More Mindful

One of my favorite things to do during camp is to wander into an activity area and hang out with the girls. As they busily shape their clay, twist and tie white t-shirts prepping them for dyes, or struggle to find the next climbing hold on the tower, they are funny and chatty with each other. Laughter punctuates their conversations. Support and encouragement flow between them. Their instincts are so positive, so cheerful, their friendships so relaxed and natural. It’s a special experience just to witness it. Even better, I’ve found it rejuvenating to join in, if not to do the activity, then to join the conversation.

teen equestrian girl and horse

For example, today I hung out with a couple of 8th graders while they worked on their embroidery projects. It was right before dinner during the 2nd block of “free swim” free time. While I didn’t grab a needle and thread myself, we had a great conversation about how camp was going. I asked them what they thought made camp so special. For them, what do they like about life at Rockbrook (one of my favorite things to think about and ask campers about)? These two girls have been coming to camp for about 5 years each, and were here for the main 4-week session, so they would have a solid perspective to offer. I was expecting them to say how they loved the variety of activities (they did), and enjoyed the food (they did, enthusiastically!), and appreciated their counselors (“easily the best counselors I’ve ever had. I love them so much,” they told me). These clearly are important components of what makes camp life great. But after thinking about it a bit more, one of them said something extraordinarily insightful.

two cute camp girls

She said, “Being at camp makes me more mindful of things.” By “more,” she meant compared to being at home interacting with her school friends. “When I’m here I pay attention to more things, and appreciate more things,” she explained. When I asked her why that was the case, what it was about life at camp that made her more mindful, she said, “It probably has to do with not having my phone, but I think it’s also that there’s more time to slow down and notice things.”

Wow! That is so true! I think this insightful young person put her finger on one of the most important aspects of camp life— that it provides an environment that encourages us, campers and staff alike, to be more mindful. It inspires us to pay attention to the world around us, to the people, to nature, and to who we really are. So many of the important benefits of camp, I suspect, can be traced to this.

The core experience of making friends at camp, of forging a strong mutual relationship with someone who really knows you and really cares about you, grows from being mindful of each other. The success girls feel when making decisions independently, dozens of decisions each day, builds from paying attention to the details of the environment. Developing social skills depends on an awareness of others, their feelings, expectations, and needs. Tapping into the wonders and beauty of nature requires our mindful attention. To have fun, in some ways, means being attentive to the activity itself, unaware of how your skills compare, or the final score of the game.

blond child hold up wrist with bracelets

I think she is right, also, that the slower pace of camp, along with it being “screen-free,” are important conditions that make us more mindful at camp. Instead of charging full speed ahead, striving to “get ahead,” in the outside world, camp provides free time to “notice and appreciate” more of what’s right next to us. Moving too fast always means skimming over things, as being hectic is the enemy of being mindful. Life at camp is a welcome relief from all that. With less urgency in the mix, camp provides this kind of special permission to notice.

And yes, having instant, easy access to a smartphone is obviously a distraction. The lure of passive entertainment and the thrill of social media trends dull our sensitivity to the nuances around us. That’s surely a recipe for diminished relationships of all kinds. When campers can’t default to their devices whenever things slow down, or become “awkward” for some reason, they are more inclined to pay attention to, and engage with, what’s around them. Ditching their smartphones makes their lives more rich.

girl eating ice cream cone

Could this be the reason everything seems better at camp— the friendships deeper, the food more delicious, our sense of self more confident, our feelings of gratitude and love more genuine and widespread? Maybe so. Maybe taking a break from the frantic pace of ordinarily life, with all its demands and distractions, is what makes camp life feel so good. Camp is a haven from all that, a safe place to pay attention, enrich your experience, and make connections that might not otherwise form. I think that’s what this needle crafting young person meant. Girls love Rockbrook for all sorts of reasons, but I think its ability to inspire mindfulness is an important part of that positive feeling.

