A Place of Their Own

April 14, 2014

Ready, Set, Go!

I was six years old when I found the ravine. I had heard my older sisters talk about the ravine before, of course, but they had all firmly refused to show me where it was. They had mostly grown out of their days of playing outside by the time I set out to find it, but still they felt there was a certain importance in my finding it on my own—a sort of rite of passage.

And so, every day after first grade, I would press out on my own into the trees behind my house, in search of the ravine (it should be noted that I did not actually know, at the time, what a ravine was—I was, however, assured that I would know it when I saw it).

Down the RapidsI don’t remember how long it took me, how many days of searching before I stumbled across it. I don’t remember the season, month, weather, or day of the week it was when I finally emerged from the trees and saw what was, unmistakably, The Ravine—all of those details have faded away across the years. What I do remember was the sense of absolute exhilaration that I felt when I saw the slope of massive gray rocks descending steeply into the stream at the bottom. I had found it: the place for kids, the place where adults never went. This was my place.

My family moved out of that house a few years later, cutting short my time with the ravine. I haven’t been back there since I was a child, but the place still looms large in my imagination as being as big and profound a spot as the Grand Canyon itself. A cursory glance at the land behind my old house on Google Earth, however, tells me that it was nothing more than a (slightly) glorified drainage ditch that stretched for about thirty yards above ground before disappearing beneath it.

My mother’s thoughts on the ravine (once we finally told her, about a year ago, that it had once been our favorite hangout) were less generous still. To her adult eyes, it had been nothing more than a smelly, mosquito-ey, (probably) vermin-infested dump, and she was horrified that we had spent so much time there.

Kayaking ClassBut to us, then and in our memories still, it was paradise.

Thinking about it today, with sensibilities that have been honed by several years of working with children at camp, the thought of a six year old tramping off into the woods by herself makes me immensely nervous. What if I had fallen? What if I had come across a dangerous animal? What if I had tripped and gotten stuck between two of those heavy boulders, and no one had known where to find me? What if I had drowned, or been eaten by a bear, or gotten lost and wandered around aimlessly through the wilds of Mississippi until my parents had given up on ever finding me?

As you can probably guess, none of those things happened. I think I fell and skinned my knee once, but, as tragedies go, that’s not the worst, and I did feel pretty cool walking through the back door at the end of the day with my very own battle wound.

Starting a FireI rarely think about the ravine anymore, but recently I read an article called “The Overprotected Kid,” by Hanna Rosin, and memories of the place came flooding back. Rosin talks at length of the modern lack of once ubiquitous childhood spaces such as mine. I’d imagine a lot of the parents reading this can remember a place of their very own where they went to play. A secret place, usually outside, where they and their friends built forts, played hide and seek, and settled their own problems and sought out their own, individual accomplishments. A place where their parents rarely, if ever, went. I wonder how many of today’s children could say that they have such a place?

Between school, extracurricular activities, and family time at home, modern children spend less and less time away from the direct supervision of adults. On first thought, this seems like a great thing. It’s a dangerous world, after all. If they are always near adults, then we can keep them from taking unnecessary risks, we can intervene when they have conflicts with their siblings or friends, and we can guide them through every challenge that comes their way. If we are vigilant enough, as parents and childcare professionals, then we can protect children from ever suffering the sting of failure, or the anxiety that accompanies facing a new challenge.

But, of course, there is a backlash to this constant supervision. Shield them too much from any sort of discomfort, any sort of risk, any sort of failure, then when the inevitable day comes that they are faced with these things, they might be unequipped to handle it for themselves.

Horseback RidingSo how do we find the balance between protecting children, and giving them the freedom they need to grow and develop on their own?

You guessed it.

We call Rockbrook “A place where girls can grow” for a reason: 2-4 weeks spent in the heart of our wooded mountain gives girls the chance to make a world for themselves. It gives them the chance to try new things and face the very real chance that they just might not be any good at it: maybe they’ll never hit the target in archery, but they’ll try it anyway. It gives them the chance to craft their own set of cabin rules with their peers, and teaches them to hold themselves and each other accountable, without the interference of adults. It teaches them to find the joy of climbing to the very top of the mountain, while still having an appreciation and respect for the risks and struggles it takes to get there. It gives them the chance to grow.

I’m certainly not saying that campers at Rockbrook are unsupervised—far from it. They are always within sight and earshot of at least one counselor, adventure guide, or director. But the beauty of staffing our camp with college-age counselors is that they are in the unique position of being at once an authority figure, and a “cool” older kid, around whom our campers feel entirely comfortable to be their quirky, crazy, energetic selves.

