Originally from Maryland, Jessi Nixon studies Psychology at the University of North Carolina in Asheville, NC. She is the former Staff Director at Rockbrook Camp for Girls, but has worked as a cabin counselor, activity instructor, and lifeguard as well. Jessi is also a registered Nurse.
This weekend, with the help of Tara Millington and Catherine Goodnight, the first seeds were planted in the new Rockbrook garden. What you don’t see yet in this photo are the carrots, beets, beans, corn, onions, peas and more that will soon be sprouting! This is actually the same place that the old garden use to be many years ago. The soil is top notch!
This summer, like in camp years gone by, campers will be able to sign up for garden workshops, where they might even get to pick right out of the garden! Both campers and counselors can pitch in during Twilight (the time after dinner and before evening program) to water and care for the garden.
3 Common Mistakes
By Bob Ditter, Camp Psychologist
1. Telling children the things you don’t want them to do, rather than the things you do want them to do.
We often tell children, “Don’t fight! Stop running! Quit arguing! Leave that alone!” This way of communicating leaves children with a much better idea of what we don’t want them to do than of what we do want them to do. No wonder many child-care workers are exasperated with the ways children behave! It takes awareness and a concerted effort to break this habit, but learning to say what we want from children pays dividends.
2. The tug-of-war trap.
When a child says, “I’m not making my bed! My parents didn’t pay for me to come to camp to work; I came to have fun,” most unseasoned counselors fall for the bait and immediately get caught in an argument about who paid for camp and whether the camper must make the bed or not. This happens because counselors don’t know what else to do.
3. Missing the feeling tone in what children say.
We become fixated on behavior and forget that a child may be acting out of fear, sadness, or a sense of loneliness. Unless counselors learn to identify and name feelings, much of what campers communicate to them may be lost.
Here is a poem we sometimes read at Spirit Fire. It was written by Canadian, Mary Susanne Edgar. Like Nancy Carrier, she founded a girls camp and was its long-time director. That camp was Camp Bernard, located in Ontario. This poem does such a beautiful job conveying many of the sentiments of camp life and why it means so much for the girls who experience it. We love it!
To An Old Camper
by Mary S. Edgar
You may think, my dear, when you grow quite old
You have left camp days behind,
But I know the scent of wood smoke
Will always call to mind
Little fires at twilight
And trails you used to find.
You may think someday you have quite grown up,
And feel so worldly wise
But suddenly from out of the past
A vision will arise
Of merry folk with brown bare knees
And laughter in their eyes.
You may live in a house built to your taste
In the nicest part of town
But someday for your old camp togs
You’d change your latest gown
And trade it for a balsam bed
Where stars all night look down.
You may find yourself grown wealthy
Have all that gold can buy.
But you’d toss aside a fortune
For days ‘neath an open sky
With sunlight and blue water
And white clouds sailing by.
For once you have been a camper
Then something has come to stay
Deep in your heart forever
Which nothing can take away,
And heaven can only be heaven
With a camp in which to play.
Tally Singer, long-time Rockbrook girl and assistant director this past summer, lives and works in LA during the off-season. She’s worked on movies like The DaVinci Code, and other Ron Howard productions. Recently, she saw Daniel Radcliffe and friends. Here’s the poster they signed for all us girls at Rockbrook!
At the end of each camp session, select counselors and campers speak about their camp experience. Here’s what Kara Morris, a 2009 first-time counselor of the Junior line and archery instructor, said about her summer at Rockbrook:
Hello, I’m Kara Morris and this is my first year at Rockbrook. Being from the west where sleepaway camps are uncommon, I expected Rockbrook to be your typical Parent Trap style camp, where you pierce your ears, cut your hair, learn complex handshakes, and of course, find your long-lost twin. What I did not expect was this remarkable program enabling girls to constantly try new things, have endless amounts of fun, create life-long friendships, to grow, mature and learn life’s lessons with each passing day. I had no idea how intricate Rockbrook is, and how much work and effort goes into each and every single day. What’s remarkable is the resulting experience people receive by coming as a camper or a staff member.
What experience is that? It’s all of the chances we’ve had to enjoy ourselves, have our patience tested, a cold shower because you can’t get to Brad fast enough, it’s trial and error, attempting to catch-and-release a ginormous black widow instead of just killing him to be considered a “Bug Rescuer.” The personal thoughts you’ve collected while hiking miles or swimming that 440. Teaching someone how to make a cool design for a friendship bracelet. It’s the friendships you’ve made. It’s the laughs, the tears, the knowledge that you and a group of girls just got through a difficult situation, The battle scars from falling down the senior steps or the hill…Writing a handwritten letter. Watching the rain fall, listening to the thunder. Hauling trunk after trunk up the hill. Spending time in nature away from electronics and cares of the world. Finishing a great book. Encouraging another person. It’s Rockbrook camp. Young or Old, whether you know it or not, each of you have gained experience here over the past few weeks. You come as one person and leave a better person because of it.
