Too Much Fun

Is it possible to have too much fun? Well, for adults who have daily responsibilities and various “urgencies,” I can imagine that having nonstop fun would be a distraction, depending on what you mean by “fun.” If it’s thrills and excitement, or novel entertainment, or just pleasure without purpose, then yes, too much fun for an adult wouldn’t be recommended. But if fun means having moments of playfulness, the freedom to create, or that relaxed feeling of being absorbed in something recreational, then this sort of fun is, when you can find it, certainly a good thing.

For kids at camp, however, I think it’s a little different. Camp means taking a break from things, a break from the pressures of school, from the wildly rushed pace many kids endure, and yes from the orchestration parents ordinarily provide (almost constantly!). Camp means being given the freedom to try new things, to make countless decisions for yourself, and to slow down or speed up as needed. At camp, the many forms of fun are available everyday, and girls can enjoy as much of it as they like. And at camp, there’s something special here that makes almost everything more fun— it’s the people, the other kids and counselors who have the same mindset. “Let’s go! It’ll be fun!” Even if it’s doing cabin chores, singing a song, or jumping in the lake, it’s more fun together. Too much fun at camp? I don’t think it’s possible.

Two recent examples of this come to mind, and both happened on the same day. The first is the whitewater rafting trips we took with our Senior campers. With all 6 buses making the trip over to the Nantahala River, we took two trips, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon, enjoying the bumping and splashing of the rapids. Altogether, about 80 campers and counselors made their way down the 9-mile stretch of river on these trips.

girls rafting splash ride

Running the river is certainly thrilling, but when it’s in a raft of silly Rockbrook girls, it’s even better. Having a bunch of friends in the raft with you makes the songs louder, the poses for the camera goofier, and the shrieks laughter more hilarious when someone falls out of, or bounces back into the raft. These trips are big fun, and today the perfectly warm, sunny weather was a welcome boost.

The other example is the all-camp shaving cream fight and slip-n-slide (one naturally leads to the other!) we held after dinner. Here too, bringing all of these excited girls together made the whole event more fun for everyone. If you haven’t seen one these it goes like this. Show up wearing your swimsuit ready to get a little messy. Armed with a can of regular plain shaving cream, you then race around the field trying to spray the white slippery foam on your friends, which means anyone nearby. In all directions foam was flying! There’s something inherently hilarious about surprising someone with a handful of shaving cream splattered on their head or neck or just about anywhere. Squirt, splat, howl with laughter, and repeat.

It doesn’t take long before most everyone is covered with shaving cream, and in some cases completely covered. That too is simply funny to see. But the fun doesn’t stop there. There are hairstyles to form (mohawks seem popular), high fives and other tricks to perform. Girls drew letters in the foam, posed for photos and kept laughing the whole time. Meanwhile, our now slippery campers took turns sliding down a wet sheet of plastic, zooming on their bellies, here too, grinning all the way. Sounds like fun, right? It is! It’s the kind of excellent fun that’s hard to find anywhere else.

summer camp shaving creamed kids

Just Joyful Engagement

The first day of a session when the campers begin their activities is a marvelous example of camp life. Each camper has selected a different thing to do for each of the four scheduled activity periods: two in the morning and two in the afternoon. (By the way, that’s something to ask your camper in a letter or email— “What activities did you sign up for?”) If they are taking Horseback riding, the Riding Director has assigned them to a particular period, but all the others they fill based on their own preferences. You’ve probably seen the huge range of activities and maybe heard your camper talk about particular things they want to try. Our hope is that the girls try new things while they are at Rockbrook. And camp encourages that. When friends are signing up for climbing the Alpine tower, for example, you might join them even though you don’t think of yourself as being very adventurous. Or maybe taking Painting sounds a little scary since you may think “I’m no good at art,” but at camp we start with a spirit of exploration, of trying things just for the fun of it. And when you’ve got encouragement all around and kind friends sometimes literally “in the same boat,” a young person will grow from just taking that first step of trying a new experience. Being afraid of “I might not be good at tennis,” for example, can be a real limitation, but at camp we take care to create the conditions (caring and kindness all the way down) where girls have nothing to fear like that. No judgment, no competition, just joyful engagement.

