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.

I Found the Gnome

There I was walking up the driveway from the lake after taking a dip in the warm sun. I looked to my left and spotted a friendly familiar face peeking out from behind the ferns. I ran over and announced to my friends that I had found the gnome.

Casey with Lawrence the gnome

What is the gnome you may ask? The gnome first came to Rockbrook back in the 2000s as a fun game introduced by a Hi-Up. She had brought a ceramic gnome to camp and announced after lunch that she was going to hide the gnome and the rest of camp had to find it. Whoever found the gnome was then tasked to share where they found it before hiding it themselves. Since this game started, we have had a few different gnomes (sadly, ceramic gnomes can break easily when dropped.) Currently, we have Lawrence the meditating gnome.

There’s nothing quite like finding the gnome. Out of my nine years here at Rockbrook Camp, this was the very first time I (or anyone in my cabin) had found the gnome. I felt so proud, I couldn’t wait to announce to the entire camp that I had found it.

I recently interviewed a few lucky individuals who also shared the experience of finding the gnome during their camp career. Current Hi-Up Susanna shared, “when a girl in my cabin found the gnome I was very prideful.” When asked how she would feel finding the gnome herself she immediately added, “it would be a sense of accomplishment and completeness to my camp experience.” When asking long time camper/counselor Mary Holland if she had ever found the gnome, with such sadness she said, “not finding the gnome has been a true source of pain for me.” I then asked her what feelings would come to the surface if she had found the gnome. She replied, “finding the gnome would be the best day of my life. All I want is to find Lawrence one day.” Mary Holland, we wish you the best.

summer camp gymnastics class with gnome

When it was my time to hide the gnome I had to focus on what was important to me when the next person found where I hid Lawrence. How tricky did I want it to be? Did I want to make them laugh because of the location he was in (such as placing him in a pipe by the creek?) What area of camp did I want to hide him?

Out in the field, I asked camper Reagan from M7 what she thought was most important when hiding the gnome. She replied, “in a dense area where people may not think to look…but not in a spot where it’s impossible to find him.” Reagan summed it up so well! When hiding Lawrence, he has to be outside of any building, he must be within camp boundaries, and he must be slightly visible so he can eventually be found! Sometimes Lawrence has gone weeks without being found because he was hidden a little too well.

I decided I wanted Lawrence to be found in a serene spot that would make someone giggle when they noticed his little blue hat sticking slightly above the plants. After hiding him, a camper found him later that day on her way down to the garden. I smiled happily as it was her turn to then hide the gnome.

junior dance class with gnome

Waffle Hunting

We began today with another chilly misty morning as campers and staff made their way to the dining hall for breakfast. Excitement soon filled the air as we saw what was for breakfast….waffles!! Some also noticed a banner on the wall, a few tables and chairs missing, and even a kayaking paddle where the missing table should have been. It seems the Hi-Ups had pranked the CAs. Here at Rockbrook we have a few rules about pranking. The first, along with everything else at Rockbrook, is that it must be kind. Second, the prank must be something that can be undone (e.g. nothing broken or ruined). And third, the group who pulls the prank must be willing to help undo it. In this case, the Hi-Ups moved the CA’s dining hall tables and chairs to the lake! When the CAs arrived, they were surprised to see their breakfast was being served waterside! Lots of waffle hunting and laughter ensued.

three girls holding their finished tie dye t-shirts
summer camp flower children

Morning activities kicked right into high gear as campers and staff walked to their first period activities ready to finish out the three-day rotation. Later this evening they’ll be signing up for their next set of activities. A couple of lucky cabins took a tour on our zipline and high ropes courses. They all had a wonderful time going across all three ziplines while shrieking with happiness! Today’s muffin flavor was blueberry chocolate chip. While most enjoyed the combo, a few picked out their blueberries to have a classic chocolate chip muffin.

At lunch, we announced several special trips: Sliding Rock, Dolly’s Dairy Bar, and Pucker Up Berry Farm. Cabins roared with cheers as they heard their cabins being called for some of these fun adventures. Lunch ended with mailboxes being emptied, cabin photos being taken, and the start of a relaxing Rest Hour.

Cabin Day is usually an activity done together as a cabin and is planned out by the counselors. Today, the Senior Line (our 7th-9th graders) did something a little different; they had a line-wide cabin day! The counselors worked hard prepping a unique game that mixed the campers, dividing them into 12 different groups that would compete in the game.

The game was a battle of sorts where each group had “tools” they could use to score points against others. These “tools” were sections of pantyhose filled with flour! Tied into small balls, there were black pantyhose balls and white ones too, each worth different points. A team would score points whenever they hit someone on an opposing team with one of the balls. Needless to say, the girls enjoyed firing these balls at each other on the hill. And since they were all dressed in dark colors, the white flour left a mark when hitting someone. The prize awarded the group with the most points was an ice cream treat.

In addition to trying to cover one another in flour, teams walked around camp to find counselors who had special tasks for them to complete in order to earn other candy treats. Some of the tasks included answering trivia questions, building a human pyramid, and various hula hooping challenges. The Seniors roamed all over camp making new friends from other cabins and having a grand afternoon.

Meanwhile, we had cabins watercoloring at Rockbrook Falls, down at the archery range playing games, climbing the alpine tower, and tie dying some t-shirts. By the end of cabin day, everyone looked happy to have spent time with their cabin mates. After dinner, another large group of campers and staff headed off for a chilly evening sliding down the rock— at Sliding Rock, that is! Dressed in swimsuits and ready to slide, the girls sat down in the stream at the top and slid the 60 feet into the pool at the bottom. It’s a classic summertime mountain thrill, and these Rockbrook girls loved it! And of course, Dolly’s was the final stop of the evening. Another action-packed, happy fun day at camp!

—Casey Blair

North Carolina Sliding Rock kids