My experience at Rockbrook has not only been these thing, but more. Camp has taught me to be a better person, more patient with others and myself; it has helped me be more forgiving and less judgmental. It has enabled me to contemplate who I am and why I do the things I do. It has drawn me closer to my beliefs. It has been a growth-promoting experience…
To my fabulous juniors, I love you girls. No matter where you are, every time I eat pudding I will think of your bright smiling faces. And I will hear little voices in my mind saying, “What about my pudding??” Thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn from you. As the Broadway Musical “Wicked” states, “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”
With Halloween approaching, everyone’s thinking about what costume to wear and camp is a place with a highly-concentrated amount of costume ideas! It’s typical to change clothes more than once a day to dress up for things like Granny Bingo, ’80’s Dance Party, Harry Potter-themed Birthday Night, twin day, and lots of other happenings. Here are some stellar costumes from this year:
One of the most common questions we hear is “What’s the food like,” which translates into, “How often do you eat tater tots and chicken fingers?” The answer is, not very often! The kitchen strives to find that balance between kid-pleasing-comfort-food while at the same time being health conscious. There is always a deluxe salad bar at lunch and dinner and a vegetarian option at all meals.
Rick Hastings was our Head Chef this year. He has a background in vegetarian cooking and has also worked at a camp before. He and his fabulous kitchen crew welcomed campers into the kitchen to help prepare the day’s meals and snacks – including muffins for the daily mid-morning muffin break!
Here is what the Senior linehead counselor, Sarah Thompson, said about the food and kitchen staff this year:
“I cannot praise the kitchen staff highly enough. A happy camp is a well-fed camp and they feed us exceedingly well! The magic started during staff orientation (Capers? Fresh Basil? Is this really camp food?) and did not let up as the summer weared on. The food is healthy, innovative and delicious.
What impresses me the most, though, is the staff’s attitude. They are unfailingly helpful and upbeat, even when faced with hordes of hungry and demanding people. More importantly, they realize that the kitchen affords valuable opportunities for the camper. The kitchen staff has opened its doors to several campers this summer, allowing girls to assist. Often, they are girls who are somehow most in need of the opportunity. There are some places at camp – the climbing tower, for instance – where girls are clearly going to gain confidence and other skills. This year’s kitchen staff has turned the kitchen into such a place for campers. The knowledge, independence and self-confidence they have instilled in the girls is nothing short of amazing.”
“Cooks you made a wonderful dinner! You know we’ll never get any thinner!” – From the Cook Song
Cherie was part of our Adventure trip staff this past summer. She is currently a student at Brevard College. She heard about Rockbrook through Clyde Carter, who is the Chair of the Outdoor Department throughout the school year and also Rockbrook’s Outdoor Director during the summer. Before coming to camp, Cherie did a 21-day paddling and backpacking trip with school. She also received a certificate in Wilderness First Response and Water Safety. Cherie lived at camp, in the cabin known as “Dilly”, that is built right next to a creek.
Throughout the summer, campers and staff often serenaded Cherie by singing, “Cherie, Cherie Baby”, usually when she was coming up to announce a rafting, climbing or backpacking trip after a meal. Her main duties included packing the food, raft guiding, belaying and making sure campers stayed safe. When she wasn’t out on a trip, she helped at the Alpine Tower, and occasionally offered roll clinics in the lake. And of course, in the evening she’d dress up for that night event!
By the time campers are Seniors (13 – 15 yo), they’re self-sufficient enough that they can take care of their basic needs on their own, and as their counselor you can focus on getting to know the person they are becoming. It’s a hard age, and being around Seniors is like taking a time warp to watch yourself as you were growing up. You’re just close enough to their age to remember exactly what is was like, as as their counselor you are in the perfect position to give them the helpful or encouraging word you would have liked, needed or even did get to help you through all the crazy transitions of adolescence.
Working with Seniors in your activity has the potential to be incredibly rewarding, because you can go past teaching basic skills and get into more of the technique and finesse of whatever i you teach. Watching a senior’s growth is amazing, because it’s often by leaps and bound you l have thought possible.
That being said, it’s important to remember that seniors are still campers. They still get homesick, sometimes forget to do their chores, refuse to get out of bed in the morning or go to bed at night and have their bursts of teenage sarcasm. But seniors are also funny, have interesting personal histories, and are just starting to articulate their goals and dreams to themselves – and maybe even to you, if you take time to listen. Every line has its own unique wonder, but working with seniors has helped me grow this summer in ways that I would not have imagined. Thank you, Senior Line!
Written by 1st time Senior Counselor, Kiva Nice-Webbwho attends Elon University.
“Camp is a place to make countless unforgettable memories. You will often find, both Rockbrook campers and staff start stories with the phrase, ‘this one time, at camp’.
While I’ve made several wonderful memories this summer, one memory in particular that will stay with me always was the 24 hour period in which my campers, co-counselor and I set up and carried out 3rd session’s banquet.
Banquet is a HUGE deal to not only the CA’s ( the older campers who come up with the theme, plan and run the banquet) but to the entire camp. Personally, I wanted to do anything I could to help my campers put on the best banquet in Rockbrook history! The night before Banquet, my campers and I worked through our exhaustion by rockin’ out to Brittany Spears, Lady Gaga, etc., as well as maintaining a sugar rush from cookie dough and candy. The look on the girls’ faces after they had finished setting up was priceless – they were amazed with all that they had accomplished, as was I. Banquet itself was a great success and I was extremely proud of my fabulous CA’s. Every memory I’ve shared with them was unforgettable but Banquet was an especially great memory.”