A Positive Vision

A few days ago I wrote a piece that described camp as a haven, as a “sanctuary” free from various detrimental forces and challenges common to modern life. I argued that Rockbrook’s goal is to create a special place where kids can escape the pressures of, for example, being too busy, being judged by peers, being inside and online too much, and so on. Creating this haven is our goal because we know that once girls are protected from these various harmful forces, they experience deeply important opportunities to grow in the most joyous ways. Campers develop different instincts and understandings when they find this unique kind of freedom and relief at camp. It’s marvelous to witness.

camp girl playing ukelele

One comment I received about that post was from a parent who said, “I wish we adults could experience that sort of haven too.” I’d have to agree! It would be nice to be outside more, doing more real-world things, taking a break from screens and having more time to pay attention to everything around us. It would be nice to be free of social pressures, prejudices, competition and criticisms. We know it feels good to be physically active, to be creative, and to connect more with other people from a place of kindness. An environment offering all of this would be amazing for everyone!

I just have to ask, “Why don’t we?” Why don’t we put in some effort creating at least hints of camp life the rest of the year? If we know what camp is doing— establishing a haven from various negative forces —can’t we oppose those forces at home and at school too, and thereby realize some of those same benefits? To some extent, I think the answer is yes.

summer camp nature exploration

A few of the ways Rockbrook creates a haven for girls are structural and could be implemented outside of camp. For example, families could be intentional about spending time outside when they can. Parents could make a conscious effort to slow down their family’s schedule, building in “down time” and other opportunities to relax with each other. We could all make an effort to moderate our consumption of news and other forms of media. We could remember to prioritize physical interactions with the world, not exercise or “working out” per say, but rather exercising all our senses among real-world phenomena.

Perhaps the most consequential way Rockbrook is a haven, yet also a way that could be copied at home, is the absence of smartphone use. At camp we all can ditch our phones and happily carry on, but it probably sounds absurd to suggest doing the same at home. After all, ordinarily your phone is your constant companion, always willing to fill your time at the slightest hint of boredom. You might even agree that most of us are on our phones too much, and you too would prefer we instead had more face-to-face communication and other real-world interactions.

camp girl making corn husk doll

Plus, the evidence is staggering how phone use, especially the role played by social media, is doing significant damage to our physical and mental health. Jonathan Haidt’s new book, The Anxious Generation, makes the case for this quite clearly for young people, and Jaron Lanier makes Ten Arguments for Deleting your Social Media Accounts. For both of these authors, there’s unhappiness built right into how we use our phones, plenty of negative consequences, especially for kids.

Of course, putting down our phones is not easy, even if you wanted to. They’re too powerful and too ingrained in our lives, and most importantly, too widespread. If you tried to add restrictions to your teenager’s phone use, the resistance would most likely be epic, the least of which would be her cries, “but all my friends have their phones!” Without some kind of collective or institutional support, the amount of solo effort required to even moderate phone use would likely be too much. By the way, this is one reason Haidt recommends schools be phone-free. Schools have the institutional clout to align opinions on this.

summer camp gaga ball game

This highlights a powerful advantage camp has— we’re a community. We’re foremost a tight-knit group of people who live (eat, play, make) together, who experience so much together, and who recognize that how we treat each other (with kindness, care, generosity, compassion) makes a crucial difference. At camp, whenever we have to do something that challenges us individually, we can count on encouragement and support from those around us. And if there’s something that would be hard to do on our own, we are more capable when we do it together, whether it be tackling cabin chores, braving uncomfortable weather, or severing the tether we have with a smartphone.

It’s this community spirit that anchors Rockbrook as a haven for girls. Being a community with shared values, but also with regular shared time together, makes most of what we do possible. We focus on the people around us, building amazing positive (friendly) relationships with them all, adding in a few structural elements— tech-free, outdoor experience, playful silliness, a relaxed pace, etc. —and almost like magic we have a beautiful haven.

