Amazing Things Happening

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.

Camp Tower climbing blindfolded
Dance Camp Class
Kid pottery tile making
Painting Class summer camp
Fire Roasting Marshmallows

Meanwhile, everyday at camp 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.

Summer Camp kids

Deeply Encouraging

Girl Horseback Riding
Girl Horse Riding

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 girls camp community.

Camp Zip Line Thrill

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.

Ceramics Camp Girl

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.

Camp Party Costumes

Face to Face Living

pottery camper at summer camp

The other day I was talking with a young counselor about camp and whether there was anything about the experience this summer that has surprised her. She had attended camp for 7 years as a camper already, so I was curious if she recognized anything different now that she’s older. She quickly said that she was having a blast with the campers in her cabin, and that she loves being a counselor because she gets to know the girls so well and do so much with them. She was surprised how “intense,” “emotional,” and “fun” camp is.

Put a little differently, life at camp is face to face living. We’re all in this together, sharing everything (costumes, food, pink eye —well, we try not to share that last one!). When we’re at camp we pay attention to each other constantly. We are very close, feel truly connected, to a lot of people. Being at Rockbrook means accepting the intimacy, thrills and challenges of community… but in exchange, building countless heart-felt relationships, deepening our humanity, and yes, having  a lot of “fun.”

By making this observation, I think this young woman, without knowing it, was also commenting on ordinary life outside of camp. Essentially, it lacks the closeness, the rich, personal experience that defines our days at girls camp Rockbrook. Ordinary American life, generally speaking, is more about individual consumption, privacy, personal advancement, and ego-centric entertainment— all while being mostly blind to the other people around us. As we speed along the course of our lives, tightly tethered to our smartphones, community is too often left in the dust. Feeling dis-connected, bored and alone, can easily be the sad remainder.

Painting Girl at summer camp

There’s an irony to this, too. Think of all the daily technology we utilize ostensibly to be more connected to each other: text messaging, emails, social media posts, and telephone calls. Thanks to modern communication technology, it’s simple to announce what you’re doing, ask someone a question, or look up information. The ease and convenience of using these technologies has made them ubiquitous threads of modern life. At the same time— and here is the irony —it seems they are isolating us as human beings. Sending a text message is a thin gruel compared to the deep feelings that accompany being present with someone you care about. An email conveys only a shadow of its sender. Facebook, despite its attempt to offer a “multimedia experience,” can’t touch the emotions of being with supportive friends. There’s no electronic translation for kindness. If our ordinary lives are increasingly defined by these diminished forms of communication, if we’re left with only these rarefied connections to other people, then, as we become more isolated, our humanity is going to suffer.

Thank goodness for camp! Here we feel more connected than ever despite (maybe because of) giving up our electronic communication devices. For good reason, we unplug to connect more fully to those around us. Life at camp feels good because it begins with wholehearted connections, with the messy and rewarding energy of a community. The contentment your girls feel at camp springs from living face to face, directly and without the filtering “convenience” of technology. It’s providing them proof that having kind, compassionate relationships with other people is a bumpy, fun path to a rich and rewarding life.

camp girl friends

5 Steps to Being Camp Chic

The Complete Look

So you’re coming to camp on Sunday, and you want to know what to pack. The costumes are a given, of course. All the tutus, masks, wigs, and funny hats that you can cram into your trunk will be put to very good use here at camp.

But what about the everyday clothes? Maybe you have been scanning the packing list on our website, trying to determine, among the listings of “7-10 shirts/shorts,” what kind of clothes are actually considered cool at camp.

First of all, don’t worry. You could wear anything—literally, anything—at camp, and no one would bat an eye. A counselor once wore an astronaut helmet for the entirety of dinner, and I never once thought to ask why. The more typical question asked at camp when it comes to fashion is, “Why not?”

Water Bottles: The Vital Accessory

At a girls camp like Rockbrook, the fashion rules of the outside world don’t apply. Makeup is only used for clown costumes and such, hair straighteners and curling irons are useless at best in the heat and humidity, and high heels can only ever end in sprained ankles on the gravel roads.

Here, the rules are rewritten to fit our environment—pretty clothes are replaced with functional ones, carefully styled hair is replaced with crazier styles, and traditional jewelry is replaced with colorful, homemade creations that express personality instead of expense. Camp fashion standards leave more room for creativity and originality, and allow campers and counselors to express exactly who they are and look so cool doing it.

