Being able to choose your own activity schedule is one of the core experiences for campers at Rockbrook. For some, it is something they really appreciate and love about camp. Instead of being assigned a series of activities, or having your parents be involved in what you end up doing at camp, Rockbrook takes extra efforts to make sure the girls themselves select their activities.
This can be challenging to schedule and has a degree of uncertainty built into it, but we want the girls to have a say in how they spend their time at camp. We want them to make those decisions and feel empowered by that agency and self-direction. Sometimes it can be very interesting for a parent to find out what their child has chosen to do. You might not know a few things about her preferences. Maybe she doesn’t love tennis, or maybe does have an interest in knitting, for example. Plus, part of the fun of camp is being drawn into activities that you wouldn’t otherwise do. A girl might sign up for climbing the Alpine Tower, for example, simply because her camp friend wants to try it. She might ordinarily be a little intimidated by that kind of adventure, but with an encouraging comrade, she might feel extra support and try it. Bingo! New experience, greater self confidence, and sense of accomplishment. Picking activities at home before arriving would undermine that benefit for the girls.
Last year when we were grappling more with COVID and were concerned about a possible infection spreading through our residential community, we created a system of cohorts that assigned activities separate from other cohorts. Each cabin group did activities together, effectively eliminating individual choice. Some camps do this routinely— rotating activities by cabin group. While this made our camp logistics easier, it made the girls miss tailoring their activity schedule to their own interests. They missed switching gears mid week, and they missed being able to do things directly with girls from other cabins. This was yet another reason why we were happy to return to our system of individual choice this summer.
The same is true for our off-camp trips. They are selected individually. A camper signs up for a trip only if she wants to try out a canoeing and camping trip, a backpacking trip, whitewater rafting, kayaking trip, day hike, or ride through the zipline course, for example. Here too, some girls sign up for these adventure trips every chance they get, while others are satisfied with just the zipline or rafting (the 2 most popular options), or neither. Going on trips means having to miss your scheduled activities, so that can sometimes dissuade a camper from signing up. Choosing one thing, necessarily means neglecting all the others. And if you’re excited about riflery, for example, you might be inclined to turn down a trip opportunity if it means you skipping that activity you’ve been looking forward to trying. It’s another decision to make, and another great example of how the girls at camp are allowed to shape their own experience… and grow in the process.
It’s often astounding to see these girls take charge of their days at camp. They’re selecting their own activities, but also deciding how to spend their free time. They’re initiating conversations, creating their own entertainment with others, and navigating the strange environment of camp— all without the guiding hand/opinion of their parents. As a result, they learn they can handle things. They can do things. They can lean into new situations and be OK. Yes, even the tiniest kids can do this. It might be a little messy at times (like when they decide to wear the same shirt too many days in a row…!), but it’s worth it to see them empowered, truly themselves, and absolutely jubilant too. Totally worth it.