Isn’t that amazing?! Thank goodness for camp! It’s giving your girls firsthand experience of this approach to life. It’s showing them that paying attention is both important and rewarding. It’s demonstrating how to enrich their relationships with just about everything, people and activities alike. Camp is allowing them live these insights and perhaps later at home, to be a little more mindful.

camp girls playing gaga ball

Tours of Camp

Ordinarily during this part of the summer we are giving lots of tours. It’s quite common for families who have somehow heard of Rockbrook to stop by when they are in the area and get a first-hand glimpse into life at camp. For someone who hasn’t seen Rockbrook girls in their element, a tour is marvelous. This summer, however, as we think about precautions against the coronavirus, we are not offering tours. We are trying to minimize our contact with people outside of camp, and unfortunately, this means camp tours have been restricted.

zipline kids camp

OK, no tours this summer, but what are they usually like?

A tour of Rockbrook will certainly showcase the facilities— our renovated bathrooms and showers with unlimited hot water, our covered horseback riding arena that’s the biggest of any camp in NC, our 2 19th-century log cabins used for craft activities, our stone meeting lodges, the waterfalls and rock faces on the property, climbing tower, unique lake, dining hall and rustic sleeping cabins. Visitors to Rockbrook are often struck by the organic beauty of the place. With its large trees, creeks and thick forest setting, and really not much “lawn,” it’s immediately apparent that this 100-year old camp has a special depth. Different from the overly landscaped environments common elsewhere, you can feel the close relationship Rockbrook has with nature. That’s all good stuff but being enamored with a camp’s facilities, while interesting, is only part of the story.

camp girl weaving on floor loom

Touring during the summer is also a great way to see many of the camp activities in motion, see actual campers clicking their looms, firing their guns, and rolling their kayaks, for example. Being here in the morning, means witnessing the joyful rush toward the dining hall for muffin break. You’ll probably catch a glimpse of a girl flying past the office on the final zipline of the course. You’re bound to see many examples of artistic creativity as girls work with clay, colorful bottles of dye, yarns, paints, wood and wax. You’ll probably spend a little time at the Rockbrook Riding Center watching girls walk, trot, canter and jump, and at the Rockbrook lake marveling at the range of water activity, from screaming down the waterslide to relaxing in a floating tube. Girls are having a lot of fun at camp, clearly, but realizing that is still not the best reason to take a tour of Rockbrook.

teen girl pulling arrow on bow

The best part of taking a camp tour is meeting the people of Rockbrook, both the campers and the staff members. There are just really great folks here, friendly caring people, all enthusiastic about camp. You can spot these qualities when you see how the girls treat each other so nicely. They’re paying attention to each other, smiling at each other, showing that they care. Meeting girls at Rockbrook is marvelous because they’re so refreshingly silly, genuinely comfortable and happy. Immersed in the Rockbrook camp culture, you can tell that they love camp. Most will tell you that there’s no other place they’d rather be. It feels that good to be at camp. Once again, it’s the people that make the camp, and hence are the most delightful part of every tour.

If you already send your daughter to Rockbrook, you probably know all this. You’ve seen hints of it in the photo gallery, maybe even read something about it in a letter home. You don’t need a tour to appreciate the beauty, the fun, and the people of Rockbrook. For others, we hope our Web site —its photography, videos, and written descriptions— can help, at least until that time when we can offer tours again.

gymnastics camp kids

The Best Kind of Busy

Today we welcomed another group of excited, eager girls to Rockbrook as we opened our second July Mini session. It started around 8:30am as cars began pulling into the riding center driveway, making their way through our new drive-through check-in procedure. After quick stops to meet folks from the office, Brittany the riding director, camp director Sarah Carter, and our team of nurses, it was time to drive up into camp and meet even more people. A mob of smiling, cheering counselors waited at the top of the hill also eager to get started with camp. The energy of camp— friendly, supportive, accepting and silly —was bubbling up right away. These campers, and some of the counselors too, have been waiting for two years to experience this energetic fun. Finally, we can get started!