My hope is that Rockbrook can provide a positive vision of what life can be. I think it does for those lucky enough to experience it. I also believe that if we want to extend the lovely benefits of camp, we need to first find (or build) a sense of community. Camp proves how powerful it is to bring people together like this. Meeting that challenge would be a good place to start.

silly summer camp teens

2nd Session Video Glimpse – Part Three

We’ve got another highlights video!

It’s the latest from Robbie Francis of FrancisFilmworks. Earlier this week, Robbie spent a day filming at camp, and with his careful editing, has again produced a fascinating glimpse into camp life. You’ve seen the photos in our daily online gallery; now see (and hear) camp in action.

At about 2 minutes long, we think you’ll really enjoy watching.

Undeniable Thrill

If you’ve been to a summer camp in this areas of western North Carolina in, say, the last 50 years or so, there’s a good chance you’ve been to Sliding Rock. It’s that “iconic,” as the kids like to say these days. Tonight, our Middler-age campers and their counselors got their turn to join this long tradition of visiting “Slock” (another example of Rockbrook lingo that combines words)… “Slock is so iconic!” But what is Sliding Rock and why does it continue to be a highlight for so many camp kids?

NC sliding rock camp kids

Sliding Rock is a natural water slide formed by Looking Glass Creek as it flows over a sloping hill of exposed granite. It’s located a short drive from camp along US Highway 276 south of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The creek cascades down about 60 feet over natural mounds and curves in the rock creating small pockets of whitewater along the way. At the bottom is a pool about 6-8 feet deep, providing an ideal splash down area for the ride.

Over the last few years, Sliding Rock has become so popular with the public, the Forest Service has begun charging $5 per person to enter the area during the day. On a typical summer day, the parking area fills, forcing some people to be sadly turned away. Camps, however, hold permits to use the area after hours. We still pay a use fee to do that, but we can bring a big group of girls, our own lifeguards and equipment, and that allows us to ensure a safe and uniquely Rockbrook experience.

sliding rock girls

When we arrived tonight, all 6 buses of excited girls unloaded, dressed in their swimsuits and water shoes, towels clutched tightly or slung over their shoulders. The lifeguards positioned themselves at different points below and a few counselors stood at the top of the rock to help the girls begin their slide. The excitement built as the girls made their way up along the handrail on the side, and soon turned thrilling as they stepped out into the stream and sat down in the water for their turn to slide. Like all of the mountain streams in this part of NC, the temperature of the water is refreshingly chilly. Some describe it as “freezing,” but I think that adds to the fun.

You can imagine, there’s a lot of wide-eyed screaming as the girls pushed off, accelerating down the smooth rock towards the splash landing. As they twisted, spun and sometimes made silly poses while sliding, they were having a great time. Many girls pinched their nose at the last second before the plunge at the bottom. They popped back up out of the water, and the lifeguards helped them scoot back in line for another turn sliding. The thrill of it all was undeniable.

We encourage the girls to slide in pairs, doubling the fun. They hold hands at the top slinging each other a bit as they slide. We also bring lifejackets for the girls who are not strong swimmers on their own. We want to give everyone a chance to slide if they want to.

It’s also great fun to watch pairs of campers slide. Those waiting their turn or watching from the top observation deck cheered on their friends, belting out camp songs, clapping and enjoying the infectious energy of the evening.

Eventually, it became too dark to keep sliding for the night, so we loaded up for out trip back to camp (with a stop at Dolly’s along the way!). Going to Sliding Rock has become a true Rockbrook tradition. It’s so simple, such a classic camp experience, and such guaranteed fun, we love doing it. It’s the kind of experience you remember and cherish your whole life. I think our Middlers tonight would agree!

summer camp girls sliding

It’s a Haven

What are we doing here at Rockbrook? What are our goals? What is our overall purpose? We’re certainly striving to “have fun” (a LOT of fun!), but it’s more than that. Beyond all the different activities, the great food, and our classic mountain camp environment, what is Rockbrook really providing. On a deeper level, what is camp doing for all the girls and staff members who spend their summer here?

Years ago we tried to answer these questions by formulating a mission statement for Rockbrook, something that could summarize our core purpose. We wanted to convey what’s special and important about camp, and at least hint about how camp provides so many valuable life skills for those who experience it. Here’s that statement.

