One of the distinguishing features of Rockbrook is our tradition of campers signing up for their activities after they arrive at camp. Instead of sending families a form with a list of options, we’ve found it’s important to let the girls themselves, not their parents, make the decisions about how they spend their time at camp. After all, an activity might be more attractive once you learn more about it, see what specific parts of it are like, which counselor is leading it, and who else among your friends has signed up for it. Being trusted with the responsibility to make their own personalized schedule, one based primarily on their interests rather than the assumptions of someone else, is also a great way to gain a sense of independence and self confidence. Furthermore, we let the girls do this several times each session, so they can make those decisions again and change activities if they like… “grown up” kinds of decisions… limited choices that mean selecting and neglecting at the same time. All this can make things more complex and difficult for the counselors and directors to organize, but we feel it’s worth it to provide the campers this kind of flexibility and opportunities to grow. Combined with our daily, scheduled blocks of free time, this philosophy enhances the feeling of freedom and choice Rockbrook campers so enjoy.
With all of the other adventure, sports and crafts activities going on in camp each day, it’s easy to forget about the huge horseback riding program as well. Kathleen, our full-time camp photographer, spent a good deal of time at the equestrian center today taking pictures of the riders. There are 29 horses at camp this summer and lots of girls interested in horseback riding. At any one class period, more than half of those horses will be tacked up for one of four separate riding lessons going on simultaneously. Here too, the riding schedule is rather complex because some girls ride only a couple of times each week, while others take lessons more often because they are more advanced riders or they are simply really excited to learn more. Occasionally campers will ask and change their riding time so they can take advantage of another activity instead, or vice-versa, to ride more days per week. Audrey and her team of horseback riding instructors are always patient and accommodating as girls’ interests wax and wane.
This has been an adventure trip week as well. Mattie has taken several groups hiking in the Pisgah National Forest, a Junior hike to John Rock being a highlight. Clyde led a rock climbing trip to Looking Glass Rock where a group of Middlers and Seniors climbed an area known as the “Nose.” I took the Hi-Ups out for a chance to swim at High Falls in the Dupont State Forest. And another group of Middlers and Seniors, again with Clyde, enjoyed a day whitewater kayaking on the Green River. These are optional out-of-camp trips that girls can select in place of their regularly scheduled set of activities. Going on a trip, therefore, means missing whatever is happening at camp. That’s sometimes a difficult decision to make if you really love pottery, riflery or horseback riding, for example, but again, it’s theirs to make and is certainly a chance to weigh one experience over another.
After dinner tonight, during our “Twilight” period of free time, we announced a surprise shaving cream fight and slip-n-slide to be held down on the landsports field, and a short Taekwondo workshop taught by Alex in the hillside lodge. Again, both were optional activities… decisions, decisions. The Taekwondo workshop was a simple introduction to some of the stretching and moves common to the sport. Meanwhile, most of the campers were having a ball running around the lower field armed and ready to smear each other with shaving cream. There are no rules to this, just a chance to get messy, maybe create a funny hairstyle, and strike a pose for the camera. There’s plenty of shrieking and laughing, and a look on everyone’s face that they can’t quite believe they’re being allowed to do this. And to crank it up another notch, we just had to add a slick ride down the slip-n-slide. Too much! It really is almost too much fun for the girls.