best summer camp friends

Getting started means setting up the bunks, making beds, and of course getting to know the others in your cabin. It means, right away, tackling challenges with the support of your peers rather than your parents. Starting the first day of camp means feeling a little nervous but also relieved to find so many nice people in your cabin group. The first day of camp includes learning that the hill is steep when walking from the gym to the Junior line. It means discovering that the food at camp is delicious and plentiful, as giant platters of homemade mac-n-cheese made their way to the tables for lunch. Since we often like to spend time swimming at camp, the first day also means demonstrating your swimming ability in our mountain stream-fed, highly “refreshing” lake, and receiving your own tag for the tag board. Most importantly, this first day of camp marks the beginning of a great adventure, one filled with nature, relationships with caring people, meaningful conversations, and daily new experiences.

summer camp buddy tag board

Swimming in the Rockbrook lake is one of the unique treats at camp. 100 years ago when the camp was founded, the lake was smaller, perhaps one quarter its current size. Like all of the lakes in this area, it’s manmade, and relies on an earthen dam for it to exist. It was expanded in 1925 by digging a deeper section and building a larger dam. Men dug by hand and used horses to drag the dirt out. The lake has six very large boulders and many large trees around its perimeter giving it the feeling of an ancient swimming hole hidden in the forest. It’s rumored that when viewed from above, the outline of the lake is the shape of our mascot – a cardinal! There’s a fun 50-ft waterslide on one end, a dock and diving board on the other. One portion is more shallow, perfect for swimming laps or just playing in the water while standing up. It’s approximately 14 feet deep in the center. Throughout the day during activity periods, plus during the two “free swim” periods before lunch and dinner, girls are splashing and playing in the water. The lake is a very popular place to be at camp!

We’re very happy to have these new friends join the full session girls already at camp. With a full house again, we’ll have every activity in motion tomorrow, all of us happily getting busy. Since it’s camp, that’s the best kind of busy.

camp girls dressed in traditional uniform

Delightfully Familiar

It’s been a very special time at camp the last couple of days, that time between our July Mini sessions when just the full Second session girls are here at camp. After the first July mini session finishes, we go from about 210 campers to 130, turning Rockbrook into a smaller camp filled with well-adjusted camp girls. These are girls who are fully settled into the routines of camp, now comfortable with each other, and able to feel more at home rather than just “on vacation.”

water slide peace sign kid

That’s one of the benefits of coming to camp for a longer session. Camp life begins to mean more and matter more. With extra days at camp, these girls have more time to deepen their friendships, strengthen their relationships with the camp staff, develop more advanced activity skills, and begin to absorb some of the more nuanced qualities of the Rockbrook culture. Better habits can begin to form too— for example, being quicker and more cheerfully willing to help with chores, smiling and saying “hello” to everyone, even getting better sleep after our full, active, screen-free days. Some of the things about camp that are different from home, and maybe strange at first— like living this close to the weather, using a flashlight every night, walking up and down the hills, and the temperature of the lake —now become delightfully familiar.

I noticed an example of this familiarity today talking with a couple of 5th graders after lunch. They had hung back to get a drink of water before rest hour, and I bumped into them outside. I said hello, and soon we were having a 10-minute conversation about lunch (They loved the taquitos and guacamole.), their activities (They had swimming next. “That’s good,” they reassured me), and their favorite muffin flavor (Funfetti). I learned that one has a brother who goes to High Rocks, and the other is an only child. For both of them, this was their first summer at camp. They were here for 4 weeks, and they were doing great.

child pulling back archery bow

I was struck by how easy going this conversation was, how happily chatty these girls were with me, how relaxed they were talking with an adult. Outside of camp, I find these encounters more rare. On many occasions, I’ve met kids who are instantly uncomfortable talking with adults, who don’t ask questions or offer their perspective into things. Even when prompted with “what do you think?” they can barely squeak out “I don’t know.” I always find that so strange compared to the girls I know at Rockbrook.

