There’s no doubt that camp is a remarkable experience for girls. You can see it everyday here at Rockbrook, see it as you browse through the online photo gallery, and hear about it if you ask the campers and counselors how it feels to be here. Of course, camp means having sensational fun, a “really great time,” but as we’ve said many times before, it’s more than that. Coming to Rockbrook means forming relationships, joining a community with a distinctive culture and language, and perhaps most importantly, learning important things about yourself that can make a difference to you later in life.
Lately, I’ve been thinking more about how camp is a “place for girls to grow,” about the ways that girls benefit from their time at Rockbrook. There are many, but let me focus on three of the more important ones: being kind, silly and brave.
I think Rockbrook teaches girls to be kind. There are lots of reasons for this, but most of them spring from the close relationships we have with each other as a community. Being all girls may have something to do with it, as does the fact that we do everything, all day and night, together (There’s a kinship for all of us here), but the spirit of Rockbrook is rooted in being sensitive to the needs of others, in caring and generosity. The closeness of camp life, realizing that we are all together and that we all belong, fuels our sympathy and compassion for each other. It makes us kind. This explains why it’s the other campers who are first to jump right in and help comfort someone homesick in their cabin. Kindness is at work when hundreds of friendship bracelets are exchanged every session at Rockbrook. It’s true affection for each other that sets the tone in every conversation around camp, while weaving baskets, feet in the creek, and twisting tie dye t-shirts, for example. Camp simply encourages heartfelt relationships. As we all relax and open up our true selves, we grow closer to each other, and kindness blossoms naturally. It’s darn right magical!
Rockbrook reminds girls that being a little silly is a good thing. There are times, of course, when we all have to be serious, but in many situations there’s room for lighthearted humor, a dash of exuberance, and more than one color. At camp, things are more silly than not, as we easily burst into song, ordinarily add costumes to whatever we find ourselves doing, and are quick to laugh throughout the day. Life at this kind of girls camp feels good, and is more fun, partly because we’ve found a balance between serious tasks, like keeping our cabins clean and taking care of our health, for example, and the joy to be found by appreciating the silly side of our personalities. Camp teaches us that there can be a playful dimension to most things. We dance when setting the dining hall tables. We can sing… gosh, anytime! Waiting in line for muffin break, we can braid our friend’s hair, adding a flower we just picked. We can dress like twins with a bunk mate, just for the fun of it. For girls at camp, it’s pretty easy to smile all day long and to make everything whimsical. In addition, developing this habit of cheerfulness nurtures the girls’ creativity. Learning that it’s OK, even preferable, to include some of their silly side when completing a task is like being given permission to mix things up a bit, to get creative while being productive. That’s why you see Rockbrook girls happily helping around camp, adding decorations to just about everything, and enjoying the most routine tasks. Being silly means being creative, and when done together, that makes something fun, no matter what.
It’s also true that Rockbrook helps girls be more brave. Simply deciding to come to camp, to leave the safety and familiarity of home, takes courage. So being here alone— navigating daily decisions (what to do during free time, for example), taking care of ordinary personal needs (remembering to take a shower, for example), and interacting with so many different people, unusual foods, and new activities —requires some degree of bravery. In addition, some of our camp activities themselves require the girls to muster their courage. It’s completely natural to be afraid of stepping off a rock tethered to a high zip line cable, or to approach a new whitewater rapid in a kayak, or even to stand up in front of the whole camp to tell a joke during the lunch announcements. But these Rockbrook girls are choosing to do it— proving they are both capable and brave. A shy quiet girl at home suddenly is first to fly down the water slide at the lake. A girl who might never choose to join a painting class (thinking, “I’m terrible at art”) feels inspired to join her friends and enjoy the process of being creative. With encouragement springing from every direction, girls may discover the confidence to try all sorts of things they might never be brave enough to accomplish otherwise, from the physical challenges of sports, to the personal challenges of getting along with their cabin mates.
The culture of camp inspires and encourages girls to be kind, silly and brave. It provides regular opportunities, wrapped in the guise of “Big Fun,” to develop these aspects of their personality. We hope that as they grow up, and carry the spirit of Rockbrook with them out into the “real world,” your girls will be happier and more successful strengthened in these ways.