First Session Highlights Video – Part Two

Robbie Francis of FrancisFilmworks worked his filming and editing magic again this week to produce another short video for us. He spent the day last Thursday filming, and now we have this wonderful glimpse into life at camp. The video does a great job of depicting the mood of camp… so much action and so many happy girls!

Take a look, and let us know what you think.

First Session Highlights Video

It’s always difficult to describe camp life to those who haven’t experienced it. Of course, we try all the time —by writing blog posts and posting hundreds of photos to our online gallery— but the experience is far too rich, complex and emotional to convey like that.

Fortunately, we have some video as well. We’re happy to say Robbie Francis of FrancisFilmworks is again working with us this summer to produce short videos each session.  He came to camp on Thursday and now has his first edited short of 2022 ready for you to see.

Take a look! You will love it.

P.S. Be sure to have the volume turned up. Hearing camp is amazing!

Camp Pen Pals – Hooray!

Coming to camp is so much about friendship. Camp means meeting new people and making friends. It means learning how to be a good friend, a true friend. Life at camp shows you that friends can be older or younger than you (doesn’t matter), friends can be from far away (even from another country), and friends can be deeply supportive (especially when they know you so well).

At Rockbrook making friends starts before you even arrive. That’s because, in the spring before camp, everyone coming is paired with a pen pal. Your pen pal is another camper who will be coming to your same session, and is someone we think you’ll enjoy getting know. She’ll be similar in age, and possibly assigned to your same cabin. Your penpal could be a returning camper or someone who is experiencing Rockbrook for the first time.

Camp Pen Pals

For years now, decades actually, we’ve paired up girls as pen pals before camp because we know how much fun it is to share your excitement about camp with another girl who will be attending. That’s the point— to begin making a connection with a new camp friend even before arriving.

Even if this is your first time at camp, and even if you don’t know anyone who already attends, your pen pal can be your first camp friend. You can look forward to seeing a friendly face you on your very first day. You can sign up for activities together, go to free swim together, and sit together during evening programs.

Every April, we send each camper the name and address (and email address) of her new camp pen pal. In the letter, we also enclose a fun postcard to help inspire your first letter.

So let’s get started! Grab a pen, some markers, or colored pencils and write that card. Or, if you’d rather, compose an email introducing yourself. Or, really get creative and write a whole letter on a piece of paper you decorated. But, don’t delay! Your pen pal really wants to hear from you!

What to write? Almost anything about yourself will be great— What’s your favorite food? Do you have any pets? Brothers or sisters? Hobbies? Sports? What are things about camp you’re looking forward to? Are you planning to pack a funny costume for camp? Ask some questions too, so you can get a conversation going.

Go ahead and write more than once! Everybody loves getting mail. If your pen pal doesn’t write back at first, don’t let that prevent you from writing again. It will help!

Writing your penpal is really fun! Hooray!

2nd Session Video Glimpse

Robbie Francis of Go Swan Filmworks is returning to Rockbrook this summer to film and present a series of highlights videos, each a unique glimpse into life at camp.

It’s Robbie’s 5th year making these occasional videos for us. Every time, he has a striking ability to convey the action, creativity and genuine closeness that make up our days.

Robbie filmed this past week and now we have his first video of the session. Take a look and enjoy!

You’ll want to watch it more than once!

Click here for the video. Or see below.

Looking Forward to Camp in 2021

It might only be February, but we are so excited about welcoming girls back to Rockbrook in 2021! After all the challenges and sacrifices everyone has faced this past year, we’ve been thinking about camp, dreaming about camp, and feeling really good about what a summer in the heart of a wooded mountain will provide.

February 8, 2021

A Hello from Sarah and Jeff

In this video, camp directors Sarah and Jeff Carter look forward to the summer and discuss their planning for a healthy and safe camp in 2021.
 

As the coronavirus pandemic conditions have been changing, we have been considering how every aspect of life at camp might be affected. Working with guidance from the American Camp Association and our state Health Department, we’ve been identifying essential principles and protocols that will guide us as we adjust how certain things are done at camp.

If we are to protect ourselves from being exposed to the coronavirus, there will most likely be new ways we sign up for activities, take out-of-camp trips, eat our meals, and gather for evening programs, for example. We will have to be careful in several important ways.

