This first week of camp continues to settle into a comfortable pace just as it seems also to energize with enthusiasm. We could call the feeling “easy going excitement.” That may sound odd, but it’s one of the magical aspects of camp life. It starts with the people here at Rockbrook. There’s such a strong sense of community glued together by kindness, caring and cooperation, it’s typical for our daily encounters with everyone to be encouraging and positive. It’s part of the camp culture. We do what we can to help each other, with, for example, cabin chores or getting ready for an activity. We share— gosh almost everything! —costumes for skits, friendly greetings, songs, and virtually non-stop conversation, for example. There’s very little competition to distort this sense of bonding, no real ranking or struggle for power over someone else since noncompetitive, just-for-the-fun-of-it play rules the day.
With this kind of easy, pleasant personal interaction being the warp of your day, when you can count on this kind of true community encouragement, the weft of new and perhaps challenging experiences are perfectly supported. Instead of being scary or “too difficult to try,” new activities become intriguing opportunities. The comfort, care and support of the camp community makes new challenges exciting, even thrilling because any sort of “failure” that might follow is easily cast aside as a first attempt, as an opportunity to be silly or to laugh with friends. Knowing you’re accepted by those around you helps soften insecurity and defensiveness in the face of imperfection. In this way, the inevitable struggle, whether minor or major, we all encounter when grappling with some new activity, skill, or emotional situation becomes a concrete opportunity to learn and grow rather than something to duck. This fabric of support and challenge, woven from the newness of camp and a mindset engendered by a positive, relationship-focused culture, makes true what we’ve said for decades; “Rockbrook is a place for girls to grow.”
You might by familiar with the notion of a “Growth Mindset,” coined by Stanford professor Carol Dweck in her best-selling book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. It has become a well-known concept championed by all sorts of educational institutions. Contrasting with a “Fixed Mindset,” which combines a relatively deterministic worldview with a belief that innate personal abilities like intelligence, creativity and talent are static, a “Growth Mindset” begins with the opposite core beliefs, that individuals can grow and learn, that obstacles, criticism and challenges are valuable opportunities to develop, change and grow. Dweck found that people with a strong growth mindset are more inclined to work hard, apply novel strategies, accept input from others to continually learn, and as a result tend to achieve more while enjoying a greater sense of free will. You can see why educators love this notion and are always advocating a growth mindset in their students.
Rockbrook too! Living here at camp, buoyed by the caring supportive community of friends, it’s much easier for our girls to adopt a growth mindset and to experience the feeling of success that often follows. We’re not worried about innate talents here. Instead, there is a real spirit of experimentation, of knowing that what’s new and challenging can also be surprising and fun. When we’re always ready to celebrate simply being together, no matter what the outcome, the process of stretching ourselves becomes a constant joy. Camp proves it everyday; a growth mindset is fun and rewarding. So cool!
Before I sign off, I wanted to mention the awesome trip the Senior girls took to Sliding Rock this evening. We first headed into the Pisgah Forest for a dinner picnic and a few group games. The girls loved playing “I’m a Rockbrook Girl” and dashing about in the grass. At Sliding Rock, the water seemed colder than usual, but that didn’t discourage most of the girls from zipping down the rock multiple times. We had the whole place to ourselves, so it was easy for everyone to slide as many times as they liked. And all that cold water didn’t cool the girls’ enthusiasm for a stop at Dolly’s and a cup or cone of their favorite ice cream. For everyone, it was a classic camp night out with good food, lots of shrill laughter, some challenging outdoor adventure, and time with our very best friends.