Robbie Francis of Go Swan Filmworks (and Rockbrook dad!) has returned this summer to film and edit more of his occasional highlights videos. Each video provides a fascinating 2-minute glimpse into life at camp, the buzz of activity, and the sweet friendships blossoming all around us.
Here is Robbie’s first video for the third session. Take a couple of minutes to watch. We think you’ll really enjoy it.
Robbie Francis of Go Swan Filmworks spent another day this past week filming at Rockbrook, capturing some of the sweet interactions at the heart of our camp community. And now we have another of his fascinating 2-minute videos to enjoy.
Take a look! There are moments of accomplishment, true affection, spirit, and of course sheer happiness. Be sure to turn up the volume to enjoy the sounds of camp too.
At Rockbrook, we play all the time. Walk around camp at almost any time of day, and you’ll see the intensity of a gaga game, a line of girls waiting to play tetherball, and hear the familiar bounce of tennis balls being hit during free swims. Even though all of these are competitive games, Rockbrook considers itself to be a noncompetitive camp. By that, we mean that we emphasize playing over winning. Though of course winning has a certain thrill, there is beauty in living in a culture that reminds us that the point of playing isn’t always to get ahead. Sometimes, it’s about finding the joy in what you’re doing, to focus more on the process of the game, rather than just the outcome. In this, competitions continue to be a way of building each other up, whether we are the next Serena Williams, or a complete novice. We learn to support each other, to win and to lose gracefully, and most importantly, to have less inhibition about just playing the game.
Girls really embodied this ethic today, as we went to Camp Carolina for riflery, archery, and tennis tournaments. When we got there, it turned out another camp, Keystone, was also there, so it became a tri-camp tournament! Throughout the competitions, I was really impressed by how the Rockbrook girls embodied the tenants that come from Rockbrook’s focus on sportsmanship and support, even in a more competitive environment. This morning at breakfast, Rockbrook sent its support to the tournament girls by singing the tennis song, “I’d rather play a tennis match than any other girl I know…” and the archery song, “archery, that’s for me, it’s my favorite activity…”
The girls left camp in matching shirts that the counselors had made for them, bringing Rockbrook spirit to Camp Carolina. This spirit pervaded everything they did. For example, I watched a match played by senior girls against Camp Carolina boys. One of the girls clearly had a ton of tennis experience whereas the other one was newer to the sport. I heard her laugh as her partner helped direct her around the court as she was serving, “Oh,” she said with a smile, “It’s not that different from volleyball!” The two constantly communicated back and forth, and she was able to hit most of her serves in. When they missed a ball, they kindly said, “that’s okay!” to each other, and when they succeeded, they clapped their racquets together in a high-five. Though the match was close, the duo ended up winning. Ultimately, though, the match felt uniquely ‘Rockbrook’ to me—the girls had so much fun throughout, and the majority of the focus was on building each other up, rather than being the tennis champion of the day.
Later that day, I saw a boy struggling to get his serves in the box. That same girl who did not have much tennis experience reassured him from across the court: “Don’t worry about it!” she said calmly. “I hit them out all the time, too!” Not only was she a supportive teammate to her partner, she was also kind and reassuring to her competition. In some ways, I think this epitomizes Rockbrook’s spirit. It’s not that we don’t care about winning, but we want everyone to feel that taking risks and making mistakes is okay; there should be joy in the process. In archery and riflery, Rockbrook girls loudly cheered on their teammates, no matter how many times they hit the target. At Rockbrook, being on a team means supporting each other no matter what.
This same spirit continued later in twilight when girls went to land sports to play World Cup Soccer. As a camp, we have streamed the quarter finals and finals of The World Cup, and we certainly have some avid soccer fans at RBC. Girls got into teams of three, and adopted a country that was in the World Cup! All of the teams try to score a goal, and when you kick, you say your country’s name! If you’re the last country to score, your team is out. At Rockbrook, though, when teams get out, they go to the side and wholeheartedly cheer on their friends! In a funny coincidence, France won the World Cup at RBC this year, too! What a lucky country!
Today was a fun day of playing and competing. Soon, we’ll go home to our own athletic teams, schools, and other activities that ask us to compete against each other a lot. As we come from Rockbrook’s noncompetitive environment, I hope that we can all remember the lessons we’ve learned here. While winning is great, it is also important to remember to try things even when we aren’t the best, it’s still important to build each other up, even when they’re competing against us, and at least some of the joy should come from simply playing the game.
This is the fourth year that Robbie Francis of Go Swan Filmworks is visiting camp to film and present a series of highlights videos.
We’ve had great feedback from parents about Robbie’s past productions. He can film for one day and beautifully capture much of the action, and many of the sweet moments at camp. In under two minutes, you can really tell how these Rockbrook girls are loving camp.
Robbie filmed this past week and now we have his first video of this session. Once again, he’s made something special, and I think you’ll really enjoy it.