camp archery lesson

The different age groups sign up for activities together, assuring that the Juniors are together when they take archery for example, likewise for the Middlers and Seniors. This allows the instructors to tailor their teaching to the level of experience of each group. We split and alternate which activities are available for each group. That means not all of the activities are available to every age group during each signup, but that’s why we split the week and sign up for a new set of activities every three days. We want to give each age group a fresh set of options during each rotation. It’s a little complicated, and they may not get their first choice each rotation, but over the course of the session, everyone will have a chance to try most all of the activities. This is also a great way to encourage each camper to spread out their schedule. They’re bound to experience a little adventure, some sports, and some crafts each day.

This way of selecting activities ensures that the campers can be with different people throughout the day. Since each individual camper selects her schedule, rather than as a cabin group (as is the case at some camps), everyone enjoys meeting new people when they’re stretching in a yoga session, learning to weave, or playing at the lake. It’s during the blocks of free time when this happens even between age groups. During the “First Free Swim” before lunch, the “Second Free Swim” before dinner, and the “Twilight” period after dinner the girls have more independence to decide what they would like to do, spending time with so many different friends.

Walk around camp and that’s what you’ll see— groups of campers deeply engaged in outdoor activities. You’ll see girls making things, being creative with their hands as they cut wood, work a needle and thread, or tie a white t-shirt ready for dyeing. Groups are zipping through the trees on our zipline course, while others are hiking up the steep trail to the top of Castle Rock. Others are playing gagaball, heading to the lake with their towels strung over shoulders, or perhaps loading up a van to find a waterfall in the nearby Pisgah Forest. In all of these examples and more, there’s an added thrill of togetherness making things more fun. That’s camp life— days filled with many many friends, many many activities, charged with laughter and excitement.

The best way to get a sense of all this action is to follow along in the daily photo gallery. If you haven’t seen it, login to your Campminder account. The “Login” link is at the top of every page on the Rockbrook website. Use the same email address you used to complete the pre-camp forms, and you’ll see an icon for “Photos.” We upload batches of photos, usually twice a day and sometimes more often. It’s great fun to login each day and scan through the newest galleries. So take a look and enjoy!

Summer Camp pals

Explosive Excitement

Welcome to camp! Welcome to the first day of the 2024 summer season at Rockbrook! For months now, all of us at Rockbrook have been working and planning for this day, just as all of the campers arriving today have been anticipating their time at camp. Our maintenance and housekeeping crews have been busily preparing the cabins and activity areas. The Rockbrook kitchen has been supplied and its equipment cleaned and inspected, with Rick and his team already producing meals. And our staff have just completed their week-long training, a progression of sessions covering health and safety, child development, activity instruction, insights into cabin life, and the particularities of the Rockbrook culture. It’s been a fun and informative week, helping all of us be ready for camp. And we are!

I think we can say the same thing about all the campers arriving today; they were ready too! They were bouncing up and down in the car during the checkin process. They were waving out the window, smiling the most eager and excited smiles you can imagine. It was wonderful to see that energy arriving all morning. When this pent-up excitement met the cheering counselors at the top of the hill, it was almost explosive. Cheers and hugs, more massive smiles and enthusiastic greetings, made the unloading even more festive. Cabin groups formed, and finally everyone was able to get started with what we’ve all been looking forward to.

summer camp first day

After arriving and meeting everyone, there’s immediately lots to do. Our luggage crews hurried to deliver all of the trunks and duffles to the right cabins while the campers went off to begin setting up there bunks. This is a fun activity for the girls as they work together to decide who is sleeping on which bunk. The counselors help everyone make beds and arrange trunks in the cabins, each camper creating a cozy and comfortable nook. Around 12:30 there’s an all camp assembly, so leading up to that the cabin groups play silly name games, take tours around camp, and, if there’s time, stop by the camp store to pick up their pre-ordered camp gear. It won’t be long until you’ll begin seeing those new pink sweatshirts and sweatpants around camp!