One of These Things is Not Like the OthersWe value our counselors for the responsibility and trustworthiness for which we hired them. The camp girls value our counselors because they can behave more naturally with them than they would with “normal” adults (they know, for example, that their counselors will not bat an eye should they spontaneously decide to show up at dinner wearing a batman costume and a tiara).

We give the campers supervision that doesn’t feel like supervision. We let them take risks—like climbing up rock-faces and hurtling down whitewater rapids in a raft—that feel like risks, but are supervised by professionals who know exactly how to keep them safe. When the campers fight with one another, often we let them work out the dispute among themselves. We’ll be nearby, and will intervene if necessary, but we know that they have the tools necessary to solve their own problems, and they will be the stronger for it afterward.

Tough GirlsThey might gain some bumps and bruises along the way. You might pick up your child on closing day with a freshly skinned knee, or a bee sting, or a story of the unkind words a fellow camper said to her. But delve deeper into these stories and you’ll find that the skinned knee was acquired on an incredible hike to the top of Looking Glass Rock. The bee sting hurt, sure, but a counselor or nurse was standing by with an Epi-pen, just in case, and now your daughter has learned all about the signs that might signal anaphylactic shock. Maybe she never quite came to like the girl who said unkind things, but she did learn that she has the strength and maturity to live peacefully with a person that she’s not fond of—a skill that we all know can come in handy later in life.

There’s no need to worry that, in sending your child off to camp, you are letting them loose in the world of “Lord of the Flies.” We have plenty of rules and procedures in place designed to keep all of our campers as safe as possible. Safety is always our first priority. But our very close second priority is to offer the girls a world in which they have agency, responsibility, and daily experiences that challenge them, and even make them a little nervous or uncomfortable.

Not to worry—they won’t be hiking off into the woods by themselves in search of nearby ravines, as I once did. But I can promise you that every single camper will experience, at least once in their time at Rockbrook, that same exhilaration I felt the first time I ever felt a sense of ownership over an accomplishment that was fully and completely my own.

Rockbrook Cheerleaders


The Silver Lining of Homesickness

February 28, 2014

Opening Day ReunionsThe first time I ever saw Rockbrook was in July of 1999. I was eight-years-old, and my two-week session was to be the longest I had ever been away from my parents. I was so nervous that I could hardly sit still in the car ride up the mountain. Whenever anybody asked me, of course, I’d tell them that I couldn’t wait for camp to start. I had memorized the activities listed in the catalogue, and picked out exactly which ones I was going to sign up for first (Riflery, Archery, Sports and Games, and Tennis, if you were wondering). I was excited. But I was also scared to death.

Camper-counselor BondingI vividly remember standing halfway up the hill that day, with my counselor’s hand on my shoulder, watching as my parents got into their car to leave.

It’s not too late, I remember thinking to myself. I can still call to them, or just jump in the car and let them take me home.

But I stayed quiet, and I stayed put (I was much too stubborn, even then, to admit that I might have been scared), and it wasn’t long after I saw their car disappear down the driveway that I forgot all about those butterflies that had been giving me second thoughts. That moment on the hill was the only instant of homesickness that I ever remember feeling at camp. Of course, thinking about it logically, fifteen years later, I know that there must have been other moments in which I felt lost and overwhelmed in this new environment—but those moments are so fully overshadowed by the memories of my first camp friends, the first time I ever held a bow, and my first time stepping into the most wonderfully boisterous Dining Hall my eight-year-old eyes had ever beheld, that only that first instant of uncertainty has managed to stick in my memory.

Tie-Dying There are plenty of campers, new and returning, who come to camp every year and don’t look back, just as I did. They are too excited and too busy to have any time for homesickness. But there are just as many, if not more, who don’t find it so easy to be away from home for the first time.

I have seen campers deal with homesickness every year that I have been at camp, each in her own way. There are those who hold it in, keeping a stiff upper lip with the understanding that it’ll get easier if they don’t think about it. There are those who become sad and listless, and can’t bring themselves to fully partake in their activities. There are those who throw temper tantrums. And then there are those who are simply scared, terrified to be away from the safety net that they know and trust for the first time. 

Excited at CampAs a parent sending your child into someone else’s care for the first time, I know that the thought of which of these reactions your own daughter will have must be at the forefront of your mind. The truth is, there’s no way to tell what form her homesickness will take—if any at all—until the day comes. It may be that your daughter takes to the camp lifestyle like a duck to water, and will beg you on closing day to let her stay forever. On the other hand, it is just as possible that you will be getting a letter from her three days into camp, begging you to come and fetch her right away, with her tearstains circled on the page for good measure.