Every summer at Rockbrook has its own styles and trends. Sarah Carter told me today about when she was a counselor in the eighties, and everyone wore oversize t-shirts and men’s boxers as shorts. When I was a counselor, it was all about tank tops and bandanas-as-headbands.

So what are the trends this summer? I talked to a ton of counselors and campers today (several of whom you’ll see in pictures) to find out the big ones.

Chacos and Socks

SHOES
Shoes at camp are all about comfort and functionality. Most people wear Chacos, Tevas, or Keens–though one counselor asked me to point out that Crocs, if worn with the right amount of confidence, are still cool. It’s always a good idea to jazz Chacos up a bit with some colorful socks, too, just to keep things interesting. For extra points, make sure to wear your Chacos enough that you can show off a beautiful Chaco tan-line.

Double Dye
Home Made

SHIRTS
Some of the coolest clothes at camp are the ones that you make right here at Rockbrook. Once you make yourself the perfect multi-colored tie-dye, the only logical thing to do is to show it off as much as possible. Also, see if you can convince your counselor to let you make cabin shirts for Cabin Day. A white t-shirt+puffy paint=quality camp fashion. Odds are very good that you’ll go home with a very cool shirt after your session at RBC!

HAIR
Hair trends often take some interesting twists and turns (often literally) at Rockbrook. Through my years here, I have seen Afro wigs, Mohawks (usually for the dances), Kool-Aid tips, and more. This year, the trends have mainly centered around crazy pigtails and cornrows. Braids are always cool at camp–the more complicated the better. But the cornrow trends (and particularly the half-heads of cornrows that I’ve seen wandering around camp, have really taken this to a new level.

Cornrows
Pigtails

ACCESSORIES
As I mentioned earlier, accessories tend to be made here at camp, not bought. Campers often don’t consider their camp session complete until they have wrists full of friendship bracelets, survival bracelets, and paddling achievement bracelets. But the accessorizing doesn’t stop there. Campers love to show off their camp-made duct tape headbands, wallets, picture frames, and more. They can knit themselves hats in Needlecraft, and weave themselves headbands in Curosty. Rare is the camper who goes home without at least one of these stylish creations.

Full Wrists
Headband

THE FLASH-TAT

Flash Tats

This year, the wildcard trend that none of us saw coming was the Flash Tat. These are basically temporary tattoos with a metallic sheen that work way better than regular make-up at making a girl’s face look unique and interesting. In fact, an entire cabin covered their faces with Flash Tats for their Miss RBC dance, and they all looked so incredible!

These are all of the trends that have come to my attention so far this summer, but if you have noticed others in the pictures, or during your camp session, feel free to comment and share!

Kind, Silly, Brave

There’s no doubt that camp is a remarkable experience for girls. You can see it everyday here at Rockbrook, see it as you browse through the online photo gallery, and hear about it if you ask the campers and counselors how it feels to be here. Of course, camp means having sensational fun, a “really great time,” but as we’ve said many times before, it’s more than that. Coming to Rockbrook means forming relationships, joining a community with a distinctive culture and language, and perhaps most importantly, learning important things about yourself that can make a difference to you later in life.

Kind Camp Girls
Kind Girls at Camp with Friends

Lately, I’ve been thinking more about how camp is a “place for girls to grow,” about the ways that girls benefit from their time at Rockbrook. There are many, but let me focus on three of the more important ones: being kind, silly and brave.

I think Rockbrook teaches girls to be kind. There are lots of reasons for this, but most of them spring from the close relationships we have with each other as a community. Being all girls may have something to do with it, as does the fact that we do everything, all day and night, together (There’s a kinship for all of us here), but the spirit of Rockbrook is rooted in being sensitive to the needs of others, in caring and generosity. The closeness of camp life, realizing that we are all together and that we all belong, fuels our sympathy and compassion for each other. It makes us kind. This explains why it’s the other campers who are first to jump right in and help comfort someone homesick in their cabin. Kindness is at work when hundreds of friendship bracelets are exchanged every session at Rockbrook. It’s true affection for each other that sets the tone in every conversation around camp, while weaving baskets, feet in the creek, and twisting tie dye t-shirts, for example. Camp simply encourages heartfelt relationships. As we all relax and open up our true selves, we grow closer to each other, and kindness blossoms naturally. It’s darn right magical!

