Schedules are useful. Schedules let you know the shape of your day before it even starts. They tell you that that appointment you’ve been dreading will be over by ten, and that restaurant that you love will be seating you at seven. Here at Rockbrook, we know and appreciate the benefits a schedule, and stick to one (with a few daily adjustments) nearly every day of the week. Rising bell at 8 AM. Lunch at 1. Dinner at 6:15. Four activity periods, two snack breaks, and two Free Swims a Day. The schedule allows both campers and staff to slide into a rhythm, and know what to expect out of their days.
But our campers are used to schedules. In some ways, they are too used to schedules. Their days throughout the year are filled top to bottom with school, tutoring, music lessons, sports practices, and homework.
This overabundance of stimulation in their everyday lives is one of the reasons that I think the absolute most important part of our daily schedule are the times that we schedule…nothing. No activities, no events, nothing at all but the space around the campers, the people they are with, and their ability to use their imaginations to create their own entertainment.
Free Swims and Twilight are largely left up to the campers. They might find themselves at the beginning of a Free Swim taking on the risk of boredom that has become all too rare in modern life. There are no phones or tablets to captivate them with mindless games and social media; no TV or Netflix to keep them entertained and sedentary. There is only forty-five minutes to an hour of staring at a wall, unless they and their friends can come up with something to do.
And, boy, to our Rockbrook girls rise to the challenge. Just in today’s Second Free Swim, I saw girls racing stray flip flops down the stream, circles of hair-braiding-chains on the Hill, and signs up on bulletin boards advertising auditions (“open to all ages”) for a band that some campers are putting together.
With ample free time, and the risk of boredom, comes startling creativity, openness, and boldness. Girls who might shriek at the sight of a live crawfish in the winter find themselves poking through streambeds in search of them during Twilight. Girls who perhaps have only ever played card games on computer screens, learn that by far the best use of real playing cards is building them into elaborate houses with their friends. Girls who reach instinctively for technology at the first sign of a quiet moment, might discover that it is far better to reach for a book, or even for the hand of a friend as they jump into the lake.
With unscheduled time, of course, comes the risk of boredom, and the twiddling-of-thumbs. What it also brings, however, is an agency over the use of their own time that our campers might not often see in school-days. At camp, this time is given to them in abundance, and it is a beautiful thing to see our campers take it and run with it.