While there is some good news on the horizon as vaccines are becoming increasingly available, it’s difficult to predict every detail of what will be different this summer at camp. Even so, while we ask for your patience, we would like to share with you what we are anticipating so you can begin planning and thinking about the summer.

Questions!

Here are a few of the questions we’ve been hearing, along with our best answers at this time.

Some of these answers may change as we get closer to the summer, but for now, this is what we know. We will certainly keep you informed when we have updates!

How will we practice “social distancing” at camp?

child and horse at summer camp

This summer we will consider every cabin group a “family” where the campers and counselors sleeping in the same cabin do not have to socially distance. These cabin family groups will eat their meals together, do daily activities together, and go on out-of-camp trips together. We will, however, practice distancing between cabin family groups. Partway through each session, as we are effectively managing the coronavirus (keeping it out of camp!), we hope to allow these family groups to form larger “neighborhoods” for evening programs and other special activities.


How will we sign up for activities?

At this time, we are planning for girls to attend activities with their cabin group. We will create an activity rotation for each group that will include a range of adventure-, arts-, and sports-related activities. We hope campers will be able to enjoy their favorites and try a few new activities as well. There will still be swimming, ziplining, and opportunities for free time most days. Horseback riding will remain an individual signup.


What about meals?

camp girl aiming rifle

To provide more space between cabin family groups while they eat, we are expanding our outdoor dining space by renovating the hillside lodge porch and dining hall porch. We anticipate eating outside most of time, either picnic style on the hill or at tables properly spaced in the dining hall and on these covered porches. Rick, our long-time chef at Rockbrook, will be back this summer to provide our favorite meals (and muffins!).


When will we have to wear a mask at camp?

Right now, we anticipate campers and staff needing to wear a mask whenever they cannot properly distance themselves from a member of a different cabin family group. At the same time, if you are only with members of your own cabin group— for example, at meals, during most activities, and when inside your cabin —you will not need to wear a mask. We will ask that campers bring with them to camp several of their favorite masks.


What about the vaccine?

girl holding knitting loom

We are hopeful that our adult staff members will be vaccinated for COVID-19 prior to working at camp this summer. As “out-of-school time” workers supporting children, camp staff have recently been made eligible for vaccinations like others in education settings (like teachers). At this time, it seems unlikely that a COVID-19 vaccine will be approved for children in time for camp. While helpful, having a portion of our camp community vaccinated does not eliminate the need for social distancing, mask wearing, and enhanced sanitation protocols.


What COVID-19 testing will be required?

camp girl canoeing trip on French Broad

We anticipate requiring all campers and staff to provide the negative results of a recent COVID-19 molecular (PCR) test prior to arriving at camp. Along with a few pre-camp precautions (limiting unnecessary travel and exposure to non-family members, and some symptom monitoring), we hope to increase the odds of beginning each session covid-free. As an additional check, we will use rapid antigen testing to screen anyone with COVID-19 symptoms. Since the availability and methods of coronavirus testing are rapidly changing, we will provide more details in the spring about how we will utilize testing. We understand the notion of testing is unpleasant, and we will do everything we can to minimize that.


What else will be happening to guard against COVID-19?

Above and beyond our regular American Camp Association standards, we will be implementing more rigorous cleaning procedures, regular hand washing and sanitizing, expanding our on-site medical facilities and staff, and ongoing self-reported health checks. Maintaining a healthy camp community will be our top priority!


Will there be changes to opening day?

Yes. We are planning to assign each family a staggered arrival time, creating “drive-thru” stations for all our regular opening day activities. We will ask that parents stay in their cars as our staff helps with your daughter’s luggage, you meet the directors and counselors, and your daughter is welcomed to camp. We will take great care helping every camper settle into her cabin comfortably.


Will there be any travel restrictions?

Currently, there are no restrictions against traveling into North Carolina, but to help socially distance while traveling, we prefer that campers arrive at camp by private car. We believe campers can still fly, but we ask they be extra cautious by wearing a face covering and maintaining proper social distancing while traveling. International campers should stay in touch with our office about travel plans.


What if there’s a positive case at camp?

relaxing girl floating on camp lake

While we hope to maintain a relatively closed camp community, one bolstered by many layers of protection, it will still be possible for someone to contract COVID-19 while at camp. We will be monitoring everyone’s symptoms daily (campers and staff), and when someone exhibits convincing COVID-19 symptoms, that person will be isolated and tested. Our medical team is developing a screening, testing, and quarantining plan, but at this time, we believe campers who test positive will need to be picked up from camp as soon as possible.