Silly Camp Lake Bathing
Silly Camp Spa Treatment

Rockbrook reminds girls that being a little silly is a good thing. There are times, of course, when we all have to be serious, but in many situations there’s room for lighthearted humor, a dash of exuberance, and more than one color. At camp, things are more silly than not, as we easily burst into song, ordinarily add costumes to whatever we find ourselves doing, and are quick to laugh throughout the day. Life at this kind of girls camp feels good, and is more fun, partly because we’ve found a balance between serious tasks, like keeping our cabins clean and taking care of our health, for example, and the joy to be found by appreciating the silly side of our personalities. Camp teaches us that there can be a playful dimension to most things. We dance when setting the dining hall tables. We can sing… gosh, anytime! Waiting in line for muffin break, we can braid our friend’s hair, adding a flower we just picked. We can dress like twins with a bunk mate, just for the fun of it. For girls at camp, it’s pretty easy to smile all day long and to make everything whimsical. In addition, developing this habit of cheerfulness nurtures the girls’ creativity. Learning that it’s OK, even preferable, to include some of their silly side when completing a task is like being given permission to mix things up a bit, to get creative while being productive. That’s why you see Rockbrook girls happily helping around camp, adding decorations to just about everything, and enjoying the most routine tasks. Being silly means being creative, and when done together, that makes something fun, no matter what.

Brave Zip Line Camper
Brave Camp Kayaker

It’s also true that Rockbrook helps girls be more brave. Simply deciding to come to camp, to leave the safety and familiarity of home, takes courage. So being here alone— navigating daily decisions (what to do during free time, for example), taking care of ordinary personal needs (remembering to take a shower, for example), and interacting with so many different people, unusual foods, and new activities —requires some degree of bravery. In addition, some of our camp activities themselves require the girls to muster their courage. It’s completely natural to be afraid of stepping off a rock tethered to a high zip line cable, or to approach a new whitewater rapid in a kayak, or even to stand up in front of the whole camp to tell a joke during the lunch announcements. But these Rockbrook girls are choosing to do it— proving they are both capable and brave. A shy quiet girl at home suddenly is first to fly down the water slide at the lake. A girl who might never choose to join a painting class (thinking, “I’m terrible at art”) feels inspired to join her friends and enjoy the process of being creative. With encouragement springing from every direction, girls may discover the confidence to try all sorts of things they might never be brave enough to accomplish otherwise, from the physical challenges of sports, to the personal challenges of getting along with their cabin mates.

The culture of camp inspires and encourages girls to be kind, silly and brave. It provides regular opportunities, wrapped in the guise of “Big Fun,” to develop these aspects of their personality. We hope that as they grow up, and carry the spirit of Rockbrook with them out into the “real world,” your girls will be happier and more successful strengthened in these ways.

Super Silly Camp Girls Group

First Session Video Highlights

This summer we are lucky to have Robbie Francis of Go Swan Filmworks working with us to produce several short videos about Rockbrook. While scrolling through the online photo gallery is a nice (and addictive!) way to stay in touch with what’s happening at camp, some things are so much better if recorded on video.  Robbie filmed at Rockbrook last Saturday, and now we’re excited to show you the results.

Take a look! We think you’ll love it.

Rockbrook Shake Revisted

If you spent any time watching YouTube in the early Spring of 2013, you probably saw several examples of groups doing the “Harlem Shake.” But, you may not know that the second session girls at Rockbrook made their own version of the video.

You can see the video embedded in this blog post, but here is a photo of the event that is great fun.

Click the photo to expand it, and check out all those amazing costumes! These camp girls know how to have a blast.

See anyone you recognize?

Rockbrook Camp Shake Dance Photo
Rockbrook Harlem Shake

The Five Essential Qualities of a Rockbrook Girl

All Smiles in Needlecraft

“Rockbrook Girl” is a title that we throw around all the time here at camp. We call campers Rockbrook Girls when they help to clean up messes that they didn’t help to create, are friendly to a new camper, or come bounding in on Opening Day with a grin from ear to ear and a fervent (and usually vocal) wish for their parents just to be gone already, so camp can start. We even have a song (“Hooray for [blank], She’s a Rockbrook Girl”), which ascribes that title to anyone at camp that we want to celebrate.

Friendship Bracelet Maker

What is a Rockbrook Girl? Well—the lazy answer is that you just sort of know her when you see her. This is the answer that I nearly always lean on, since every time I put on my analytical hat and try to sum up the essence of a true Rockbrook Girl into a single, ironclad list of qualities, I run into this roadblock: there is such a wide array of thoroughly different Rockbrook Girls that there is an exception to nearly every trait I deem necessary.