At camp, friendly conversation is the currency of our day. It’s a powerful force always humming in the background if it’s not the focus of our attention. It’s the most natural thing in the world for camp girls… a genuine interest in those around them, and a desire to connect with them, and when at camp, to play with them. Camp girls know that everything is better when it’s done with others. With the right attitude, you can have fun with anyone. So, it’s almost an instinct to seek out new friends. This desire and ability to connect with other people is sort of a camp girl super power, and it’s one that I think will serve them very well later in life.

girls racing through carnival course

We held a special circus-themed carnival this evening on our landsports field. Scattered about the field there were activities and games for the girls: two large inflatables (One was a waterslide.), giant ring toss, pingpong ball tossing into a jars, water gun shooting pingpong balls, bean bag tossing (plenty of tossing!), face painting, hula hooping, and juggling. Two counselors drew caricatures of the campers. Throughout the event we ate snow cones, and played familiar pop songs, making the event a fun outdoor dance party as the girls zoomed from one activity to the other, pausing briefly to pose for photos. It was a lighthearted and silly evening for everyone. There’s an album of photos in the online gallery where you can see much more.

two teen girls wearing clown noses

Muffin Break!

Let’s take a break, a “muffin break” and talk about that time each morning between the first and second activity periods when everyone in camp scurries back to the dining hall to sample the day’s freshly baked muffin. You might call it a “snack break” or a “mid-morning snack,” but around here everyone knows it as “muffin break.”

tray of freshly baked camp muffins

Sarah Carter invented the idea of muffin break more than a decade ago when she thought the girls needed a little something to nibble between breakfast (8:30am) and lunch (1:00pm). With all the action happening at camp, the girls were hungry by 11am! Sarah also knew that having something freshly baked was always a welcome treat. A baker herself, she thought, “why not muffins?”

Our head chef Rick Hastings took the idea and whipped it up to a different level, introducing novel flavors and hiring a dedicated baker as part of his kitchen staff. The baker starts early in the morning crafting the day’s muffins so they can be fresh out of the oven before 11am. This is quite a job too! On a regular day we bake 300 muffins to make sure everybody in camp, campers and staff alike, can have one. In addition, the baker makes a gluten-free version each day, adding to the overall number.

In typical Rockbrook fashion, there’s a fun element of surprise to muffin break, as well. The baker works hard to rotate the flavor of the muffins so we never know what “today’s muffin” will be. Walking up to the dining hall at the right time, in fact, you’re bound to hear that question, “What’s the muffin flavor?” The baker will sometimes invent flavors never before served. Over the years, I remember “key lime pie,” “tootsie roll,” and “s’mores.” Also though, there are standard flavors that by popular demand make regular appearances.

So without further ado, here are:

The Top 10 Muffin Flavors at Rockbrook:

  1. Pumpkin Chocolate Chip
  2. “Funfetti” (colorful sprinkles in a vanilla base)
  3. Lemon Poppyseed
  4. Blueberry
  5. White Chocolate Cranberry
  6. Oreo Cookie
  7. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
  8. Brown Sugar Banana
  9. Mint Chocolate Chip
  10. Cookie M&M

The exact order of these is highly debatable, with strong preferences breaking out when you ask campers about their favorites. Honestly they’re all good! The girls love being surprised with the day’s flavor and enjoying what the muffins taste like. So delicious!

summer camp girls

Rebuilding Social Muscle

A parent made an interesting comment to me today. She said that she could tell her daughter was relaxing and settling into camp. Looking at the photo gallery, she could “see it on her face.” After these first couple of weeks at camp, her daughter’s smile was more natural, her body language more comfortable, and her closeness to the other girls more obvious.

silly lake squirt gun fun

That was great to hear! I’ve noticed it too. As we’ve moved along into the session, and spent more and more time together— living in the cabin, playing in activities, and singing at meals —the girls have gotten to know each other better and begun to absorb the camp spirit that guides our relationships here. They’re beginning to intuit what I described yesterday… that the Rockbrook community is uniquely kind and supportive, upbeat and inclusive. It’s a place where being your true self, perfectly imperfect, is celebrated. Your girls are beginning to feel like they belong at Rockbrook, staying happily busy and deepening their friendships. It’s so nice to see this important growth.