Rockbrook’s mission is to provide a haven for girls, a place of their own, where they can explore the beauty of nature, try new things, enjoy carefree summer living, and make some of their very best friends.

camp archer girl with bullseye
camp teens floating at lake

There’s a lot to be said about this, with each clause of the statement adding to the overall meaning, but we might summarize it by focusing on the word “haven.” We might answer our initial question by saying, “What we’re doing here is creating a haven for girls.” Good, that seems right. But what sort of haven, and why is that important? What makes “haven creating” the core purpose of Rockbrook?

The answer lies in the word “haven” itself. A haven is a place of safety, a refuge from something threatening or negative, like a harbor sheltering a ship from rough seas. Using this analogy, our goal is to make Rockbrook a safe harbor for girls, a place of refuge from the turbulent waters of modern life. We are here to create an intentional community that’s different and separate from certain detrimental forces impacting girls these days.

The idea, of course, is that girls blossom once these harmful forces are removed. I think this is true. In every way that Rockbrook is a haven, the girls here grow in astounding particular ways. That’s the “why,” the outcome, of creating a haven for our girls. They directly benefit from it.

So how is Rockbrook a haven?

1. Haven from Indoor Living: Life at Rockbrook is lived intimately with Nature, outdoors almost all the time. Instead of being shielded from the rich diversity of the natural world, campers learn to embrace its wonder and beauty. There’s a deep restorative power to this.

summer camp girl needlepoint

2. Haven from a Rushed Life: The pace of life at Rockbrook is deliberately slower and more mindful. Campers are not rushed or overly scheduled, allowing them to savor each moment and engage more deeply with everything and everyone around them.

3. Haven from Inactivity and Modern Convenience: In a world that often prioritizes convenience and sedentary lifestyles, Rockbrook encourages physical activity, adventure, and hands-on experiences. It’s a place where campers move and play, discovering the joys of doing.

4. Haven from Information Overload: In a world saturated with information, Rockbrook provides a break from the constant barrage of news and novelty. This allows campers to pay attention to their immediate experiences, fostering connections, creativity and presence.

5. Haven from Competition: Rockbrook is a non-competitive environment where girls can explore their interests and abilities without the pressure of outperforming others. Keeping score is the last thing on our minds. Instead the focus is on personal exploration, kind cooperation, and collective success.

6. Haven from Judgment: Rockbrook celebrates brave attempts, silly creativity, and an openness to try things. Here, girls explore for the fun it unconcerned with what others will say about the outcome. The kindess of this community lifts everyone up.

summer camp climber descending

7. Haven from Technology: This one is huge. Rockbrook is a tech-free environment that dispels the distraction inherent to digital media and its flickering screens. Camp returns us to the textures of real-world activities, the nuance of human interactions and the complexities of truly feeling things. This allows everyone here to be more human and explore what that means.

8. Haven from Prejudice: Rockbrook is committed to inclusivity and acceptance. Our camp values of kindness, respect and compassion encouraging campers to see beyond stereotypes. Meeting so many people at camp helps us appreciate and celebrate diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

9. Haven from Assumed Inferiority: Inspired by its founder Nancy Carrier, Rockbrook challenges the societal assumption that women are variously incapable. Here, girls are empowered to discover their strengths and abilities, fostering a strong sense of self-worth and confidence.

10. Haven from Social Pressures: Rockbrook provides a break from the pressures to conform to certain social expectations. Here, girls can explore their interests freely, while being supported by an enthusiastic community that values them for who they really are.

Understood as a haven in all these ways, it’s easy to see why Rockbrook is a special experience, and how it’s so important for your girls. We all know that ordinary life is chock full of pressures and challenges. Just ask any teenager; they’ll tell you. Camp provides relief from all that. It’s a sanctuary of freedom where girls thrive. Yes, it’s also a lot of fun and girls love it, but it’s wonderful in this important way as well.

camp big rafting splash

Decidedly Pink

What happens if Barbie goes to summer camp? Well, today we found out! It was a day of regular camp activities, but with a decidedly pink twist, as we unveiled a costume theme for the day. Today was Barbie Day!