Are Rockbrook camp girls talkative? Sure, plenty of them are. But what about the two that I saw yesterday, sitting on the Hill, not saying a word to one another, one sketching, the other reading? They looked incredibly happy to be there, and walked off when the bell rang for Evening Program with huge smiles on their faces. So what if they hadn’t said two words to each other through the whole of Twilight? They had enjoyed that hour with one another just as much as the most talkative girls in camp had.

Balloon Archery

Are Rockbrook girls outdoorsy? Sometimes they are. There are girls who go out on every paddling, rock climbing, and hiking trip that we offer. They want to learn every camping skill that we can teach them, and would happily eschew the allures of air conditioning for the rest of their lives. But what about the ones who like to stay in their cabins with their friends, making friendship bracelets or playing cards? They are no less Rockbrook Girls than the first sort.

You see the challenge. Yet still, I think I have come up with five qualities that sum up Rockbrook Girls, that still manage to allow for the myriad personalities that fit into that category. Some girls show up on their first day of camp, fully equipped with every one of these qualities, ready to take camp by storm. Some gain a little bit more of each of them each year that they come to camp, as Rockbrook helps to shape them into the adults that they will become.

Buddies in Folklore

1. Friendliness
Whether they are talkative or quiet, shy or outgoing, Rockbrook Girls are always friendly to one another. There’s no room here at camp for the cliques and exclusion that you can find at schools, and Rockbrook Girls tend to get that right away. In fact, it’s one of the qualities of camp that they relish most. Rockbrook girls view every person that they see as a potential friend, and will go out of their way to treat those people with kindness and respect.

Cracking Up in Hodge Podge

2. Laughter
Rockbrook girls laugh. They laugh when something is funny, of course, but they also laugh at themselves, when they do something silly or make a mistake. Sometimes they just laugh to fill the silences, to make sure that no one is getting too bored. Most importantly, though, they laugh when things don’t go right. They push through frustration and embarrassment, and find the humor in every situation, knowing that as long as they can laugh at it, no challenge is too difficult to tackle. Just the other day, during swim demos, I saw one of our youngest campers jump into the lake, and immediately ask the life guards to help her out. She climbed out of the lake and over to me with a grin on her face. She shrugged, and said “Well, that didn’t go so well!” I reassured her that the cold water can be a shock the first time you jump in, and that there’s nothing wrong with not quite getting it the first time. She laughed out loud, and said, “I’m not worried! I’ll just go again tomorrow.” And she marched off to join her new friends. That, right there, was a Rockbrook Girl.

gymnasitic leap

3. Daring
Every girl here has at least enough daring to leave the familiarity of home, and come to a place as crazy as this for a few weeks. That is impressive enough already. But, while they’re here, this trait can manifest itself in manifold ways. Maybe they go on every trip that we offer without looking back. Maybe they have to stand at the edge of the rock that starts the zip line for ten minutes before stepping off into thin air. Maybe they audition for the play on day one. Maybe they dread the Evening Program skits every night, but join in resolutely anyway, taking on a bigger and bigger role each time. Regardless of the form of their daring—whether effortless, or a quieter, more determined sort of courage—Rockbrook Girls always possess a bit of it.

Painting With Straws

4. Helpfulness
Every girl at camp has jobs to do. Whether they have to take out the cabin trash in the morning, clear the tables after a meal, or keep their area in the cabin neat for the sake of their cabin-mates, they are great about remembering their responsibility to help keep camp clean. True Rockbrook Girls, though, tend to go the extra mile. They offer to help a new camper find their way to their activities, they stay behind after craft activities to help clean up the supplies, they walk their friends to the deducky if they have to go in the middle of the night, they lend out their flashlights and costumes and stationery, they sit and listen and offer a shoulder to cry on whenever a friend is upset… there are countless ways that they find to help. This comes, I think, from being very aware that they are a key part of this community. They feel acutely the responsibility that comes along with that, and want to help in any way they can to make our community strong.

Superstar

5. Confidence to be who they are
This is a hard one. We all feel that urge to change bits of ourselves to fit in and be a part of the cool crowd. Rarely (though it does happen) do girls come into their first year of camp feeling entirely comfortable with who they are, quirks and all. But as they come back, year after year, something begins to change. They find it a little easier to be friendly to new or “uncool” girls. They find it a little easier to laugh when things get tough. They find it a little easier to call on that sense of daring when needed. They find it a little easier to lend a helping hand, even when it might inconvenience them. And, most importantly, after years of being surrounded by friendly, happy, daring, and helpful friends who love and support them in everything they do, Rockbrook girls find it a little easier to show the world their true selves, without apology.