Gosh, should I still come to camp with all of these precautions?

If you have significant concerns about your daughter attending camp this summer because of underlying health issues, or for any other reason, please reach out to us to discuss things. We know camp will be a bit different this summer, but our goal is to keep everyone healthy while at the same time recreating the core of what we love about Rockbrook— the zany surprises, the fun activities, the incredible natural beauty, and that special feeling that comes from just being together at camp.

Thank you again for your support, cooperation and trust as we prepare for another amazing Rockbrook summer!

If you have questions not covered here, or you need clarification about anything, please let us know.

teenage girls at camp in NC

That Feeling of Togetherness

It’s been a summer like no other. That’s for sure!

Five months ago, as we began to grapple with the serious implications of the CoVid-19 health crisis, we found ourselves going back and forth about holding our regular summer camp sessions. We devised different models for balancing the need to prevent spreading an infectious disease, and the need to fashion the kind of fun, carefree community we all so love about camp. Could we keep our campers and staff members safe, and at the same time recreate that feeling of togetherness that makes Rockbrook special?

Ultimately, as you know, we made the difficult decision to suspend our regular sessions because we did not feel comfortable compromising. The people of Rockbrook are too important, the friendships too central, the feeling of camp life too essential, for us to put any of it at risk either by drastically altering our camp program or accepting even a remote possibility of an outbreak. It was a heartbreaking realization felt by hundreds of Rockbrook Families and their girls.

mother and daughter at summer camp

But we couldn’t just sit by and do nothing! Rockbrook was ready to go! We had a beautiful camp, enthusiastic staff members, and loads of exciting plans all eagerly awaiting the return of happy girls. We needed something different where we could share Rockbrook, stay safe even as the pandemic was accelerating, and allow Rockbrook families to still get a little taste of camp life this summer. Soon, the idea of “Family Play Days” was born.

If you weren’t able to attend one of the Play Days we offered, they were fantastic! On four consecutive Saturdays in July, Rockbrook families and friends arrived at camp to spend the day exploring the forests and trails of Rockbrook, enjoying all sorts of creative, sports and adventure activities, playing at the Rockbrook lake and savoring a delicious picnic lunch. We had 30 staff members on hand to keep everything running smoothly for the 100 or so people who visited each sold-out play day.

camp girl holding a basket she made

We had girls climbing the Alpine Tower, moms shooting archery, and dads flying down the water slide. I think everyone made a tie-dye t-shirt, sampled several freshly baked muffins, and took the scenic hike to Rockbrook Falls. Ziplining was especially popular, with a non-stop series of groups navigating the course throughout the day. Live mountain music from Ray and Elizabeth entertained us during lunch. There was stunning weather for tetherball and tennis, baskets and bracelets, leisure and laughter.

Perhaps the best part of our play days was the real sense of relief they provided. After enduring months of social isolation, tolerating all sorts of loss, and being thrown into the most profound uncertainty any of us have ever experienced, it was wonderful to actually do something real. There was such gratitude from everyone attending, thanking us for providing these opportunities to get outside immersed in the natural beauty of Rockbrook. It felt great to splash around in the chilly lake, to lounge on the hill while eating lunch, and for many, simply to breathe in a bit of that familiar camp smell. For all of us, for the families attending and the camp staff alike, these play days were in many ways therapeutic, just what we needed to recharge our camp spirit.

Now, as we look forward to the summer of 2021 and Rockbrook’s 100th anniversary, we’ll recall this past summer with some fondness for what we were able to accomplish safely. Thank you everyone for your understanding and enthusiastic support. It’s wonderful to know the love for camp is stronger than ever!

DIY Halloween Costumes Ideas

Are you still looking for Halloween costume ideas? Well, camp is one of the best sources of costume inspiration because as you know, we love dressing up at Rockbrook! Costumes make all of our theme special events come alive, but they are also something that makes every day, certainly every meal, and almost every moment just that extra bit special.