It’s no surprise that we love to dress up at Rockbrook. We love how dressing in some kind of costume injects a little silliness into whatever we’re doing. When we bring together costume elements— just the right shorts, maybe a wig, and a few props like a hat or goofy glasses for example —we enjoy changing things up and being creative. Dressing up allows us to imagine being another character, taking on their mannerisms and stylings. A theme like this points us all in a certain direction (all things Barbie in this case!) yet at the same time creates enough space for individualized improvisation. When this many people dress up together, it’s phenomenal.

This was another theme that the campers knew about before arriving at camp, so they were prepared! Even when they arrived for breakfast, many campers and staff members were already dressed in their best Barbie pink outfits and fabulous accessories. This might have been pajamas, pink sunglasses, or just a pink t-shirt. As you know, Barbie took on many different professions over the years, and this was true at camp today too. We had a Cowboy Barbie, a Spring Bouquet Barbie, and Astronaut Barbie, a Rockstar Barbie, a 50s Barbie, a Yoga Barbie, and a Publicity Tour Barbie who was distributing autographs all day long.

Everyone became a Barbie of some sort today. All it took was a little pink and a confident, carefree attitude, both of which are ingredients easily found at Rockbrook. Throughout the day we started adding “Hi, Barbie!” to our conversations and greetings as someone passed by. We would also ask, “what Barbie are you?” and wait to hear about her amazing talent. Tennis Barbie, Tetherball Barbie, Movie Star Barbie, Painter Barbie —these are just a few.

It turns out Barbie is a very accomplished equestrienne, a great rock climber, and weaver. She loves to do tricks off the diving board, throw clay on the potter’s wheel, and shoot archery. She’s a very good singer too, especially around so many of her equally fabulous friends. Who knew? Here at Rockbrook, that’s not too surprising. These Barbies are strong!

A bubbling Barbie positivity elevated our whole day. When dinner arrived the campers where excited to find the dining hall decorated with pink tablecloths and flowers. There were Barbie-themed temporary tattoos for everyone, and special pink candy treats on every table. Along with our lasagna, bread, salad and grapes for dinner, the baker made pink lemonade bars for dessert. The Hi-Ups led everyone singing a few songs from the Barbie movie.

A group of our younger Barbies finished up their day by hiking up to the top of Castle Rock to catch a bit of the mountain view before sunset. This is a steep hike up a challenging trail that ends at the rock face above camp. It winds through old mountain laurel and rhododendron bushes eventually breaking out into a fantastic overlook. The girls and their counselors sat carefully on the rock admiring the distant mountains for a few minutes before heading back down to camp before it got too dark.

I was a great day at camp, life in a “dreamworld” we might say, proving again that “we girls can do anything!” True, very true.

summer camp hiking view

Cheerful and Busy

Today was another cheerful and busy morning at Rockbrook, even more so than usual because we welcomed the campers attending the second of our July Mini sessions. This is the day when new friends arrive to join the full session girls who are already here at camp. The girls arriving seemed excited and bubbling with anticipation. They’ve been waiting for this day for months and now it had finally arrived. Younger sisters were joining older siblings. Alumnae were dropping of their daughters for the first time, and girls who had never been to camp before were getting their first in-person look at Rockbrook.

The drive-thru check-in process ran smoothly, with most families only waiting a short while to make their way through the stations. Thank you for your patience! As families drove up and around the lake in camp, they were greeted by counselors jumping and cheering, adding to the upbeat atmosphere.

Of course, with the excitement, there were also a few nervous faces among the girls arriving. It’s entirely normal to feel a bit of nervousness at the start, even for returning campers. Ordinarily these jitters fade fast once we get started doing things together. That’s why we launch right into an assembly on the hill filled with songs and skits, then a great lunch of comfort-food mac-n-cheese (homemade, of course), and a chance to cool off at the lake with the “swim demos.” The new cabin groups took camp tours, had cabin meetings, and visited the camp store to pick up pre-purchased items.