We were worried this common experience at camp would be tougher or slower this summer following the social isolation most kids experienced during the pandemic. Social skills are like a muscle that needs both training to be fully formed, and regular exercise to maintain its strength and ability. And like a muscle, social skills can atrophy if neglected. By squashing in-person peer interactions and forcing relationships online, the coronavirus pandemic robbed our kids of crucial social development, potentially weakening their ability to relate positively with one another. Being separated from other kids this last year, our children received very little social-emotional learning.

Fortunately, the power of camp life to bring us together has been proven stronger. The spirit of the Rockbrook community has inspired us all again, helped us understand ourselves and each other. It’s working. We’re rebuilding social muscle and providing it regular exercise. And the results are beautiful!

camp sliding rock fun

It was the full session Senior’s turn to visit Sliding Rock tonight. We loaded up six buses after dinner and made the trip to the Rock. Slide after slide, the girls had blast zipping down the rock and splashing into the pool below. The scream-inducing cold water makes things extra exciting even as it makes it hard for the girls to slide more than 3 or 4 times. After that, lips are blue, and there’s so much shivering we have to call an end to the runs. Eating cold ice cream from Dolly’s immediately after sliding may seem odd, but not if you’ve tasted it. One girl said she was excited because it’d been two years since she’d had a Dolly’s cone. Her wait was over!

We also held the closing campfire for our first July mini session campers. Like our traditional session Spirit Fire, the girls took turns talking about their experience of camp this session, singing a few traditional songs, and to finish the evening, lighting a small white candle. It’s always a nice way to finish up a camp session— friends right by your side, thoughtful words about camp, time to recall good times together, and a desire to keep the good feelings going into next year. It means saying goodbye in the morning, but it’s also a recognition that what we’ve shared will certainly last a very long time. Something this good just sinks in like that.

best teen friends at summer camp

Wholesale Happiness

If you spend a little time with the campers at Rockbrook, it doesn’t take long to realize they are abundantly happy. Even oddly so. You see girls doing things that seem pretty mundane. You even see girls enduring things that are ostensibly uncomfortable. And yet, at the same time they are truly happy, sometimes jittery with excitement and other times simply smiling with content, but clearly being especially joyful.

two summer horse girls

I saw it the other day when hiking with the Hi-Ups, the 16-year-old campers. We were strolling along enjoying all the diversity of plants in this part of North Carolina, and the girls were chatting and laughing about nothing in particular. Every so often, one would start singing a song, in this case a song from Moana the Disney movie, and soon most of girls were joining in to sing along. This inspired another Disney song, and then another, quickly becoming a medley. These teenage girls were gleefully hiking, sweating up the hills, ducking through briars, hopping over rocks to cross a stream, sliding down slippery slopes. They didn’t question or complain, but instead happily sang and talked about how much fun they were having. These were not surly teens glued to their phones; they were enthusiastic young people enjoying a unique experience with their good friends.

Maybe you got a sense of the wholesale happiness of camp life by watching yesterday’s video. You saw your camp girls happily working on craft projects, playing tetherball, zipping down the waterslide, climbing the alpine tower, shooting rifles and paddling canoes. At the same time, still happily (!), they were overcoming challenges, swishing away bugs, wiping away sweat, mustering their courage to take that first step down the waterslide and up the climbing tower. Sure, there have been disagreements and frustrations along the way, but at camp these speed bumps are easily overcome.