The assembly felt great, sitting on the grass under our prize walnut tree, and looking off toward the distant mountains. Perfect blue sky weather, with a nice low-humidity breeze, made it even better. Sarah introduced the other directors, Felix the camp dog, and our “camp moms” (Alumnae who come back to camp to help as needed). The Hi-Ups (10th grade campers) introduced themselves and taught a camp song to everyone. Each line (age group) took turns singing their line song, standing up and clapping along. Sarah took a few minutes to remind everyone of the camp boundaries and then demonstrated our lightning alert system so everyone knows to go inside when it detects lightning nearby.

After a very satisfying lunch of Rick’s homemade mac-n-cheese —The girls love its warm cheesy heft and crusty breadcrumb topping…. even the breadcrumbs are homemade! —the campers came down to the lake to demonstrate their swimming ability to the team of lifeguards. This was another celebration. Each camper that stepped out on the dock to jump in the lake heard cheers of encouragement from the directors, other campers and staff nearby. We like to say the Rockbrook lake is “refreshing,” especially on a nice summer day like today. The swimmers swim out and back, and then tread water for a minute. If they can do that confidently, they receive a blue wrist band qualifying them to swim in any section of the lake. Those with less confidence in their swimming have more restrictions (e.g., staying in the shallow part of the lake), but everyone can come and cool off in the lake while they’re at camp.

The girls learned about the activity options by watching the counselors put on a variety show of short skits and songs. We all gathered in the gym and learned about the many arts and crafts options, sports to play, and adventure options available. This is a great way to meet the counselors and learn about what the girls can sign up for. After dinner, they did just that; they signed up for their first set of 4 activities.

It’s been a powerful day where all of our anticipation turned into real enthusiasm. We’ve got a full camp of wonderful staff and great eager campers. Let’s get started!

summer camp kids group

A Profound Closeness

For many of us this was an especially emotional evening because we held our last Spirit Fire of the summer. The Spirit Fire is another of the long traditions at Rockbrook, something that’s been a closing ceremony for every session since the camp’s founding more than 100 years ago. It’s a campfire ceremony held on the large rock (“Vesper Rock”) overlooking the camp lake. Surrounded by huge white oak and hemlock trees, the entire camp gathers there dressed in our red and white uniforms. In the same fire ring as generations of Rockbrook girls have done in the past, we build a great campfire. We begin near dusk, so as the surrounding woods turn from green to blue to grey and finally to black, the orange glow of the campfire looks gorgeous. With crickets and frogs chirping, and the sound of the waterfall into the lake faintly splashing in the background, we create an almost dreamy setting.

The Spirit Fire program provides an opportunity to recall and reflect upon the rich experiences we shared during the session. We sing favorite traditional camp songs and listen as fellow campers and counselors share their thoughts about their time at camp. For example, we sing “How Did we Come to Meet Pal” and “The Streams and the Mountains,” just two favorites. The speakers are selected from all age groups (Juniors, Middlers, Seniors, and Hi-Ups) and from both first-year and returning counselors.

The speeches tonight confirmed what we’ve all been experiencing this session— a profound closeness, a special feeling of connection and comfort shared with the others at camp. One word that kept coming up was “home.” Campers described feeling “at home” here at Rockbrook. One simply said, “When I’m at camp, I’m home.” And a counselor put it perfectly, “Rockbrook is my home, not because of the place, but because of the people.” All of these speakers realized that as camp enlivens the best part of ourselves, as we live those core relationship values of kindness and caring, we make the best friends of our lives. Through the day, we find our true selves relaxing into the generous arms of a supportive community.