The morning for the full-session girls started with their regular Sunday of raising the flag and gathering for Chapel. The Senior campers led a program on the theme of “Laughter,” emphasizing how camp life is filled with laughter. “These are the people who make me laugh the most,” one Senior put it. Camp friends are just like that.

Our afternoon event gathered everyone on the Carrier House lawn for a camp-wide Renaissance fair. The campers knew this would be a theme for their session so many came prepared with amazing costumes for the event. Colorful long princess dresses, flower crowns and ribbons, fairy wings, and tiaras were most popular. The fair was a whirlwind of activity where campers could flit between different activities, games, and projects all happening at once.

kid renaissance costume

One tent had campers making flower crowns, while another offered fairy hair, parchment calligraphy, or face painting. Another area of “Tomfoolery” invited girls to try juggling beanbags, ribbon dancing and hula hooping. A mysterious fortune teller named Madam Brunhilde wandered among the girls offering cryptic advice to those brave enough to ask.

We also played games: a burlap sack race, a water balloon toss, and a table shuffle game with goblets. Each game awarded small prizes for playing. Another game sent campers on a treasure hunt looking for golden coins hidden along a forest path. Finding enough coins won a lollipop prize.

What’s a festival without music and food too? So to complete the event we played Medieval-infused music, a playful twist on modern tunes, throughout the event. For snacks, a “Wench’s Tavern” served warm soft pretzels and kettle corn. With all this to do, everyone enjoyed an afternoon of fun, Renaissance style. It was a great way to open up the new session.

summer camp renaissance festival girls

Finally, we want to offer a cautionary comment in the aftermath of the recent political violence witnessed by our country, the attempted assassination of former President Trump at a campaign rally. Shocking news events like this that occur in the outside world rarely have much relevance here at camp. For this reason, we generally do not report these sorts of troubling realities to the girls at camp. We’ve found that it’s better to allow Rockbrook to remain a refuge from the concerns that mark adult lives in the broader world.

Similarly, we hope you will be careful when writing to your camper about unsettling news items, even refrain from doing so. We know it’s tempting to let your girls know what’s going on in the world and what’s on your mind, but camp life, the child-centered world of Rockbrook, is happily separate from most of that. We are enjoying the fun and friendship of camp unburdened by the troubles in the news. Camp is a haven. Thank you for helping us keep it well.

summer camp happiness

Second Session Video Glimpse – Part Two

We’re lucky again to have another video produced by Robbie Francis of FrancisFilmworks! Robbie visited camp again late this week and spent the day filming, then carefully edited this wonderful glimpse into camp life. The video does a delightful job depicting the mood at camp these days… so much action and so many happy girls!

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

Charged with Creativity

You may have noticed that there a many crafts activities at Rockbrook. One parent made that remark to me yesterday by saying, “There are so many photos of girls doing crafts!” That’s certainly true. It’s partly explained by how easy it is for the photographers to stop by all the craft areas in camp, but I’d also say it’s because the girls really enjoy working with the crafting materials, making intricate colorful things, and exploring their creative spirits. Being crafty like this is simply popular at camp. Just about every minute at camp is charged with creativity.

summer camp woodshop

One explanation for this lies in the enticing nature of the crafts themselves. With great instructors eager to share their expertise, and with example projects to model, it’s easy to get excited about digging into the various craft options available.

Take woodworking, for instance. All around in the wood shop the girls can see finished cutting boards, picture frames, secret boxes, carved pendants, and other carefully shaped and smoothed wooden creations. Marie Brown, of Handhouse Studio in North Hampton, MA (and Rockbrook Alumna and Camp Mom!), is currently our lead woodworking instructor. She’s back again this summer demonstrating techniques, helping campers articulate their project ideas, and keeping the wood shop fun and lively with encouragement. Just being in the wood shop is inspiring!

