Julia Caroline Hurd

We’ve often pointed out that Nancy Carrier, the woman who founded Rockbrook Camp, is the great-granddaughter of P.T. Barnum, the great American showman and circus founder.  It’s true, and here is a cool old photograph that helps explain the lineage.  Taken in 1875, this is a portion of a larger family portrait showing P.T. Barnum, his second wife, Nancy Fish, several of his children, son-in-laws, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Julia Caroline Hurd and PT Barnum

P.T. Barnum is seated third from the right and the woman seated third from the left is Nancy Fish Barnum, his second wife. Standing between them is Samuel Henry Hurd, the man who married P.T. Barnum’s second daughter Helen Maria. Samuel and Helen Hurd had three daughters, the second of which, Julia Caroline, you see standing here to the far right. Julia Caroline Hurd, who was born in 1860, was P.T. Barnum’s granddaughter. In this picture she is fifteen years old.

Later, in 1886 when she was 24 years old, Julia Hurd married Henry Peck Clarke. She moved with her new husband from Connecticut in 1888 to South Carolina after purchasing the Goodwill plantation. It was there, in 1889, that Nancy Barnum Clarke was born, the woman who later marries Henry Nash Carrier in 1913, and in 1921 establishes Rockbrook Camp. Put differently, the young woman standing to the far right in this photograph is Nancy Carrier’s mother.

There are many more details and stories to tell about each of these people. Stay tuned…! Meanwhile, here is a short video discussing the history of Nancy’s founding of Rockbrook.

RBC Equestrian Program Profiled

Horse Camp Girl Riding
Horse Information Logo

Rockbrook has recently been added to the “all things horse” web site infohorse.com. With information and articles about horse care, horse breeds, horse careers, horse training, and of course horse camps, it is a fantastic Internet resource. Since 1997, infohorse.com has been a great place for every horse enthusiast to find out about horse related products and services.

Rockbrook is proud to now be included. Our equestrian program has a very nice detailed profile on the site.

Want to learn more about horses and horseback riding? Head on over to infohorse.com!

Clyde Wins Outstanding Teacher Award!!

Clyde Carter Outstanding Experiential Education Teacher

We’re so pleased and proud to announce that Clyde Carter, our amazing Outdoor Adventure Director, has been named the Outstanding Experiential Education Teacher of the year by the Association for Experiential Education (AEE). This is an international award recognizing that Clyde has “demonstrated an active passion for experiential education principles and theories,” has “practiced innovative, experiential educational methodologies,” and has consistently shown “the highest ethical standards in working with students.” We knew Clyde had been nominated for this prestigious award, and recently that he had won. In late November, he accepted the award at the AEE International conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In addition to working full time in the summer as Rockbrook’s Adventure Director, Clyde is an Associate Professor of Recreation/Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education at Brevard College. In 1989, with encouragement from Jerry Stone, Rockbrook’s Director at the time, Clyde came to Brevard to establish the College’s Outdoor Leadership major, one of it’s most popular offerings. He helped develop Brevard College’s Voice of the Rivers (VOR) program in 1997 and led expeditions in 1999 and 2008.  Throughout the year you can find Clyde teaching courses on Risk Management, Experiential Education, Wilderness Leadership, as well as Rock Climbing and Kayaking.

Congratulations Clyde!

Camp Estivation

Estivation fun at camp

Word of the Day!

estivate.

This is a great word that applies to camp. You’ve heard of “hibernate,” which basically means to “spend the winter in a dormant condition.” Well, estivate means the opposite— “to spend the summer, as at a specific place or in a certain activity.”

Looking it up here, you find that estivate is derived from the latin word aestīvāre meaning “to reside during the summer (akin to aestīvus of or relating to summer).”

So, what’s the best way to estivate this year? At Rockbrook Camp! Are you a camp estivator? Are you ready for some seriously fun estivation?!! Oh yeah!

The Youth Camps of North Carolina

Visitors to western North Carolina often remark that there are a lot of summer camps located in the area. There sure are! The awesome natural features of this part of NC— the highest peaks east of the Mississippi River, millions of acres of State and National forests, whitewater rivers, rock climbing crags, and beautiful lakes —make it ideal for adventure activities, cooler summer temperatures, and the outdoor setting for summer camps. It’s not too surprising western North Carolina has a long history of summer camping.

Looking at the entire state, there’s a clear pattern to where summer camps are located. Take a look at this map.

Summer Camps in North Carolina

It shows the youth summer camps in western North Carolina. In the entire state, there are approximately 186 camps, with more than half (about 90) located in the western mountains. The others are concentrated near 3 major population centers (Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh). Many of these are smaller day camps that serve the local communities.