At camp, we foster a deep love for silliness and self-expression. You can see that in tutus, sparkly fairy hair, colorful face paint, and glitter (so much glitter!). This spirit of creativity and free flowing whimsy leads to some really great spur of the moment costumes at camp!

pac man costumes

Our camp banquets are a chance for 9th grade campers to really stretch their creative muscles! If you have some cardboard and paint laying around the house then you could make these amazing Pac-Mac and ghost costumes. This would be a simple and easy DIY costume for just one person or for a whole group of friends. Another amazing banquet inspiration is from “That 70’s Banquet.” I’m sure every camper has at least one tie-dye shirt in her closet. Grab that, some jeans (the more flare at the bottom the better) and make yourself a flower crown. You’ve got an instant 1970’s colorful classic.

Up for just a little shopping? Take a cue from some of our camp themes this summer! A great scientist (mad or otherwise) is simply a white coat, plastic gloves, and a pair of goggles away! Add a beaker and white wig for extra detail.

silly camp costume

Camp is a place where you can express yourself and know that the community will support you and celebrate you for exactly who you are. Sometimes that’s a peacock on the hill, or a mermaid at archery or just lots of smiles and shine and silly faces and glitter (oh, so much glitter!).

However that creative spark manifests in our campers, we want to encourage it. Silliness is brave. Rockbrook is full of brave, bold, silly and special girls!

“There’s power in looking silly and not caring that you do.”
—Amy Poehler

mad science costume
teen camp costumes

Publishing Traditions

This session, an old Rockbrook tradition has resurfaced at camp. Campers from all age groups get the chance to express their creative selves and sharpen their reporting skills when they write for The Toilet Paper, Rockbrook’s self-published newspaper.

camp newspaper with drawings
The first edition of the Toilet Paper, 3rd session 2019

“So, what’s with the name?” I’m sure you’re wondering. As a camper, I remember The Toilet Paper getting taped up to the back of each bathroom stall door. Another Rockbrook gal who went to camp in the 80s told me she remembers the same thing being called “The Wall Stall.” So, even if the name has changed over the years, the concept remains!

The paper is largely a result of the resurgence of “PhoJo” (Photography/Journalism) as a club at camp. Coming to PhoJo is a fantastic way to spend a free swim. The favorite activity is a pass along story, where campers all sit in a circle and each write a story for one minute. Then they pass their paper around the circle, and everyone adds to each other’s tales until your original paper is returned to you–though now with some twists and turns you probably didn’t anticipate.

tiny green frog on leaf
Don’t let these cute little frogs scare you!

Reporting on camp events is also a great way to meet new people.In meetings, we go over the best ways to conduct an interview and some sample questions to ask. Rockbrook reporters can write about all camp events, such as an update on a specific activity or special theme day, or share a funny experience from their cabin with the whole camp. In the last edition, some Juniors reported on a frog that appeared in their cabin and startled their counselor! Campers gain confidence among their peers as their stories get read and discussed by the all the girls at camp, including the directors!

We can’t wait to see what shows up in the next edition, coming soon to a deducky near you!

-Alyssa Calloway

best friends quote drawing
“Best friends are like stars-you might not see them, but you know they’re always there!”

A Place of Their Own

teen camp girls singing

Sunday morning got off to a peaceful start with the sun shining, campers smiling, and donuts at breakfast. After flag raising, our chapel theme today was Individuality, and was led by our Senior line. Speakers were asked “what does individuality mean to you?,” and several cabins led songs along the same theme. It was apt to have the teenage seniors lead this chapel since they have had the most experience learning to be themselves at camp.

One speaker explained that, to her, you need to be comfortable enough first before expressing yourself. This idea of comfort stuck with me, because it illustrates the feeling that is needed in order for you to share who you are. You can be comfortable in your own skin, but perhaps not comfortable in your surrounding environment. Both levels of comfort are essential in order to express your individuality, and at camp we strive to cultivate an accepting, loving environment in which girls can freely be themselves.

three teen girls in camp uniforms

Outside of camp, we are all faced with pressures to act, dress, speak, or be a certain way. Expectations from school, peers, family, or society as a whole can weaken our desire to truly express ourselves. Whether this pressure comes from an internal or external source, it influences our actions and thoughts all the same. At Rockbrook, we try to minimize these pressures. Part of our mission “is to provide a haven for girls, a place of their own.” We aim to provide a place where girls can practice being their own person—a space to be your most genuine self.