Tie-dying is another craft that holds an inherent magic. The simple twisting and folding of plain white t-shirts, and then the application of rich vibrant dyes, soaking in here and there, ends up blooming into a surprise colorful design. Weaving on the loom has a similar surprise as the different color fibers cross in patterns to reveal a textured design. Likewise for knitting and crocheting, it’s fun to see what interesting combination emerges. “That’s so cool” is the common refrain.

summer camp tie dye creativity

The craft activities are popular at Rockbrook also because the process of being creative here is so positive. We really encourage it in almost everything we do, from our love of costumes, to making up skits, to performing impromptu songs and dancing “flash mobs” in the dining hall. Around here, we’re not looking for perfection, but rather the exploration of what might be possible with some imagination. That same ethos permeates our craft activities too. At camp, there’s no failure in creativity, only a celebration of bold combination. The girls love this open and free approach and find it both rewarding and fun to jump into all the camp craft options.

Also, like everything we do at camp, the craft activities are popular because they offer a relaxed context to be with friends. Crafting together, surrounded by the sort of people who know you really well (your true self!) and who care about you so genuinely, enhances the joy of creating. Picture a group of girls knitting on the back porch of Curosty, laughing and chatting, making suggestions and encouraging each other with each stitch. This community spirit built into our daily experience at Rockbrook— “together it’s better” —is inspiring in this way as well.

Understood in these ways, the real rewards of the craft activities at camp arise not from the finished products— the cutting boards, weavings or pottery, for example —but from the process of making them. Yes, the girls are proud of their craft projects, and you might be lucky enough to receive one as a gift. But I think it’s worth remembering that the camp art you’re admiring represents a joyful process of creativity, the inherent rewards of creating itself, and the friendships formed along the way.

Rockbrook Camp craft girls

Daily Adventure

Adventure is something that’s easy to find every day at camp. Many of the outdoor activities, of course, offer the sort of challenge and require the sort of nerve we know are required of something adventurous. Each of these comes with a little bit of risk, plenty of safety gear and protocols, and a big thrill as a payoff for giving it a try. What at first looks a little scary, intimidating and maybe even wildly impossible, turns out to be exciting and rewarding.

camp challenge course bridge
camp climbing tower kid

Take for example the zipline course at Rockbrook. This is a unique course we designed to be scenic, a progression of challenges, and a unique thrill. It’s a series of three different zips and three challenge bridges. Woven into the forest, each zip goes between huge boulders, among the trees, and even a waterfall above the main part of camp. The first zip is slower, and the last is an eye-popping, you-can’t-help-but-scream, blast. The last zip glides right in front of the office in camp giving everyone on the hill a great view of the action. The girls wear a helmet and climbing harness tethered to a dual-wheel pulley with a steel backup clip. Launching on a zip, trusting this equipment, takes courage, but the exciting payoff comes right away as the girls zoom through the air waving their arms.

A similar adventure, but one that requires more physical strength, is climbing our high-ropes Alpine Tower. This tower is 50-feet tall and offers dozens of routes to the top, each with a unique challenge requiring balance, strength and nerve. Climbers wear a special harness and then tie into a rope that will hold them if they lose their grip or footing while climbing. They climb by pulling up and balancing on small holds bolted to a complex log structure. After taking just a few steps up, it already feels high in the air, but by concentrating on the puzzle of what to hold and where to step, the girls make it the top where they have a tree-top view of the forest. Most adults I know would really struggle climbing the tower, but not these Rockbrook girls. They are strong!

summer camp water slide plunge
summer camp hammock nest

Another great example of a regular adventure experience at Rockbrook is the waterslide at our lake. To ride the slide you first walk along a boardwalk and up a series of steps and platforms. At the top it’s almost 50 feet up! Water sprays down on the slide which is made from a vinyl tarp strung between two parallel cables that swoop down to just above the surface of the water. The ride is 150-feet of splashy, slick acceleration ending with a powerful crash into the water below. It feels a little daunting at the top, but also inviting in a strange sort of way— like all adventure. But once you take the leap and launch down the slide, the excitement of it all easily inspires campers to climb out at the dock and head around for another slide.

Here’s one last example. It’s the “Nest.” The Nest is another totally unique feature of camp hidden in the forest. Partway up the hike to Castle Rock, the big rockface above camp, there’s a cave-like area where the rock overhangs to create a large, dry area. We have drilled multiple rock hangers into the rock there, providing anchor points for up to 14 hammocks to be strung in different directions. Groups of girls, each with a hammock and a set of straps, can head up there to enjoy a comfortable, shady rest in that special environment. Along with a book, journal or friendship bracelet making supplies, a water bottle and a snack, this is a fun way to spend an afternoon with friends.

