I’ve been away the last few days taking our 10th grade campers, those we call “Hi-Ups,” on a 3-day adventure trip. The Hi-Ups are the girls who help manage the dining hall at camp, setting tables and clearing dirty dishes to rack them and send them to the dishwashers in the kitchen. With close to 300 people eating in the dining hall at any particular meal, there are a lot of dishes, flatware, and serving bowls to handle… three times a day. Hi-Ups work hard! The Hi-Ups have their own special cabin “high up” in the camp, have a few extra privileges and more freedom to enjoy their favorite parts of camp. Toward the end of their session, they take a break on “the 3-day.”
The exact details of this trip is a secret, making it a fun surprise for the girls going. I can’t say much about it other than it’s both exciting and relaxing. It includes swimming, hiking, camping, and climbing. At different times the girls are laughing, singing, and lounging, and they’re feeling elated, maybe a little scared, and exhilarated. They come face to face with incredible beauty and real physical challenges. Part of the trip is truly thrilling. We always end up a little scratched, maybe with a bruise or two, and solidly tired from the whole experience. And the girls, absolutely LOVE it. If you’re the parent of a Hi-Up, I hope you’ll hear some stories of the adventure.
I’m always amazed by the enthusiasm for adventure Rockbrook girls have. This Hi-Up trip proves it many times over, but there are countless examples punctuating everyone’s regular life at camp. Tying into a rope and climbing a tower blindfolded, zooming through the trees tethered to a zip line pulley, sliding down a 60-ft natural waterslide— all are examples that come to mind. Camping in the woods, paddling a whitewater kayak or canoe through moving water, and balancing high on a tiny rock ledge are also good examples. The girls at camp are taking full advantage of these opportunities. They almost seem to crave the thrills, the exhilarating fun they provide.
Why this appetite, though? Sure, these activities are “fun” or a “blast,” but is there something else that makes them more attractive while your girls are at camp? I think there is.
As I mentioned, I think the Rockbrook community makes girls more courageous because it provides unconditional support and genuine encouragement. Camp folks aren’t competing or judging each other based on abilities or ranked results. Instead, everyone at camp is facing challenges, trusting their abilities as they try new things, and finding supportive friends along the way. Together, there’s an energy at camp that spins up and toward adventure, a kind of collective power bolstering us to dive in. When those around you are excited to go rock climbing, you might be too. When the whole camp is spraying themselves with shaving cream and launching themselves down a sheet of plastic, it suddenly seems like exactly the right thing to do. In this kind of community, it soon becomes clear how it doesn’t really matter if you climb to the top of the rock, so it’s more fun to give it a try. It’s fun no matter what the outcome.
Maybe we can put it like this; “kids are more adventurous when they’re part of a supportive community.” They’re less likely to let uncertainty stop them from pursuing a goal. The community makes things safer, more focused on what’s positive about a new experience, and less concerned about winning or perfection. This kind of camp community makes it easier for young people to keep a “growth mindset” that pursues novel challenges, and thereby to keep learning, expanding their experiences, and deepening who they are.
I may be repeating myself here, but camp is great in this way. It has a unique power to be fun but also truly formative by proving to girls that challenging experiences, adventures, are positive things. Instead of stepping back, go after opportunities to challenge yourself. There are surprising rewards for those who try. At camp, your girls are not just learning to climb or paddle (that’s kinda not the point), they’re nurturing an aspect of their personality that tells them “I can do it.” “I can get better at this.” That’s a habit I think we want all of our kids to develop.
And finally, I would say the kind of supportive community we have at camp is something we should strive to create in our schools as well. After all, we want all children to develop this approach to adventure, toward experiences that are new and challenging. We want them to seek out opportunities to explore, feel confident to experiment, and know they’re OK no matter how they “perform.” It’s the process of learning and growing that matters. I’ve seen a focus on community make a big difference at camp. Camp girls are stronger. They’re more confident and courageous. They can do so many amazing things. And they’re happy and excited doing them. I wish every child could become like that. Don’t you?