Camp girls don’t need the “comforts of home” or some other luxury to be happy. They don’t need a private room or a personalized menu for their meals. They don’t need electronic entertainment, or really good wi-fi. At camp, there are no flickering screens to pull their attention away from the real world and all that it offers. They don’t need everything to be “perfect” or to go exactly right. They don’t need to win some kind of competition proving their superior looks, smarts, wealth, or family pedigree. At camp, we’re all different and that’s a good thing, right from the start. Camp girls don’t even need specific activities to be happy while they’re here, either. We could drop almost anything we do (well, maybe not muffin break!), or change our activity offerings, and the girls here would still have what they need to be happy throughout their day.

camper girl shooting rifle

So what do they need to be this happy at camp? They need a few essential things like food and shelter, and the occasional bit of health care, and I’d say they need to be active and outdoors, but most importantly, they need each other. They need kindness from the people around them. They need to know deep down that they are included, respected, and loved for who they really are, “safe in their own skin,” “quirks and all.” They need to feel genuine support from their peers. You see, camp relationships are special like this. They are not colored by social posturing, which is all too common in other contexts. Interpersonal tensions at camp are ordinarily quickly resolved with heartfelt communication and appeals to being a “Rockbrook girl.” In this kind of community, built of relationships supported by a positive camp culture, girls naturally feel good about themselves, really good about themselves. They become stronger and more confident. And yes, deeply happy.

All of us at Rockbrook are so fortunate to be a part of this community, to be connected to the people here, and to be surrounded by all this happiness. It’s truly wonderful.

summer camp children

Action-Packed Celebration

When it’s the 4th of July at camp, we can’t have an ordinary day. There’s always a bit of celebration going on at camp since we’re gathering together and enjoying ourselves just by being here, but when there’s a clear holiday happening too, we’re all in!

4th of July horses in camp line
water cup over head relay
Camp Marble foot game

We started the day with horses riding up and down the cabin lines, a long July 4th tradition at Rockbrook. All eleven of our equestrian staff rode a horse, and while they rode, they woke up the campers by yelling, “The British are coming! Wake up! Wake up!” Unlike Paul Revere, our horses were highly decorated with red, white and blue ribbons, bows, paint, leg wraps, blankets, and even jaunty hat. You can imagine the surprise of the campers to hear hoofbeats outside their cabin along with the warnings to wake up.

The girls next came out on the hill for the Hi-Ups to raise the American flag along with our white Rockbrook flag underneath. We all recited the Pledge of Allegiance and sang “America the Beautiful,” as the sun began to clear off the morning fog.

The Middlers presented a chapel program on the theme of “Courage,” focusing on different examples during camp when a little bravery can make a big difference… helping remove a spider from a cabin by catching it in a cup, taking your first ride down the 50-ft water slide at the lake, even trying a new food like stuffed grape leaves or falafel. Sarah read a book by Bernard Waber entitled Courage. Like all the chapel programs at camp, this was a brief time to think about an idea that can guide us all as we face the challenges of being at camp, not religious per se, but still something that recognizes a fundamental quality of being human.

Grilled Chicken caesar salads, potato chips and fresh blackberries made our excellent lunch. During rest hour the girls prepared for our all-camp afternoon event by dressing up in their best red, white and blue— shirts and shorts with American flags, headbands, sunglasses, and hats. These girls were ready to go all out! A few counselors pulled out tempura paint to add colors to their arms, legs and faces too!

We divided the camp into 4 large groups, and created a rotation where each group would travel to a different part of camp to play a series of games. With music playing at several of the locations, we were at the lake, on the hill, the archery field, and by the creek.

balloon tossing game
cheese balls on the head game
greased watermelon in the lake

A lot of the games involved water. The girls tossed water balloons back and forth trying not to pop them. Toss, step back and toss again, farther and farther until someone got wet.

They used sponges soaked in water to fill an empty bucket, but they had to pass the dripping sponge hand-to-hand to every cabin mate. And the sponge had to be passed over their heads and through their legs.