Your first instinct upon finding out that your daughter is scared and upset without you will of course be to come and rescue her immediately. After all, if she’s afraid, then how could she have the presence of mind to learn and grown in all the ways that camp has to offer? If she is crying to her counselor during rest hour, how will she have the time or energy to make friends with her peers? While this is a perfectly understandable response, I hope you’ll think twice before taking the step of ending her camp experience before it’s really even begun. And it might not be easy. In all the preparations leading up to camp, in all the conversations with your daughter about what it will be like for her to be away, it’s easy to forget that your daughter’s homesickness will be just as hard for you.

So if the moment comes that you find yourself reaching for your keys, considering  driving to Brevard to pick up your daughter without a second thought, here are a few things I hope you’ll remember:

  1. Jewelry MakingWhatever form homesickness takes, it is almost always fleeting. The first few days of camp—when your daughter is still working through the first stages of friendship with her cabinmates, figuring out her way around camp, and feeling like she just doesn’t quite “get” camp yet—are always going to be the hardest. But things move fast at camp. Within a week, she will have at least one friend whom she will consider her Best Friend Ever, she will be navigating the camp property like a pro, and singing the camp songs at mealtimes just as loudly and enthusiastically as everyone else. Chances are, by the time you’ve received the artfully tearstained letter, she will already have forgotten that she ever asked you for rescue.
  2.  

  3. Our staff knows how to help her. Between your daughter’s counselors, her activity instructors, and the camp directors, she will be surrounded at all times by compassionate adults wanting to help her to love camp as much as we do. Our staff is trained intensively, taught to recognize the signs of homesickness, even if your daughter is doing her best to hide it. Whether she needs to talk it out, or just to be distracted until the feeling passes, the Rockbrook staff is there to help.
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  5. Meeting the CabinmatesShe wants to love camp. This is often a tough one to remember: nobody wants to be homesick. She’ll see other campers enjoying all that camp has to offer, and she will want to be enjoying it right along with them. Lots of times, what homesick campers really want is not necessarily to be taken home, but rather to feel just as comfortable within the camp community as they do at home. Some girls reach that level of comfort right away, while others take a little while longer. If given the time to get her bearings, often the homesickness will vanish on its own.
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  7. We always appreciate your help. It might be tempting, in this instance, to ask us to let you speak to your daughter on the phone—after all, you have more experience than anyone in calming her fears and making her feel safe. We’ve found, though, that such phone calls nearly always make the situation worse—in fact, I can guarantee that every phone call home will end in tears. Even if hearing your voice makes her feel better at first, once she hangs up the phone, she will have to start the process of separation from you all over again. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t help! We know that you are the expert on your daughter. You know her favorite games, her comfort foods, the stories that can put her to sleep. The directors and your daughter’s counselors will be working with your daughter through her homesickness, and we are happy to talk to you anytime about any tips you might have on how to make her camp experience as rewarding as possible.
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  9. Tennis ProHard as it is, she will come through it much stronger than before. It’s not always easy for us to recognize when a difficult situation is changing us in positive ways. If your daughter is homesick, all she will be able to recognize in the moment is that she is feeling scared and alone, and she would like to stop feeling that way. It’s a bit too much to ask for an eight-year-old to see that her current discomfort will make her a stronger, more independent person, which is why we as a staff and as parents need to remember it for her. Because there will come a triumphant moment for her as camp goes on, when she realizes that her homesickness is gone. But even if that moment never comes—even if her homesickness lasts the whole length of camp (which can happen, though it’s rare), she’ll still come out of it stronger than before. She will realize, maybe for the first time in her life, that she has the strength within her to withstand a truly challenging situation. She won’t forget that the next time another of those situations comes along.

A Friend From HomeHomesickness is a serious matter, and we treat it as such at camp. We never ignore it if a camper seems homesick; we are proactive about helping them through it, and keeping you, as her parents, updated on her progress. But the first brush with homesickness in childhood is not a circumstance to be avoided. It’s a formative, if sometimes painful experience, that prepares your child for those difficult moments to come—the first day of high school, the first day of a new job—when she might feel disoriented or out of her element, and help is not near at hand.

It’s important to prepare both your daughter and yourself for the challenges she might face in acclimating to camp. You should let her know that there is no shame in feeling homesick—in fact, it’s something that almost everyone feels at some point in their camp experience, whether or not they show outward signs of it. Most importantly though, it is critical avoid making any “pick-up deals,” or promises that you will come and get her right away the moment she asks. If your daughter knows the possibility is on the table, then what motivation is there for her to work through the issues on her own? Tell her how confident you are in her ability to make it through without your help—with your vote of confidence, and the knowledge that there’s no “easy out” at her disposal, she will be much more likely to grit her teeth and persevere.