All of these examples of adventure at camp are moments when the campers find themselves leaning toward something that at first might cause them to hesitate. Despite those feelings, the campers here, even the youngest Juniors, embrace adventure. With the encouragement and support of the other kids around them, everyone is empowered to give things a try. Once again, that community spirit reaps collective rewards. At camp, we’re adventurous together, each and every day.

classic summer camp girls

Instantly Empowered

There’s an article on the Rockbrook website where we identify the top reasons camp is important for children. If you haven’t seen it, it can be understood as a list of benefits of summer camp, as a summary of what kids gain from their experience at Rockbrook.

summer camp tennis serve

If camp is “fun that matters,” these are some of the ways it matters.

Some of the “reasons camp is great for kids,” in the article, spring just from living the life we have at Rockbrook. For example, “Reconnecting with Nature” is the simple consequence of being outside most of our day. We’re living in a forest, hearing and smelling it, even through the night in our open-air, screened cabins. We’re getting wet when it rains, and finding a bug of some sort almost anywhere. “Being physically active” is built into our day too. We’re walking up and down the hills just getting from one activity to another, not to mention the activities themselves— the hiking, swimming, tennis, gagaball, horseback riding, and so on. “Unplugging from technology” is likewise simply a part of camp. Quite intentionally and for many reasons, we don’t allow anyone to be “on their phone” at Rockbrook. Everything about that is antithetical to the attentive community we value at camp.

creative summer camp kids

Other reasons camp is important, listed in the article, focus on how kids grow from the experience. Many of the particularities of camp life— being away from parents, making decisions like choosing your own activities or when to take a shower, experiencing all sorts of new things, overcoming challenges when something doesn’t turn out just right —are behind this growth in character. The article puts it this way; at camp, children “become more confident,” “gain resiliency,” and “grow more independent.” The examples are endless. Think of the confidence it takes to control a 1,200-pound horse, or to climb a 50-foot tower. Imagine the resilience, flexibility and persistence required to keep trying when you can’t figure out how to center a ball of clay on the wheel, but still try again, or when your first choice of activities is not available after all. Of course kids are practicing being independent at camp (no parents or teachers to guide every move) too, but it’s exactly that practice that proves, even on their own, they can do it.

strong summer camp children

Recently another idea came to mind that brings together these aspects of the camp experience. It’s the idea that camp life empowers the girls at Rockbrook. We might say, most of the “benefits” in the article can be understood as different ways camp girls are empowered by the experience. They’re made more physically powerful by being active most of the day, more socially powerful by joining this cooperative community, and more personally powerful by gaining confidence and resilience. They’re empowered by discovering they can be creative and attentive when away from electronic entertainment. They’re more powerful from the expanded awareness that comes from spending this extended time in Nature. And they’re certainly empowered knowing they can be friends with anyone who is open and kind in return, no matter where they’re from.

It was a quote by writer Wes Angelozzi that got me thinking about “camp as empowering kids.” He writes:

“Go and love someone exactly as they are. And then watch how quickly they transform into the greatest, truest version of themselves. When one feels seen and appreciated in their own essence, one is instantly empowered.”

Reading that, I thought, “Yes, that is so true at Rockbrook.” We are helping our girls discover “the truest version of themselves” by creating a loving community of care and kindness. We strive for everyone here to feel accepted “as they are,” respected and appreciated, no matter their looks, smarts or talents. This extraordinary, friendly community proves, over and over, that everyone belongs. And yes, that feeling of “the people here love the true me” is instantly empowering. It’s freeing, empowering and joyful.

I think it’s a bit of secret sauce— the culture of Rockbrook. A community this friendly and accepting, one that opens girls up, inspiring them to learn about themselves and be genuine to themselves, is an added force making camp even more empowering. Now when you see Rockbrook girls being powerful and especially amazing, you’ll have a hunch why.

powerful summer camp cabin group