The red pins are accredited by American Camp Association accredited camps, like Rockbrook. Here too, more than half of the State’s ACA accredited camps are located in the western region.

For more information about the precise location of Rockbrook, visit our NC Location page.

youth campers in NC

Be Out There

“We have shifted our culture from one that is engaged in a healthy, interactive, imaginative way to one that is inwardly facing, sedentary and expecting things to be fed to us.” — Dr. Michael Rich, Director of the Center of Media and Child Health

Be Out There Kids Hiking
Summertime Hiking

The National Wildlife Federation has joined the ongoing discussion among educators about the importance for children of outdoor experience. In response to the drastic decline of the time modern children spend outdoors, they have launched a well-organized campaign to provide “practical tools for families, schools and communities [that] will make being outdoors a fun, healthy and automatic part of everyday life.” It’s called “Be Out There.”

The NFW reports some troubling facts. “Children are spending half as much time outdoors as they did 20 years ago. Today, kids 8-18 years old devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media in a typical day (more than 53 hours a week).” And there are equally troubling related consequences: increased child obesity, decreased creativity, imagination, and social skills.

The benefits of outdoor experience have been well researched as well. “Outdoor play increases fitness levels and builds active, healthy bodies. Spending time outside raises levels of Vitamin D, helping protect children from future bone problems, heart disease, diabetes and other health issues. Exposure to natural settings may be widely effective in reducing ADHD symptoms. Exposure to environment-based education significantly increases student performance on tests of their critical thinking skills. Children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces. Outdoor play protects children’s emotional development whereas loss of free time and a hurried lifestyle can contribute to anxiety and depression. Nature makes kids nicer, enhancing social interactions, value for community and close relationships.” Likewise, on this blog, here for example, we’ve discussed the benefits of regular outdoor experience.

The point, of course, is that summer camp provides an excellent antidote to this modern trend. As children spend more of their time indoors isolated from nature, as they begin to show symptoms of “Nature Deficit Disorder,” outdoor camps like Rockbrook become even more important. Being outside, most if not all of the time, is one of the secrets that make summer camp so beneficial for children.

The National Wildlife Federation agrees; it’s one of the best things parents can do for their kids… turn off the screens and send them to camp!

Oldest Presbyterian Church

The Transylvania County Historical Society has made an interesting find that ties the Rockbrook Camp property to the oldest Presbyterian church in the area. Local historians Keith Parker and Gene Baker now believe the “Mamre congregation” had its “Presbyterian Meeting house below the mouth of Dunn’s Creek” right across from the main entrance to Rockbrook. What’s phenomenal is that this church was in place in 1798. That’s the same year that the U.S. government officially obtained this land from the Cherokee! This means the property that would later become Rockbrook Camp (when Nancy Carrier’s father Henry Peck Clarke purchased it) was a thriving community more than 100 years before the camp was founded. This area, known as the Dunn’s Rock Township, was the third largest in the area when Transylvania County was formed in 1861.

1798 Transylvania County Church near Dunn's Rock

Now take a look at this view of the French Broad River valley from the top of Dunn’s Rock. We’re not sure what year it was made (and whether it’s a colorized photograph or a painting based on a photograph; thanks to Roger Raxter for giving us a copy), but you can clearly see, along the bottom edge, the old “Dunn’s Rock Bridge” crossing the river. Right next to it, you can make out the red roof of what we think is that old Presbyterian meeting house from 1798. It was just south of where the bridge crossed the river.  Like the church, this bridge is no longer there.

Such important history surrounding Rockbrook!

Youth Development

Journal for Youth Development

One phrase camp professionals often use to describe their work is “Youth Development.” Beginning, most likely, with the American Camp Association (ACA), most camp directors are quick to point out the beneficial outcomes children gain from the summer camp experience, the power camp has in developing young people’s character, confidence, and other important life-skills. In this way, summer camps are “youth development organizations.” Just about everyone who knows about camp, and Rockbrook is no exception, will agree.

Did you know that “Youth Development” also refers to a multidisciplinary academic discipline (drawing on psychology, education, sociology, family science, and public health, among others) dedicated to studying the development of school-aged children? Well, it’s true and there’s a peer-reviewed journal published to prove it! The Journal of Youth Development reports original research and focused studies with applied consequences that can make a difference in youth development professional’s work.