Sometimes I wonder if I had actually called out to my mom, that day in 1999, if she would have let me climb into the car and drive back to safety. If she would have told me that we could leave camp for another year, taken me out for ice cream to make me feel better, then brought me home. I probably would have thanked her for it that day. I certainly would have felt more comfortable with that turn of events than I was standing on that hill with a virtual stranger.

But sitting here in the Rockbrook office fifteen years later, looking back on all the tangible ways I can point to that my experiences with camp have made me a better and a stronger person, I really hope she would have told me no. 

Hi Mom!


Out and About with Eva

February 18, 2014

I’m excited to start a new camper spotlight segment on our blog called, “Rockbrook Girls: Out and About”.  It will allow us to keep up with our camp friends throughout the year, learn some new fun facts about them, and to hear about all of the cool things Rockbrook girls are doing outside of camp.

I’m happy to introduce our first participant, Eva, from Brevard.  Eva will be coming to our third session this summer. 

Eva in her role as Cinderella for her school's production of "Into the Woods".  She was awesome!

Eva in her role as Cinderella for her schools production of “Into the Woods”. She was awesome!

Check out Eva’s answers to our interview questions below.  I think it’s a safe bet that she will be signing up for archery as often as she can.  She’ll be shooting like Katniss in no time!  Eva also listed Peter and the Starcatchers as her favorite book.  If you’re looking for a new book to read, this one is a real page-turner.  Learn more about it here.

EvaCinterview

If you want to be part of our camper spotlight, email me at chase@rockbrookcamp.com for more information.  I can’t wait to hear from you!


Rockbrook Hosts Hike for Land Conservancy Group

February 10, 2014

CMLC-Logo2
This Sunday, February 16th, 2014, Rockbrook will host members of the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy for a hiking excursion to both Rockbrook Falls and Castle Rock on the Rockbrook Camp property. Jeff Carter will join historian Keith Parker to lead the hike and provide information about the local area and the camp.

The Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to “creating a regional network of permanently protected farm, forest, and natural land. [It] protects forested wilderness, working farms, clean drinking water, verdant trout streams, wildlife habitat and sweeping views,” according to its Web site.

Working together with Rockbrook in 2010, CMLC successfully placed 115 acres of the camp property into a protected easement insuring the natural beauty and unique habitat of Dunn’s Creek, Dunn’s Rock, Castle Rock and surrounding forest.

Rockbrook Camp is located 4 miles south of Brevard, North Carolina and is home to dramatic rock cliffs, waterfalls, and record trees. The camp was founded in 1921.

For more information about this hike, or to make a reservation to attend, please visit the CMLC Web site.


Succeeding at Failure

January 22, 2014

Kayaking SuccessWhen I was a junior in high school, my drama teacher set my class two challenges, each designed to get us thinking creatively:

  1. Write down as many uses for a brick as you can think of.
  2. Draw three creatures that do not exist, and that are combinations of a bunch of different animals. Use as much detail as you can.

Thinking CreativelyThe first challenge was a cinch. I’ve been writing fiction ever since I could hold a pen, and still can switch on daydreams as real as a TV show whenever I get bored. If you ask me to use my imagination to think up impossible things, I’m on solid ground.

Sure, I listed the usual (boring) uses for a brick: house construction, paperweight, impromptu dumb-bell, etc. But then came the fun ones: a piece of a giant’s Lego set, an impenetrable fortress for ant-armies, Twinkie-holder, napkin ring at a brick-layers’ convention, etc.

All this is to say, if you’re looking for something to do with that pile of bricks you have lying around your house for some reason, I’m your girl.

But then came challenge number two. Sure I could think of imaginary animals—how about a zebra-striped cow, with the head of a horse, the legs of a mini-elephant, and the horns of a water buffalo? Oh, and it can talk like a parrot! Oh, and maybe it can jump like a kangaroo! Oh yeah, the ideas were coming fast.

There was just one problem. I can’t draw. Not at all. Even stick figures are a struggle for me. I stared at that blank piece of paper, listening to the excited pencil-scratching coming from my neighbors’ desks, and my cheeks began to burn. I was the only one not drawing.

Venturing OutI just sat there, with my head down, until the activity was over. I couldn’t even let myself try. I couldn’t even permit a doodle. I couldn’t take the risk that the beautiful image I had in my head might not translate onto paper. Better to be scolded by my teacher for failing to complete the activity, than for it to be known that I might be less than excellent at something. So I just sat there, almost in tears, until the papers were collected.

I’ve thought about that moment a lot since then. Why hadn’t I even tried? Why had I assumed the result would be that horrible, without taking the simple step of just beginning? Why had I decided by the end of elementary school that I Am Not An Artist? End of story, no question about it, no need to try.