A similar race involved filling a bucket with water from a leaking cup, also passed overhead from person to person.

One game had girls racing to find marbles in a pool of water, only using their feet! Picking up a marble with your toes is surprisingly difficult!

At the lake, the girls swam with greased watermelons trying to be the first cabin to move the melon across a distance a few times. They did tricks off the diving board and gathered pingpong balls from another section of the lake.

One of the funniest challenges combined shaving cream and cheese balls (?)! One team member squirted shaving cream on her head (shower cap optional) and the other stood at a distance tossing cheese balls hoping to stick them in the shaving cream. The team with the most balls stuck “won.” I think the record was 13. Silly but loads of fun.

Dinner was a classic Independence Day picnic: barbecue sliders (with a tempeh option), corn on the cob, homemade vinegar coleslaw, tater tots and watermelon, with cans of Cheerwine chilling in the creek. For dessert, the bakers impressed us all again by serving a brownie cheesecake bar with red, white and blue icing. Like all the desserts at camp, this homemade treat was a huge hit.

After dinner, a few brave counselors entertained everyone by demonstrating their ability to eat a pie (“pie eating demos”?). Without using their hands, and as fast as possible, each person bent over a full-size pie, digging in face-first. The entire camp cheered them on, the loudest being the girls from those counselors’ cabins. In the end, Cary noshed here apple pie most completely and “won” the contest.

The highlight of the evening was the fireworks show we launched from the lake. With fun dance music pumping across the hill, and the girls dancing about with flashlights and glow sticks, colorful explosions filled the night sky. It was quite an elaborate show lasting about 30 minutes, turning the hill into an amazing nighttime dance party of “oohs” and “ahhs.”

What an action-packed celebration! A community of friends playing, swimming and singing… cheese balls and pingpong balls… leaking cups and dripping sponges… pies and pyrotechnics. Good food and good feelings. All part of a great day at camp.

Girl Camp Friends

The Deepest Root

Don’t be surprised if your household acquires a piece of handwoven fabric once camp is over. The girls here at camp are busily using different techniques to weave all sorts of cord and thread into complex, colorful patterns.

campers macrame project

You may be thinking of weaving on a loom, and there is a lot of that happening in the Curosty activity cabin. That’s one of the historic log cabins at Rockbrook that predate the founding of the camp. The wide, peddle-operated floor looms, and the smaller tabletop versions, are in constant motion, the shuttle gliding back and forth between the warp threads. A great example of hand weaving is also catching on this summer: macramé. This is another ancient technique for making a textile by tying knots. Using different cords and string, square knots and hitches combine to make complex decorative patterns. Macramé was a popular hobby in the 1970s, and now here at camp girls are bringing it back, making wall hangings and smaller keychains. Similar to making a friendship bracelet, these macramé projects are fun for the girls as each knot they add reveals a unique growing pattern.

The Alpine Tower is our challenge climbing structure located in the woods behind the gym. It’s a system of logs, cables and ropes that allows multiple girls to climb at the same time. It’s triangular shape offer three sides of different climbing elements: swinging logs, a cargo net, an overhanging wall, for example. Climbing holds are bolted to the poles and girls use the ropes, cables and holds to climb 50 feet up to the platform at the top.

Climbing the tower takes not only strength, flexibility and a sense of balance; it takes nerve. With each step up, standing on small holds or narrow poles, the feeling of being high in air increases, and so does your worry about possibly slipping and falling. Even though you know there is a really strong rope that will hold you up, it’s still pretty scary to be that high up in the air. It takes determination and some confidence to push through the fear, and focus on the challenge of finding the next hold higher up. The girls today did great, most making it all the way to the top, and everyone feeling good about overcoming the challenges of the activity.

summer camp dance for girls

Our evening program tonight got everyone dressed up and dancing because it was an all-girls dance party with a “prom” theme. Actually it was three dance parties, since each line (age group) held its own version in a different location. The costumes ranged from simple dresses to tie-dye t-shirts, and included a few hats, necklaces of beads, and tutus. The juniors were excited to try out a few line dances in the dining hall, while the middlers took over the hillside lodge. Since the seniors are the largest group they jumped and danced in the gym. No boys in sight, these girls know how to have a good time being silly, singing and twirling with each other. Of course, they were more than happy to pause for a quick “prom photo.” Be sure to check the photo gallery to see how everyone was dressed.