This afternoon, campers had a chance to practice just this at our Miss RBC talent show! Each cabin gets an opportunity to get on the stage in the gym and share a special talent. Some cabins create songs, dances, or even a non-talent talent show skit! Every act is unique, silly, and creative, showcasing the diversity of imaginations amongst the campers. The variety of costumes (avocados and tutus), goofy answers to questions (“dirt” as a new Dolly’s ice cream flavor), and the laughs from the audience (good-natured and frequent) were proof that Rockbrook is a place for girls to be their most unabashed, genuine selves.

scarecrow dressed child

Parking the Helicopter

There’s probably no need to discuss the concept of “helicopter parenting” with camp families. Odds are good they already know how some parents can be “overprotective” or have an “excessive interest” in what their children are doing. Like a helicopter constantly hovering above, parenting can become excessive if children aren’t allowed to branch out on their own to try things without mom or dad always quick to swoop in to the rescue. It can be difficult for parents to “let go” like this. Camp parents, though, are presumably different. After all, they are choosing to “let go,” to send their children away into an environment where they will make many decisions for themselves, confront regular challenges on their own, probably struggle, and perhaps even fail at times. The independence gained, along with the feelings of confidence on competence that come with it, are valuable assets as a child grows up. I’d recommend reading How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims to better understand this modern phenomenon.  I can also recommend her 14-minute TED talk if you are really interested.

climbing girl dressed in blue

This is not to say camp parents are completely immune to helicoptering influences. We can’t really help but wonder how our girls are doing when they’re away at camp. Are they eating right? Are they remembering to take a shower? Brush their hair? Wear a clean shirt everyday? Are they having a good time? That’s the big one, right? Camps like Rockbrook understand this impulse and realize that all parents, to one degree or another, need some kind of reassurance that their kids are OK when they are away. That’s why, for example, we have our cabin counselors write letters to parents updating them.  It’s also why we maintain a daily photo gallery, and post the occasional videos during each camp session.

At the same time, checking the photo gallery can become an obsession for some parents, multiple times a day, combing through every photo for even a glimpse of their child. From afar, this form of helicoptering interest seems harmless enough as long as the child at camp is unaware of it, and the parent can resist the instinct to reach out and help in some way. We don’t want the photo gallery to energize the parental snowplow, so to speak.

One form of this helicoptering goes too far, however, and when parents fall into this trap, their child’s experience at camp often suffers. So let me warn you so you can, I hope, resist the urge to over-parent your child’s camp experience like this. The trap is to establish some hand gesture, like a “thumbs up,” that you tell your child to flash when their photo is being taken as a coded signal home about how camp is going. Akin to a “pick up deal” where a parent promises to “come get you if you’re homesick,” this kind of messaging might seem innocuous, but can be a real burden for the camper. It effectively is removing her from the moment, distracting her from the people and activity around her with thoughts of evaluation rather than true participation. When sending your daughter to camp, it’s simply best not to tether her to home in this way, and instead to send her off by reassuring her that you are confident in her ability to handle life at camp independently.

I’m sure you know that camp is the ideal place to practice this independent self-efficacy, and this is one of its main benefits. Oddly if we’re not careful, our parental instincts can undermine the opportunity for our girls to grow while away at camp. Some camps are so concerned by this signal phenomenon, they have banned campers from making signalling gestures and instructed their photographers to delete photos that appear to have them. My hope is that Rockbrook parents will see the problems associated with all of this, park their helicopter for a few weeks, and trust that their children and our staff at camp can work through any problems that may arise, and together ultimately create a rich, rewarding, and enjoyable camp experience.

girl camp friends

Meanwhile, we’ll continue to enjoy camp!  Your girls and their friends will splash and scream with delight rafting the Nantahala River.  They’ll climb the Alpine Tower and Castle Rock.  They’ll swim and float in the Rockbrook lake, tie increasingly elaborate friendship bracelets, shoot more arrows, and sing even louder songs. They’ll be surprised by hidden talents and creativity. They’ll find kindness and caring permeating their days, a refreshing tech-free, authenticity to what they’re doing and with whom they’re doing it. Surrounded by the beauty of these wooded mountains, they’ll explore and be amazed by what they find in the natural world. They’ll laugh harder than they have ever laughed before. They’ll learn a lot about themselves, and be proud of who they are and what they can do. They’ll make more fond memories and best friends than you can count. They’ll be at camp.