So many times, both in camp and out of camp, I see young girls give up on things before they’ve even begun.

“No, I can’t take pottery, I’m not artsy.”

“No way am I going to try out for basketball, I’m not athletic at all.”

“I can’t take the swim test. I’ve never been much of a swimmer.”

Taking the LeapSomehow, it has become part of our mindset that our talents, our levels of intelligence and understanding, and our potential for achievement are set in stone from the very beginning. The thoughts that were racing through my mind that day in drama class consisted entirely of, I was bad at drawing in elementary school. Therefore, I am bad at drawing now. Therefore, I will always be bad at drawing, no matter how hard I try. Therefore, I should not try.

I know I’m not the only one that thinks this way. We have become so afraid of failure, because we think that that failure defines us even more than the successes that come afterwards. Sure, we know that da Vinci didn’t paint the Mona Lisa the first time he ever touched a paintbrush, and yet somehow we still think that if we fail the first time, then we will inevitably fail every time, with no shot at improvement.

But this is wrong. This is so wrong! Why should I, at 23 years old, have already decided which categories I belong in (Good Writer, Good Reader, Not-Good Drawer, Not-Good Dancer), and given up on changing any of them? Why should a 10 year old camper stand frozen at the edge of the dock on swim demo day, just because somebody told her one time that she wasn’t a very fast swimmer? Why should we throw away the chance to surprise ourselves with new, enjoyable experiences, in an attempt to save our pride from the sting of failure?

Dancing QueensSo here’s the challenge (you knew this was coming): allow yourself to be bad at something once a day. It can be a brand new experience, or an old one that you gave up on long ago. If you’re a bad dancer, then dance like a crazy person with your friends, and laugh when they tell you you’re not so good. If you gave up on piano after one lesson, sit down and bang out “Chopsticks” on the keys, and laugh when you hit a bad note. If you have always wanted to be a poet, then write down that poem that you have bouncing around in your head, and then laugh when you realize it sounds more like a Hallmark Card than Emily Dickinson.

That’s right: laugh. Train yourself to find the joy in failure. When that sinking feeling comes along that tells you to run away from the challenge before it becomes too much, then laugh it away, and try again. And again. And again. And again. Sure, maybe you’ll never be dancing at center stage in Radio City Music Hall, or tickling the ivories like Stevie Wonder, or becoming the next US Poet Laureate—but hey, maybe you will. You’ll never know unless you embrace the possibility that you might just fail, and then go for it anyway.

As for me, I’m still not a great drawer. But I hope that Mr. McFarland will accept this late addition to the creativity project. May I present, the Zebreleffow:

The Zebreleffow


Smart Girls Have More Fun

January 16, 2014

We live in a society that sometimes struggles to provide girls with positive role models.  Certain pressures can force young girls to try and become something that they are not simply to fit in.  Girls think they need to be prettier, richer, skinnier, smarter, quieter, louder — the list goes on and on.  The point is, we never feel like the person we are is good enough because we’ve been told over and over that we’re not.  This is why when I heard about Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls at the Party program I was so excited.  The motto for Amy’s program is “Change the world by being yourself.”  How refreshing.  Check out the episode below of Smart Girls in which Amy highlights the cool things about being outdoors, something we care a lot about at camp!

Kudos to Amy Poehler for letting girls know that not only are they OK as they are, but that by being themselves, they are exceptional.


The Rockbrook Guide to Winter

January 9, 2014

If you are reading this right now, then you are more than likely caught in the midst of the Polar Vortex. And while it’s true that “Polar Vortex” sounds like the rejected title for a cheesy sci-fi novel, the reality of icy arctic winds swirling their way down from Santa’s workshop to where you sit this very moment is enough to make anyone long for an end to winter.

Last Tuesday, each and every US State had temperatures fall below freezing (true, you had to climb to the top of the highest mountain in Hawaii to find temperatures of 21 degrees, but it totally still counts). This means that, at some point in the last few days, every American Rockbrook camper (including me) has been bundled up against the cold, dreaming of warmer days. To those campers who are warm and snug in the balmy southern hemisphere: oh, how we envy you.

It’s not that winter doesn’t have it’s perks. What’s not to love about hot chocolate, crackling fires, and quiet evenings spent indoors with your family? Winter gives us an opportunity to slow down, appreciate the small things, and enjoy the quiet.

Still though, this Polar Vortex business might be taking this whole “winter” thing a bit too far. Sure, catching snowflakes on your eyelashes is one of life’s beautiful joys—but watching icicles slowly accumulate there is less enjoyable. True, everybody loves bundling up in cozy winter clothes—but when frost begins to weigh down your fur-covered boots, and you begin stomping around like you’re transforming into a Yeti from the toes up, suddenly those clothes are a bit less glamorous.

