Students who unplugged from all technology showed an improved ability to read nonverbal social cues, confirming yet another benefit of what overnight camps all over the world have always guarded as an essential element of the camp experience.
UCLA researchers visited Pali Institute to conduct a study of 51 sixth grade students who attended Pali’s Outdoor Education program for 5 days. During their visit, the students had no use of any digital media devices. They were tested before and after their visit on their ability to correctly assess the emotional state of people in photos and videos. The students demonstrated a significantly increased ability to recognize facial emotions and other social cues after their time at Pali, as compared to a control group of students from the same school who hadn’t yet attended the Institute. The study’s findings have been published online at Science Direct, and have made a splash with news agencies like the LA Times.
The results of this study are especially significant because improved social awareness was measurable after only 5 days at camp, only 5 days away from digital media. A longer amount of time unplugged from technology would be expected to show even more marked improvements.
Requiring Pali Institute students to take a step away from the technology of their everyday lives has been a tradition at both Pali Institute and Pali Adventures, our overnight summer camp. We find that when campers stay overnight in cabin groups, without any distraction, they are able to focus better on their current surroundings and the people around them. Camp provides an incredibly unique opportunity for kids to interact with each other outside of school, in a safe and supportive environment. They form new friendships and strengthen old ones. They fully immerse themselves in the camp experience, without any outside interference, digital or otherwise.