Everyone knows that Rockbrook is a “fairyland of beauty” home to countless forest spirits who work tirelessly to enliven our experience of nature and make the camp magical. Just glance to the side anywhere around here, and you’re bound to see something beautiful. Today Rockbrook was also a land of Greek goddesses. With a little help from the Hi-Ups, each cabin was given a particular goddess to follow— dress according to her characteristics, use her symbols and icons, and playfully emulate her personality. For example, Selene, goddess of the moon, Gaia, goddess of the earth, and Hecate, goddess of magic all came alive at camp today. Keeping it kid friendly, we selected about a dozen goddesses in all. The costumes ranged from elaborate dresses with crowns and golden jewelry, to delightfully homemade adornments. Ate, the goddess of folly used lots of feathers, while Gaia had leaves, moss, and twigs woven into clothing and hair. Antheia, the goddess of flowers was definitely the most colorful. When all of our various goddesses arrived at their activities, the counselors played along asking them to demonstrate their qualities and special personality. It turns out that goddesses are right at home here at Rockbrook, easily enjoying all the action and inter-action that defines our days. The girls happily bestowed more magic, folly, nature, flowers and success on all of us.
So how is it possible that these girls were so terrifically excited to become goddesses for a day, to dress and behave in costume for everyone to see? Isn’t that just weird, or embarrassing? Honestly, it is, and outside of camp, most of these girls wouldn’t dare walk around with leaves in their hair, or a necklace of clover flowers, or wearing a full-length cloak. At the same time though, there was no awkwardness in this for the campers. They seemed instead to revel in the opportunity to express themselves so freely, to laugh with each other, and to explore untapped aspects of their personality and who they are deep down.
This makes sense when you realize that Rockbrook is a haven for girls, a special place where they feel safe, supported, and valued. It’s an intentional community built upon positive relationships— cooperation, communication, encouragement, generosity, respect and care. Led by a fantastic staff of adult role models, this camp community listens and accepts and has an amazing power to bring people closer, foster confidence and grit.
In this special environment where it’s easy to relax and be our true selves, it’s also natural to find friends, enjoy the tiniest adventure, and try new things. It’s a recipe for what the girls simply call “fun.”
It’s also worth recognizing that all too often girls experience the opposite in their daily lives the rest of the year. Life at home and school comes with social ideals and standards, and often kids thereby feel pressure (even anxiety) to perform and even look a certain way. In the face of competition and lacking genuine community support, our kids ordinary experience can inspire insecurities, self-doubt and unhappiness.
That’s why we were a camp of goddesses today. And thank goodness! These days more than ever, your girls need time and a special place like Rockbrook for them to feel good about being their true selves, to put aside social pressures, to play and to grow.
It’s a daily joy for us to see it all unfold so beautifully.
When people think of summer camp, odds are good they picture kids canoeing, climbing a ropes course, riding horses, making tie-dye T-shirts, and hiking through the woods. That certainly is a big part of how we spend our days here at Rockbrook, but even in the midst of all of those fun activities, a main focus is our relationships with each other. In everything we do we are looking for ways to build connections, strengthen communication, and model positive conflict resolution. Whether we are reminding kids to walk instead of run at the lake or helping a first time camper find her place at camp, our goal is to have each camper feel they are a valued part of the Rockbrook community.
Living in community doesn’t always come easy. It can be tricky to learn to share close quarters with people you haven’t lived with before, but the good thing about camp is that we get lots of time to practice. Our counselors strive not only to provide close one-on-one interaction with every camper, but also to help campers learn their role in a group as well. Everything from morning chores in the cabin to planning camp-wide events teaches campers how to express their feelings, ask for what they need, resolve conflicts, and share ideas.
Cabin groups work together to prep their living space for cabin inspection every morning. Each camper has a cleaning job in the cabin, but each girl is also responsible for keeping her own belongings tidy as well. This early morning exercise in teamwork helps girls delegate and ask for help, important skills both at camp and in their out-of-camp lives. Counselors can help them navigate disagreements in this time, reminding them to keep their voices calm and convey their feelings clearly. Campers might think they are just tidying up their cabin, but our staff is watching for any opportunity to help girls communicate better and support each other fully.
Cabin day is another time where group dynamics are the star of the show. A cabin group may have to work together to build a fire in order to enjoy a special campfire treat. They’ll have to talk together about the process, discuss supplies needed, assign different roles to each member of the group, and work together to get to that sweet result. There’s nothing quite like the victory of a cobbler that you’ve cooked together over an outdoor fire.
Because of our investment in relationship building and teamwork as the core part of camp life, we see ripples of these practices all around camp. Everyday, the quality of our relationships, the growing care and understanding we have for each other, makes a difference. When a camper is hesitant at the top of the water slide, you can be sure her cabin mates will be there cheering her on from the lake below. Divvying up supper clean up chores becomes smoother every day as girls take turns delegating and sharing jobs. And on the river in a whitewater raft, those communication skills really pay off as girls work together to ride the rapids.
So when you think of camp and all those fun activities come to mind, know that the work is much more than finding rhythm on a horse, weaving a basket, and or molding something beautiful out of clay. We’re also finding our rhythm as a group, weaving a beautiful community, and molding each camper into a caring, strong communicator. And having lots of fun while we do it!