But, never fear, chilly Rockbrook-ers! Nothing brightens a gloomy day like a smidge of camp cheer—and lucky for us all, that camp cheer is available to us even in the Polar Vortex-iest of days. All you have to do is take some of those classic camp staples, and give them a little tweak, and voila! Winterized Rockbrook!

1. S’mores Hot Chocolate

S'mores Hot Chocolate
Oh yeah, you read that right. Hot chocolate AND s’mores, in one stunningly delicious concoction. We all know that camp just isn’t camp without those three heavenly ingredients coming together at least once to form the most perfect three-bite snack in the history of both bites and snacks. But why should you wait until summer comes around to enjoy this beautiful treat? There are tons of recipes out there for S’mores Hot Chocolate, but this one is absolutely the most delicious.

2. Chevron Scarf

NeedlecraftNeedlecraft is one of my favorite activities at camp. What could be more peaceful than sitting on the shady back porch of Curosty, listening to the stream ripple past, and knitting up some Christmas presents for your family? Quiet, cozy winter evenings give you the perfect opportunity to work on your needlecraft skills. And you don’t have to choose just one boring old color for that scarf you’re working on (unless it’s Rockbrook Red—Rockbrook Red is never boring). We like to spend our summers perfecting all sorts of exciting patterns for friendship bracelets—why not use one of those? If you follow this link, you can find a knitting pattern for a chevron patterned scarf, which can remind you all winter of those beautiful bracelets that your mom made you cut off in October because they were kind of starting to smell.

 

3. Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Muffin Break

Every coffee shop in the country spends all winter throwing pumpkin flavoring into every drink and snack they offer, but we all know that the best pumpkin-flavored snacks are the little morsels that our camp-baker-extraordinaire (Katie) cooks up for muffin break. I talked to Katie yesterday, and she pointed me in the direction of a pumpkin chocolate chip muffin recipe that is almost identical to hers. I know this post is supposed to be about “winterizing” camp traditions, but let’s be honest, there’s no need to winterize muffins. Muffins are excellent at all times, and in all weathers. Of course, everyone knows that these muffins taste best when eaten outside in the sunshine, after a morning of camp activities, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make a gloomy winter day a little more delicious.

4. Campfire Bonding

Campfire

What are the three most important elements of a campfire? Being with people that you love, some good music, and, of course, a fire. There’s no law that says a campfire has to be outside. All you have to do is start up a fire in your fireplace, gather around it with your family and friends, leave those cell phones and computers far, far away, and just enjoy being with one another. And don’t forget to sing. Whether you’re singing Christmas carols, old camp songs, or the latest offering from T-Swift, there’s nothing quite like singing to chase away the bite of winter, and remind you that summer can’t be far away.

 

This is the time of year is when camp starts to feel furthest away from us—it seems like a horribly long time since we’ve been there, and an even more horribly long time until we get to be there again. But even on those coldest days, when the news is filled with headlines about “Polar Vortexes,” “Snowmaggedons,” and “Snowpocalypses,” the spirit of camp is never really that far from us. Sure, throwing on our swimsuits and jumping into the lake isn’t really an option, and it’s probably not the best idea to go white water rafting, or to have a shaving cream fight, but all it takes is a little creativity, and you can give any boring old winter day a bit of camp flare. And these aren’t the only ideas out there—if you can think of any other ways to give winter a camp-y twist, feel free to post them in the comments section, or on the Rockbrook Facebook page!

So enjoy your snow days, fellow Rockbrook-ers—summer will be here before you know it!

Camp Fun

 


All Good in the Neighborhood

January 8, 2014

TelephoneWhile reading through the newest American Camp Association’s Camping Magazine, one article in particular caught my attention.  The article, CAMP: The Old Neighborhood for a New Generation by Jolly Corley, suggests that with school schedules more intense than ever before, it may be that kids are more intellectually stimulated than previous generations.  However, today’s youth may be missing out on learning valuable life skills.  Skills such as conflict management, problem solving, leadership and decision making.  Skills which are learned most effectively through free play.  Corley suggests that today’s generation needs unstructured play time more than children of past generations.

look up!The best place to practice these life skills is camp.  While American neighborhoods used to be the perfect setting for free play, this is no longer the case.  The old neighborhood was a place “where kids were free to play from the time they finished chores until they were called inside for dinner.”  An old neighborhood was one where children played free of adults, with kids of all ages, and often made up their own games and rules.  A neighborhood which still very much exists at camp.  This neighborhood is one that allows campers to practice developing soft skills that are necessary to succeed in life.