That’s why the Spirit Fire is bittersweet. It’s a wonderful reminder of why these girls love camp, of why, for many, it’s their favorite time of the year. Nowhere else do they feel this good and have these kinds of close relationships. But the Spirit Fire also marks the end of the session and the time when we must soon say goodbye. Camp friends are the best friends, but they are also usually seen only once a year. Closing camp for this reason is always sad.

It’s been especially gratifying this session to see your girls enjoy the special experiences of camp, to learn and grow individually, and to forge so many close camp friendships. We are so grateful to everyone— campers, staff, and parents alike —for helping make this session so successful. Thank you! We know Rockbrook means as much to all of you as it does to us. We are already looking forward to being together again next summer.

summer camp counselor

A Rockbrook Slumber Party

The surprise everyone was waiting for was finally revealed last night. Planned from the very first day of camp, this was a well-kept secret all session long. The CA campers (9th graders) presented their banquet, an all-camp party to celebrate the session and our time together at camp. What’s kept a secret is the theme of the party. Only the CAs and their counselors know the theme— until the event happens.

summer camp party surprise

Based on the theme, the CA girls decorate the inside of the dining hall, dress in costume, serve particular food, perform skits and choreographed group dances, and play special music. So what was the theme this session? It was a “slumber party” banquet!

Imagine going to a huge slumber party of 160 girls all in the same room. That’s what we had at this banquet. The CAs all dressed as party guests in pajamas and slippers, while their counselors dressed as “moms” in velour tracksuit loungewear. All of the campers first removed their shoes before entering the “bedroom” where the sleepover would take place. On floor-to-ceiling paper panels, the CAs had painted all sorts of things to make the dining hall look like a bedroom set up for a slumber party. They painted balloons, bedroom furniture, a TV with Netflix, a diary, a telephone, an invitation, board games, sleeping bags, slippers, nail polish bottles, a book shelf, a closet of clothes hanging, eye masks, pajamas, a lava lamp, and Polaroid photos. These colorful wall decorations, plus the streamers, fairy lights and party hats made the whole scene fun and festive.

For food, they served Rick’s homemade pizza as the main “movie night” entrée. They had popcorn too, of course. And with a nod to the moms, they also served carrot and celery sticks. They gave each camper a small can of soda to drink and for dessert offered ice cream sandwiches, adding to the candy treats scattered across the tables.

In addition to playing a few classic slumber party games like Charades, painting nails, and Telephone, some interesting drama unfolded when one of the campers went “missing” during a game of hide and seek. Where was Virginia!? A little later someone dressed as a ghost appeared at the party to scare everyone as a prank! And it was Virginia! The velour tracksuit moms got in on the fun too when they performed a dance number for everyone. At one point a counselor dressed as a pizza delivery guy arrived to announce the main course of the meal.

Between scenes in these skits and the CAs delivering platters of food from the kitchen, everyone was up and dancing. It was an explosion of joy at times with the entire camp jumping up and down to a favorite song. That’s the feeling of a banquet. It’s incredibly fun, with friends all around, loud singing and dancing, and enough food and treats to fuel the energy.

These girls have grown so close over their time together at camp, it’s completely natural now to celebrate like this together. Toward the end of the banquet, emotions rise and even a few tears get mixed with the non-stop hugging. This makes it the best kind of party— one that brings you closer to your friends attending. The girls loved this banquet. It’s easy to see why!

summer camp party kids

Magic from the Outside

My friend recently visited Rockbrook with her daughter, a prospective Rockbrook camper. They had a wonderful visit, and I wasn’t surprised when she described Rockbrook as “magical.” If you read the camp blog on a regular basis, you know that the magic of Rockbrook is a recurring theme. Over the past few years, there have been numerous posts on this topic: “A Magical Day at Summer Camp,” “The Magic of Moments,” and “Reliving the Magic,” just to name a few. 

kind summer camp friends

It seems it would be easy to understand the magic of Rockbrook if you’re on the inside. Campers, counselors, staff members, directors, and even the owners get to witness this magic on a daily basis. For those of us on the outside, however, it’s not as easy to wrap our heads around this idea of magic – especially if, like me, you’ve never had the opportunity to experience Rockbrook (or any other summer camp).