Special events happen just about everyday at Rockbrook. Often announced as a surprise, they could be special craft workshops like a woodworking demonstration. They could be a costume theme for a meal, like tonight when the girls dressed like their favorite celebrity. Of course, there are always special outdoor adventure trips announced in the dining hall each day— canoeing on the French Broad River, rock climbing on Looking Glass Rock, or an overnight backpacking trip into the Pisgah National Forest. During the period of free time after dinner that we call “Twilight,” we often announce surprise events, for example a drum circle, or when the girls could build “fairy boxes” down at the camp garden, or head to the gym for 45 minutes of Zumba.
Meanwhile, everyday there’s amazing things happening in all of the in-camp activity areas. For example, the Alpine tower provides our girls with fantastic climbing challenges. With more than 30 different ways to climb up (all 50 feet to the top), it takes quite a while to “do it all.” Plus, some girls are now climbing the tower blindfolded… just for the fun and the added challenge. Some of the routes up are already really difficult with swinging obstacles and overhanging sections. So, it’s incredible to watch some of the girls successfully climb without being able to see! Swinging on your belay rope (sometimes upside down) while being lowered down is a nice thrill that comes after each climb.
The Lakeview Lodge (one of the three stone activity lodges at camp) also serves as our dance studio. Each of the four dance classes happening this week has been a mix of learning individual dance moves of various styles and working on choreography, synchronizing individual moves into a complete dance routine. There will be an opportunity to perform their routines at the end of the session during the intermission of the camp musical.
The ceramics classes have been really showing off this week too. The girls have been decorating tiles and plaques (rolled out slabs of clay) with texture impressions, small clay coils, and carvings. They’ve made small animal sculptures, cupcake and mushroom boxes, as well as wheel-thrown vessels like cups and bowls. Later next week, the girls will begin glazing their creations so they can be fired in the kilns in time to have fully finished pieces to take home. Bright and colorful, it will be exciting to see the final results.
The painting and drawing classes have been concentrating on watercolor paints, and experimenting with color theory as the girls blend their paint. They’ve been using different brush types as well, creating interesting effects for their pictures.
Fire building is one of the skills the girls are learning in the WHOA activity this week. If you’ve ever tried to build a fire, the wood you use matters a lot. The girls know how to select dry wood, but also how to gauge that by listening for a distinctive snap when a twig breaks. Some have been able to achieve a “one-match” fire without using any paper…. a real accomplishment. Of course, the possibility of roasting marshmallows and making s’mores can be a powerful motivator, as well!
Outdoor adventure, sports, and creative arts are daily experiences at camp, and this has been a full and rewarding week of each. As your girls sample these options, learning from the challenges they represent, they’re not just enjoying themselves. They’re also growing a bit, becoming more confident and accomplished, developing skills and perhaps surprising talents. All this and more, in the name of fun. It’s very neat to see.
As our first week of camp hit its stride today, the campers seem to have simultaneously relaxed and energized. It makes sense when you think about it. After these first few days, any initial jitters have been calmed by the friendly atmosphere here, the smiling counselors who are always ready to encourage, the overall feeling of openness and acceptance that colors everything. At Rockbrook, there’s simply no pressure to measure up; we don’t compete for awards or recognition for being the best at something. Instead— and this can take a few days for girls to realize —the camp environment, Rockbrook’s culture, substitutes caring for criticism. It finds friendship before judgment, silliness and laughter before concern.
Within the structure of scheduled activities and periods of free time, the girls here have the freedom to try new activities (climbing, shooting, weaving!), to follow their whim meeting and playing with scores of wonderful inspiring people, and to explore what they enjoy, expand what they know, and develop who they are. It’s a strange but wonderful feeling of deep happiness and well being that springs simply from being in this kind of genuine supportive community.
Out of this relaxation bubbles energy and excitement. It’s inevitable; with this freedom comes all sorts of activity, from thrilling outdoor adventure activities like screaming down the RBC zip line course, to the concentration and creativity that combine to tie friendship bracelet patterns. Letting go at camp inspires you to overcome challenges, to join a big group playing gaga ball, for example. It stiffens your nerve at the top of the 50-foot tall water slide. It elevates your voice to sing louder in the dining hall. Suddenly, wearing a crazy costume, or making up a dance with your cabin mates, or lying on the grass in the dark to stargaze, or getting really dirty in the creek— all seem perfectly normal. Relaxing into camp life, fully embracing the contagious kindness of our camp community, is deeply encouraging.
Of course, this all adds up to what the girls simply call “fun.” It’s fun to have friends like this, to be with them all day and night, to get to know each other this genuinely. It’s fun to feel supported by everyone around you, and thereby find the confidence to step far beyond what you thought was your limit. It’s fun to make things, to be this active all day, and laugh this much. It’s fun to exercise your personality so thoroughly, to empower your creativity, your compassion, your awareness of the world around you. It’s fun to have a break from “real life,” from (yes, believe it or not) the distractions of technology, and thereby discover so much to experience and appreciate. The girls will say it was fun to roast s’mores over the campfire, to ride horses, and to swim in the lake, but I think there’s something more fundamental and lasting at work.
Today, after just a few days, it was so entirely clear. For your girls, camp provides the freedom they crave, the challenges they need, and the full-bellied fun they love.