One article particularly relevant for camp professionals was published in the Journal back in 2007— “Components of Camp Experiences for Positive Youth Development.” Working with survey data gathered by the ACA from its member camps, the article tries to identify those aspects of camp life that have the greatest positive effect on youth development. Most significantly, the researchers conclude it is the supportive relationships children have with camp staff that are most important, followed by “program structure, elements of accountability, assessment of outcomes, and opportunities for skill building.” The take away lesson here, of course, is the importance of great people working as a camp’s counselors. We certainly know this at Rockbrook. A great staff of caring, attentive, supportive role models really benefits the campers and brings the whole camp together throughout the summer. Our campers make all kinds of strides as a result. We’ve all seen it, but with this research, there’s academic credibility backing it up!

Learning to Climb at Camp

Kids learning to rock climb while at camp

When girls first begin to learn rock climbing at Rockbrook, they start on our high ropes course climbing tower. It’s an “Alpine Tower” and you may have seen photos of it before here. It’s really the perfect place to learn how to climb because it makes so many different elements of “real rock climbing” so accessible. The girls can quickly learn important safety principles like the belay commands. They can begin to feel comfortable using the basic rock climbing gear like the harness, helmet, carabiner and rope. And, they can actually climb! A lot! The Alpine Climbing Tower provides close to 100 different ways to climb to the top; there are poles, nets, ropes, cables, climbing holds and rock walls to allow a whole range of difficulties and challenges. Girls can sign up for climbing instruction every week at camp and climb a couple of different routes every time they come!

But what do you learn when you first start out rock climbing? The importance of stretching and warming up is a good start. Everyone does better if they are flexible and a little stronger after warming up. After that the first lesson emphasizes the importance of balance, of being able to hold still balancing on one foot, for example, and moving the other leg or arms to reach a certain spot. Next, the girls learn footwork is central to rock climbing. It’s not mainly about finding grips for your hands, but rather about learning to use your feet and legs to move up the rock. Your hands and arms mainly help with balance, and your legs keep you moving. The other beginning rock climbing lesson to learn is more mental than physical. It’s learning to stay calm and focused. Rock climbing is a series of puzzles that requires concentration, and a calm, clear attention to details the rock presents. If you aren’t relaxed on the rock and get in a hurry, you might miss a hold or skip right over the perfect foothold making your route more strenuous and less enjoyable.

All of these lessons can take some practice to master, but there’s so much rock climbing going on at Rockbrook, the girls easily learn them. It’s really not hard to learn how to rock climb at camp, and the girls love it!

A Teacher in Everything

For quite some time now, we’ve talked about summer camp providing children valuable lessons, unique opportunities to learn that can’t be recreated in traditional educational contexts. If you mention this claim to just about anyone associated with a summer camp, you’ll find full agreement. Summer camps are “Youth Development” organizations. Camps are heaps of fun, but are also something kids need to foster their growing up.

Kids Learning Camp

The American Camp Association has articulated these educational benefits of camp most extensively. Following broad research initiatives and years of collecting data from summer camps across the country, the ACA continually makes a strong case for what children gain from a camp experience. The list of these “outcomes” and “competencies” is now well-known: self-identity, self-worth, self-esteem, leadership, self-respect, compassion, contribution, commitment, caring, honesty, generosity, sharing, resilience, resourcefulness, ethical awareness, responsibility, and communication skills. We have discussed many of these benefits on this blog, here and here for example.

The next question to ask, however, is not “what gains do children make at camp,” but “how does camp provide these benefits?” There is a lot to this, of course, but let me point out one crucial reason summer camp has this unique educational power, and again, power above and beyond what traditional classroom educational settings offer.

Residential summer camps are uniquely educational because they are first and foremost communities dedicated, through first-hand experiences, to broad personal, social and physical well being. Camps are experiential learning communities. Led by admirable, caring adult role models, summer camp communities are tightly-knit groups of people who not only live (eat, play, make) together, but also grow personally by virtue of experiencing so much together. So many of the “outcomes” and “competencies” above, those personal qualities we all recognize as valuable— honesty, compassion, responsibility, generosity, etc., can be traced to what individuals gain from fully participating in a vibrant positive community. Summer camp communities are dedicated to, thrive upon, and thus foster, these kinds of personal traits.

Equally important is the full-time nature of the summer camp community experience. These aren’t lessons taught sitting at a desk in idealized abstract language. This is learning that’s lived. At camp, the “teachable moments” actually happen, involve real people, and carry real personal consequences. Just about every moment at camp is this kind of “teachable moment,” an opportunity to learn from the interaction with others and the natural world. At summer camp, there is a teacher in everything!

Being at summer camp is almost non-stop fun, but it also brings out the best in kids by asking them to pay attention to the people around them, and to build positive relationships of all kinds. It’s this kind of direct experiential community learning that gives camp the power to shape young people so profoundly.