As I write this, my daughter is at Rockbrook for her third summer. I think maybe I am starting to understand a little more of what the Rockbrook magic is all about. Over the last couple of years, I have seen hundreds of photos of girls smiling and laughing as they participate in camp activities. As I see photo after photo of girls living out the Rockbrook principle of “be kind, be silly, be brave,” it’s impossible to miss all of the magical moments taking place at camp. 

I pick up on a little bit more of that magic with every letter my daughter sends from camp. In a recent letter, she told us about the “polar plunge,” where at 8:05 AM one day, she would jump into a “freezing cold lake.” It may not sound very fun but when that lake happens to be at Rockbrook and you get to share the experience with your Rockbrook friends, it becomes something magical. The chance to earn a special bead (a fun Rockbrook tradition) only adds to the magic. 

I’ve even been fortunate enough to witness some Rockbrook magic in person. If you ever visit Dolly’s (a Rockbrook favorite) on a summer evening, you may see a large group of campers enjoying ice cream after a trip to Sliding Rock. And if you’re lucky enough, you may be treated to a live performance featuring classic camp songs that have been passed down through generations of Rockbrook campers. As these girls sing at the top of their lungs without a care in the world, you can feel the magic in the air. And while some may disagree, I think it’s more magical than a Taylor Swift concert. 

The magic of Rockbrook goes beyond the heart of a wooded mountain. When I pick my daughter up in a few days, I know she’ll be bringing some of that magic home with her. And maybe she, along with her fellow Rockbrook campers, will spread a little bit of Rockbrook magic into the world – because wouldn’t that be wonderful?

—Jean Lee, proud mother of a Rockbrook camper

pure summer camp friendship

Third Session Video Snapshot – Part Two

Robbie Francis of FrancisFilmworks visited camp again and has produced a final short video for us. He spent the day filming, worked his editing magic, and now we have this new wonderful snapshot of camp life. The video does a beautiful job of depicting the mood at camp this session… so much action and so many happy girls!

Click below to watch the video…. and let us know what you think.

Room for Exploration

At Rockbrook, our goal is to create a space that encourages independence. One way we do this during ordinary camp days is to preserve blocks of free time for the girls. For example, there are two free swims when the lake is open— one before lunch and the second before dinner. Free time is also great for a quick game of gaga ball or tetherball, to join the Rockbrook runners, hang out on the hill enjoying the mountain view, or just to take a shower. Campers are free to wander around and decide what they’d like to do. These are our typical times of beloved unstructured time that fosters room for exploration.

Something new this summer is Free Choice Saturday! This is a unique Saturday schedule we plan for only certain weeks of the summer, like today when only our Third session campers are here. It begins with all of the campers and staff coming together for an Assembly on the Hill. This lets us introduce the fun activity options happening around camp later in the afternoon. We also explain to the campers that they are able to visit any of the activities and are free to stay for as long as they would like! We are granting them the freedom to explore the options, and spend the afternoon as they like.

How does this work? We make sure to involve all of our staff to create some REALLY fun and unique activity options. This excites our campers to want to do them all! We also try to include a variety of different types of activities— some that are outdoorsy, some sports related, and others crafty, for example.

