communities should take to make summer experiences an opportunity for youth to develop positively and stay connected to resources, from basic needs to enrichment.
“Summer provides a unique occasion to engage youth and families in experiences that build on the strengths and resources of youth, families, communities and other stakeholders,” says Garst. “If we can improve the availability and quality of summertime experiences and opportunities available to children and adolescents, then they will be better prepared for success when the next academic year begins.”
The report will provide a valuable blueprint that federal, state, local and organizational decision makers can apply to the development of programs and policies to support the healthy development and learning of America’s children during the summer months.
Garst’s role in the report was as part of a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine subcommittee that included the perspectives of prominent youth development leaders and organizations in the academic, private and not-for-profit sectors, including representatives from John Hopkins University, Disney, the American Institute of Research and the RAND corporation.
The group spent the past year working together to survey the landscape of research findings, hold public meetings to gather information, and reach a shared understanding of what the evidence reveals as the best path moving forward. The Academies protect committee deliberations to preserve their independence, and every report undergoes rigorous peer review to verify that advice they provide is grounded in evidence.
“Consensus studies such as this one that synthesize the known evidence on a particular topic – in this case the summertime experiences of children and adolescents – are a critical resource for policy makers when funding and resource decisions need to be made,” said Garst. “Policy makers want to understand who is currently being served, who’s being left out, and which programs and services will produce the greatest outcomes if they were better resourced.”
Wayne Freimund, chair of Clemson’s parks, recreation and tourism management department, says that Garst’s involvement in this report reflects his national reputation as a leading scholar on youth out-of-school experiences and demonstrates the wide-ranging impact of his research in the youth development field.
“Dr. Garst is an outstanding scholar and teacher, and the academic leadership he’s demonstrating on this project is indicative of what his students experience every day in the classroom,” continues Freimund. “It’s no surprise that he’s being asked to share his expertise at this level, as much of his research is breaking new ground in the field.”
Garst was appointed to the Consensus Study Committee on Summertime Experiences and Child and Adolescent Education, Health and Safety in 2018. His specific role involved cataloging the wide range of unstructured and structured summer experiences available to youth, and then assessing those experiences based on known evidence of impact. The organizations that funded the study – the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Wallace Foundation – were most interested in summertime experiences that influenced health, social, emotional, academic and safety outcomes.
The topic is directly connected to Garst’s applied research, which focuses on critical and emerging issues within out-of-school settings such as summer camps. His work informs solutions for challenges that summer program providers face, such as addressing the anxiety that parents experience when their children are away from home attending summer programs such as camps and strategies for preventing summertime injuries to youth and staff.