These dances proved once again that it doesn’t take much for your girls to enjoy themselves at camp. Music, costumes, a few decorations and some snacks are the outward ingredients, but I think the most important component is the complete feeling of ease the girls feel toward each other. They’re not afraid to cast off their “social armor” because kindness is the deepest root of their friendships at camp. They’re not holding back, worried about what someone might think or say that might hurt their feelings. They know that being awkward is totally OK, even cool around here. It doesn’t matter how well you can sing or dance, because at camp being fully into the moment is clearly most important. There it is again— that magical power of camp to make things more fun by building upon the great relationships we have with everyone in the community. More fun, more rewarding, more meaningful, more lasting and important… but don’t get me started!

kid training in archery

Who are the COWs ?

Today in the Dining Hall there was lots of moo-ing sounds during announcements. Campers and counselors alike joined in on the noise-making in eager anticipation of the reveal of this week’s Counselors of the Week, or COWs for short. Each week we recognize two counselors from each age group who have contributed in big ways to the camp community.

camp girl learning potters wheel

All of our staff are incredibly invested when it comes to creating camp magic, and it is a lot of fun to celebrate some specific victories amongst our staff once a week. Especially if that celebration sounds like moo-ing.

Campers have a chance to nominate their counselor for a COW award throughout their time at camp. The nomination form asks campers to tell us why their counselor deserves to be a COW, and we tend to get some very thoughtful responses:

“She has a solution to every problem and is always super kind. She never fails to make us laugh.”

“She is attentive to our needs and she knows when to joke around and when to be serious. My counselor helps us resolve conflicts in the cabin.”

“My counselor’s upbeat personality and awesome dance moves keep us going. She makes camp a truly wonderful experience. She has the amazing ability to both hype us up and calm us down as needed.”

“My counselor is so patient and nice!”

“She is funny and cool and always helps you when you need it.”

“My counselor holds us to a high standard because she wants us to be the best versions of ourselves. She recognizes our uniqueness and never talks down to us. She reads to us every night and she takes good care of us when we need help. We love her so much!”

Camp adventure staff woman helping child

Being a counselor at Rockbrook is a big job. Between teaching activities, planning special events, and serving up enthusiasm all day every day, our staff also make space for important one-on-one conversations with campers and reading a chapter to their cabin at lights out each night. Our counselors teach campers how to tie a friendship for their uniform tie, and they also teach campers how to bounce back after hurt feelings or a scraped knee. Rockbrook counselors cheer campers on as they make their own beds, climb to the top of the alpine tower, try a new food in the dining hall, sing a solo in the camp play, make a new friend, speak up for themselves in a cabin discussion, and try an activity they didn’t think they’d like.

Summer Camp counselor women

The most important part of the counselor job is serving as an example of what it means to have Rockbrook Spirit. We want our staff to exude kindness and enthusiasm, grit and determination, friendliness and inclusion, because we hope our campers will embody those characteristics, too. Our counselors model the ways they want to see our community thrive, and campers are right there watching and learning along the way. We know those campers are watching because they tell us on their COW nominations just how much they are learning from their counselors every day. But more than that, we see the strong bonds that form between counselors and their campers, a true reflection of the investment our staff members are excited to make in the Rockbrook experience overall.

So moo with me, won’t you? We’ve got lots to celebrate when it comes to these fantastic Rockbrook counselors!

group of young campers at the garden with their teachers