This Saturday, campers had the option to:

  • Watercolor at the creek by Curosty – On a hot day, what better way to cool off and unleash your creative side by dipping your toes, and your paint brush, in the cool water of the creek?
  • Gaga with Gagas at Gaga – A silly spin on the much beloved game of gaga ball! To make things more interesting we played gaga ball, dressed as “gagas” or grandparents, and listened to Lady Gaga.
  • Coke dives at the lake – A classic game that campers and staff love. Did you know Coca Cola, or any other non-diet soda, sinks when thrown in water? Well, it does! And it makes quite the game when you throw 48 cans of soda to the bottom of the lake in order to fish them back out to enjoy.
  • Flower crowns – A popular choice we have been doing all summer! Campers stopped by the dining hall porch to make the flower crown of their dreams.
  • Rockbrook Biathlon – Ever heard of a biathlon? It’s an olympic sport involving snow skiing and riflery. We put a Rockbrook spin on the sport and had a group of campers running/walking our Rockbrook Runners Loop, while making pit stops at archery and riflery to enjoy some fun at the ranges, before finishing their lap.
  • Metalsmithing with Keri Zink – We brought in a local artist and metalsmith from Brevard for a metalsmith workshop. Campers went down to our woodshop and Keri helped teach them the art of metalsmithing by making bangle bracelets.

We also had two of our junior cabins visiting the wonderful Pucker Up Berry Farm, a cabin of middlers flying by on the zipline, and some friends finishing up glazing their pottery before the kilns were loaded last night.

We had so many fun options making it almost impossible to choose what to do!! Luckily, there wasn’t a wrong choice so everyone at camp got to partake in lots of Free Choice Saturday fun.

Things I Learned at Camp

Returning to the idea that camp is “educational” because it provides a life filled with new experiences, I’m again left wondering how it’s educational. I’ve already considered how Rockbrook’s emphasis on community and the quality of our relationships with each other, namely them being guided by strong values of kindness, caring and generosity, creates a context for fostering creativity, compassion, and courage. Camp uniquely empowers children to engage new experiences, to explore and marvel at the wonders of nature, and to build connections with the people around them. We know that camp is a place to grow in all of these important ways.

summer camp swimming children

There seems to be more we might say about this. What about the campers? You might not guess it, but they too understand camp as place where they learn things. To understand this, Naomi, one of our assistant Directors, and I wandered around after dinner and asked a few campers what they thought. We asked, “What is something you learned while at camp?” And, “Is there something you learned at camp that you’ll use back at home or later in life?” We asked girls from all the age groups and were pleased to hear what they said about what they “take away” from camp. It’s memories of the fun and a huge set of friends, but also even more.

Here are some of their answers. I think you’ll be impressed.

1. “New skills.” Certainly there are many skill-based activities campers try at camp and then find themselves keeping as an interest or hobby. It might be sewing, horseback riding, painting, archery, tying knots, etc. “I learned how to paddle a canoe!” one camper said proudly.

2. “The importance of kindness.” Rockbrook girls know this instinctively. They expect kindess from others just as they aim to be nice themselves. One girl put it like this— “Being unkind just isn’t worth it.”

camp kid showing her weaving

3. “How to share my space.” This makes great sense when the girls are living so closely in 100-year old cabins. “You have to respect other people’s space.”

4. “Teamwork.” Working together as a cabin group each day for cabin chores, clearing the dining hall table, and evening program skits are good examples of teamwork at camp.

5. “It’s OK to be myself.” This is a testament to the supportive and accepting character of the Rockbrook community, a place where girls can escape the kind of social criticism and judgment they often endure at school, freeing them to be more genuine. The girls feel the difference.

6. “To try new things.” This can take some courage, but here too the support of the camp community, and the enthusiasm for everything we do at camp, makes this a common experience.

7. “To live without my phone.” I love this response! I believe learning to moderate one’s phone use is a critical modern skill, and these campers already understand the importance of that. Good work!

8. “Flexibility.” At camp the girls learn to see the bright side when things don’t always go perfectly, to be open to compromise for the needs of others, and to adapt to the environment of camp despite it being so different from life at home.

summer camp ice cream pals

9. “How to get along with others who are different than me.” Here too, joining the camp community means meeting diverse people, supporting and encouraging them, and receiving that same friendship in return.