going herping!Every day at camp, campers are able to play with one another free from the interference of adults.  These interactions enable them to develop interpersonal skills that the typical school environment may not allow them to.  For example, a group of campers may decide that they want to play tennis during their free time.  Without adults telling them what to do, it is necessary for them to decide how to split up.  Will they play doubles or singles?  Who will be on each team?  Once the game gets going, they are in charge of regulating it.  Was that ball in or out?  Allowing campers to work these things out on their own will help them build lifelong skills in decision making and conflict management.

different ages on floatIn addition to these skills, campers are also able to learn leadership skills through play with different age groups.  Free play with younger children provides an opportunity for older children and adolescents to “practice nurturance and leadership.” Coley also explains how playing with older children can help younger ones to “problem solve in ways that are more sophisticated than what they are developmentally capable of if left on their own or playing with children of their same age.”  The soft skills that children gain through free play are necessary for those who are going to see success later in life.

different age girlsNever has the camp experience been as important as it is today.  Gone are the days that children can roam around with the neighborhood kids playing pick up basketball games and hide-and-seek.  Their schedules are rigid, their school work is more demanding than ever, and many parents fear leaving their children without adult supervision.  This is where camp comes in.  Camp creates an environment similar to the old American neighborhood, and it’s a safe one.  Children practice skills such as problem solving, conflict management, and leadership through free play with other children of all ages.  Most importantly, they don’t even realize that they’re doing it.  They’re having the time of their lives, and they’re growing exponentially.


A Christmas Perm

December 12, 2013

Snowy Dining Hall
 

A Rockbrook Girl’s Night Before Christmas

 

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all round the world,

Were the coolest of cool, those great Rockbrook girls.

Their trunks were still packed in the corners of their rooms,

And they offered camp-colors to wintery gloom.

 

The world was a snow globe, all twinkling and white,

And the houses and halls were all decked in their lights.

Their tummies were warmed by hot chocolates and ciders,

And the girls never worried ‘bout snakes or wolf spiders.

 

The holiday season brought so much to love:

With ice skating, skiing, warm mittens and gloves,

With Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali,

With New Year’s, and Christmas with boughs of bright holly.

 

But while sugarplums danced in the heads of their friends,

And their brothers’ discussions of gifts would not end,

The campers they dreamed of a different time,

When the weather was warm and the company was fine.

 

They dreamed of the days spent beneath the hot sun,

Of laughter and joy and unstoppable fun.

They dreamed of old cabins of weathered brown wood,

Of the Dining Hall songs and the dinners so good.

 

For these girls have a place of which only they know,

A place that still calls them through sleet and through snow.

A queendom of summer, all wreathed in tall trees,

Governed by girls with dirty faces and knees.

 

A place of the Midget Man, Killroy, and Nancy,

A place where the costumes make everyone fancy.

A place where the coolest is she who sings loudest,

A place where the silliest is always the proudest.

 

There may be no presents, no Santas or stockings,

There may be no carolers on front doors knocking,

There may be no snowmen at that time of year,

But there’s no other time with more pep or more cheer.

 

It’s a time that’s for rollicking, frolicking joys,

A time just for girls, with no smelly old boys.

It’s a time that’s for hiking, for swimming, for climbing,

A time that’s for Honosorarius rhyming.

 

It’s a time when directors can be seen walking,

And always with counselors and campers are talking.

A time when sweet Sarah stands up at the mic,

And says to the list’ners in a voice kind and bright,

 

“Now campers! Now counselors! Now barn staff and nurses!

On paddlers! On crafters! On singers of verses!

To the top of the Tower and to Rockbrook Falls,

Now hike away, climb away, dance away all!

 

For this is your time, on this midsummer’s day,

And it shall be spent in your favorite way.

It’s a time that we treasure in all of our hearts,

A time full of many incredible parts.”

 

So campers, though you are now spread far and wide,

Though you may have grown older, left camp days behind,

Just think of dear Rockbrook, in days cold and dark,

And its spirit will bring summer’s warmth to your heart.

 

And the day will come soon, for you or your daughter,

When you both stand once more beside cold running water,

And listen to red birds sing high in the pine,

And hear sounds of Rockbrook down each merry line.

 

But for now, let me tell you, with heart full of joy,

That I wish you best wishes for you to enjoy.

May your holiday season be happy and bright,

Merry Christmas from Rockbrook; to all a goodnight!

 


Top 10 Reasons Every Rockbrook Girl Misses Camp

December 10, 2013

Every Rockbrook girl knows the bittersweet feeling that comes along with leaving camp at the end of the session.  We’ve had such an awesome time meeting new friends and trying new things, and leaving it all behind seems impossible.  The friends and memories made keep camp on our minds all year long.  We all know the truth behind the words, “The summers fly by, but the winters drag on.”  So, in an attempt to lessen the pain of being “campsick”, this is an ode to every Rockbrook girl who misses her days in the heart of the wooded mountain.