10. “To be more grateful.” There is so much at Rockbrook to be thankful for. From what we get to do, to who we are doing it with, to the beautiful setting where we live— the whole experience inspires us to say “Thank you.” You hear it said out loud all the time.

Aren’t these amazing answers!? It impressed me to hear how these Rockbrook girls, amidst the fun of camp life, also appreciate the good it is doing. They seemed to understand that they were learning and growing in ways they would continue to value later in life. Yay! That’s exactly what we hope happens at Rockbrook. Camp should be meaningful like this.

Perhaps when you pick up your camper you’ll have a chance to ask her what she learned at camp. On the drive home, I think you’ll be impressed by how much she’s grown and understood while here.

summer camp sunset evening

Independence and Well-Being

I’ve been meaning to share an article I found back in March. It’s an overview written by Emily Oster on a Commentary published in the Journal of Pediatrics entitled, “Decline in Independent Activity as a Cause of Decline in Children’s Mental Well-being: Summary of the Evidence” (Published first online, February 23, 2023). The overview article is entitled, “What’s Behind the Decline in Teen Mental Health?”

camp fresh flowers

You may have read that different organizations are observing a troubling trend among young people, specifically a marked decline in their sense of well-being. Especially recently, professionals that work with children and adolescents are puzzled why reports of feeling unhappy, dispirited, and anxious are rising. The data shows that this trend began around 2012 (long before the COVID pandemic, by the way). This article attempts to explain why we are seeing this trend among our young people.

Essentially, it claims another trend is (at least partially responsible for) driving this decline in well-being, namely a “decline over decades in opportunities for children and teens to play, roam, and engage in other activities independent of direct oversight and control by adults.”

The authors worry that kids nowadays have very little free time to act independently. Instead they are supervised in school for most of the day and then equally structured during after school activities like sports and clubs. They point out also that current parenting styles tend to emphasize safety so that children aren’t able to do things on their own. Helicoptering and snowplowing, these parents might be protecting their children, but they are also impairing their confidence and ability to act independently. They note similarly, contemporary kids are rarely given the opportunity to play with other kids without adults, to play freely on their own terms. Rare, they lament, are the kids who get to play outside all day until dark.

Smartphone use may be another force contributing to kids having fewer opportunities to act independently. The claim here is that time scrolling on your phone is inherently isolating. It’s a solitary, passive experience rather than a physical activity that connects you with others in the real world. If anything, kids nowadays are more dependent on their phones for their socializing, entertainment and knowledge of the world. Their sense of self is largely filtered through this technology, rather than built through the rich nuances of their five senses. Especially for kids, time on a smartphone is a tragic substitute for living. And as it steals your life, reducing your capacity for independent action, your mental health may suffer.

You can probably guess where I’m heading with this, and why this article caught my eye. Life at camp is the exact opposite of these modern trends, and so can be understood as a counteracting force. After all, kids at camp are extremely independent. Being away from home, they act independently throughout the day. Without their phones, they explore the world around them at their own pace. At Rockbrook they have hours of free time. Each day, they make a multitude of decisions, figuring things out along the way. Camp gives kids an incredible degree of self-directed agency, empowering them far beyond what most parents would grant. By the way, I think this is another reason why girls love Rockbrook; they really appreciate this kind of agency. With friends by their side, they feel good when they do things without the adults in their lives guiding every move. In so many ways, life at camp is custom made for independence. It helps build the confidence and even the desire to act independently in the world.

If all this adds up, then we’re really helping our kids by sending them to sleepaway camp. The opportunities they have at Rockbrook to act independently may be strengthening their overall well-being, serving as a buffer for some of the challenging influences of modern life. At the very least, we know that girls love camp. They’re both independent and happy while here. That seems like a great endorsement.

Camp whitewater rafting fun