The Top 10 Reasons Every Rockbrook Girl Misses Camp

1. Simple Days
simple creek
I know what you must be thinking- camp isn’t SIMPLE!  No way!  We do fun things all day and wear crazy costumes to lunch and paint our faces and dance in the dining hall!!  Allow me to clarify: camp is really the only place where having fun is our main job.  We don’t have to worry about finishing our homework, making it to basketball practice on time or keeping up with our Facebook page.  It’s nice to escape the pressures of home and just enjoy ourselves.  At Rockbrook, time slows down, life is easy, we find fulfillment in the simple things — wearing crazy costumes, painting our faces, and dancing our hearts out.
 

 

 

2. Muffins by Katie
muffins
Our awesome baker, Katie, is the best of the best, the cream of the crop, at the top of the totem pole when it comes to making muffins.  Whether it’s a fancy mint chocolate chip recipe or a more simple funfetti or blueberry muffin, we can’t get enough!  Katie’s muffins are just what we need after first period, and muffin withdrawals are no joke after we leave camp.  Check out this video that shows just how important muffin break is at Rockbrook.

 

3. Counselors like this
For EB
We all know what it feels like to have that counselor.  You know the one I’m talking about — she makes you feel special because she truly cares about you.  She’s interested in you and is there to make your camp experience the best she can.  She’s cool because she understands that camp is cool.  She’s like a fun older sister, like the most awesome baby sitter you’ve ever had.  Most importantly, she’s a role model and a friend.

 

4. Friendship bracelets
girls-friendship-bracelets-300x300Chevron.  Twist.  Totem pole.  Diamond.  Ladder.  No matter how old we are, making friendship bracelets is a hobby enjoyed by Rockbrook girls far and wide.  We spend countless hours at camp making bracelets for our friends.  The only thing better than receiving a friendship bracelet is giving one.  Free swims and twilights spent on the hill making friendship bracelets are when we make some of our best memories- memories that stay with us long after our bracelets fall off.

 

 

5. Dolly’s Ice Cream
sophie dolly's
I’d be lying if it weren’t included on the list.  I’ve heard Rockbrook girls describe Dolly’s as the “best ice cream place in the world” on more than one occasion.  Whether you choose to order our very own flavor, Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion, or to go a different route, chances are you won’t be disappointed.  There’s no doubt that Rockbrook girls are missing Dolly’s this time of year.

 

6. Friends like these
little jrs
Camp friends are the best friends.  Ask any Rockbrook girl, and she will tell you that this is true.  It is because at camp we get to know one another for who we really are.  The relationships that we form are based on real feelings, not on superficial things.  At camp, it doesn’t matter what brand our new shoes are, or if we have the coolest new cell phone.  It doesn’t matter if we are big or small, tall or short.  What matters is how we treat people, how we make them feel.  Camp friendships are built to last a lifetime.

 

7. The songs
laughing
“Are you a camel, a good looking camel, and say, have you got a hump?”

“The rosy mist of the morning, veil it anew at dawn, like a fairyland of beauty…”

“I wish I was a honosorarius a ratamatatamy, a ha-ha-ha.”

“(Insert all lyrics to Oh I Was Born here)”

Yes, the Rockbrook songs are filled with silly lyrics like these.  We all know that we’ve randomly started singing these songs at home or at school on more than one occasion.  There’s nothing like singing along to a good Rockbrook song in the dining hall or around the campfire.

 

8. Moments like this
grace and elley
Camp is silly.  Camp is carefree.  Camp is FUN.  Ask any Rockbrook girl where her happy place is, and I bet she thinks back to a moment like this.  A moment in which nothing matters but the present and time stands still.

 

 

9. The Rockbrook (Harlem) Shake
harlem shake
Things like this happen at Rockbrook.  A lot.  They are wild and magical and unheard of everywhere else.  We miss having the opportunity to dress up in crazy costumes and dance with all of our friends.  This video of the Rockbrook Shake reminds us just how wonderful camp is.

 

 

10. The Spirit of Rockbrook is real and we know it
spirit fire
There is a feeling that we get as Rockbrook girls — one that we can’t really describe.  A feeling of belonging, a feeling of certainty, a feeling of self-worth.  It’s this feeling that causes us to miss each other throughout the year, that causes us to yearn for the days of summer.  We know it’s real, because we’ve never felt a love like this.  It’s this feeling that assures us that no other camp is like our own, that no other place can do for us what this one has.  It’s the Spirit of Rockbrook, and it’s with us always.