Play Outside this Summer!

One of the tag lines we often use to evoke Rockbrook is “Play outside this summer.” You can see it all over our website, on a lot of our printed materials, and even on a t-shirt or two. We really like how it’s a great summary of what camp involves— spending a lot of time outside and a lot of time playing.

Girl Friends Outdoors

It’s particularly neat to realize that by fostering both outdoor experience and group play, camp makes both of these better. Compared to being inside, it’s just more fun to play outside, and being outside encourages imagination and physical activity, two powerful stimulants to play. Outside you get to run around, be free of all those indoor limitations (having to avoid noise, messiness, walls), and become whoever the game requires. Outdoor play is also usually a group activity. It certainly is at camp. You and your friends make it happen. You build important relationships when playing together. These are real human connections that tend to run much deeper than those found in-doors or in school. Perhaps this begins to explain why girls say their camp friends are their absolute best friends; they are friends formed while playing outside. The things that make outdoor play better are the forces that make camp friends so strong.

What do you think?

Summer Camp Archery

So let’s say you get to summer camp and you’ve never tried archery. Sure you’ve seen it on TV and you know it means pulling back an arrow in a bow, releasing it while aiming at a target, and hopefully hitting the target in the center. But you’ve never really tried it before.

Summer Camp Archery Girl

At first, it’s kind of funny. After learning the basics about the equipment and how to shoot, you give archery a try and shoot arrows over, under, to the side, and anywhere but on the target. Slowly but surely though, each round lets you make small adjustments. A little coaching gets thrown in, and you are soon scoring points on the target.

Next thing you know, you’re hooked, and you’re selecting archery again for one of your daily camp activities. Archery becomes one of your favorite things to do at summer camp.

That’s cool, but what do you do when you get home from camp? How can you keep shooting, and improve you archer’s skills? Well, there might be a local archery club near you. You could also form an archery club and join the Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) organization.  If you can find an adult supervisor, set up a safe archery range, and gather the proper equipment, you can begin to practice shooting archery all year long.  This might be tough to do by yourself, but if you can get several friends and their parents to get excited about the idea, you can do it!  Your club can then compete in local or regional tournaments, and you might even be able to join the youth world team and compete in other countries representing America.

Archery can be a lifelong sport, and just think, it all started at summer camp.

All-Day Outdoor Canoe Trip

A girl who attended Rockbrook in the 1920s recalls the multi-day canoeing outdoor adventure on the French Broad River.

“When I had done nothing less than run up the hill twice and play off a tennis match, I suddenly remembered I was going on an all-day canoe trip. I dashed madly down the hill again to the landing and found I had not been left, after all. Mrs. Carrier was to go with us, which made the trip simply grand. Only three canoes went, and the trip was a roar of laughter from beginning to end. Mrs. Barron and Miss Neely had never been down, so there were many new things for them to see.

French Broad River Canoe Trip

We amused ourselves childishly all morning by jumping up and down in the bow and making waves. We had lunch at French Broad Landing, and my! how good everything was, from steak to caramel cake. That’s what comes of having Miss Neely along. Much to our sorrow, Mrs. Carrier had to leave us, but Doe came. We changed canoes after lunch, and Miss Neely was with Jane and me. We started the afternoon pleasantly by accidentally splashing some water on the next canoe, and then the fun began. Miss Neely tried vainly to shelter herself under a raincoat, but finally had to succumb to Jerky’s pleas to get in her canoe. Jo came in ours, and poor Doe had no-where to go. Jerky’s canoe, seeing themselves in danger, paddled ahead, and Miss Neely paddled for the first time in her life. A series of water fights ensued, and Jerky called back to us not to swallow any water, but I was beyond that stage. I talk so much that my mouth stayed open, and as I could not habitually think and splash at the same time, I consequently nearly choked.

We were paddling along with ease and agility, when we came together and turned each other over. Seeing our paddles floating away, Jane and I abandoned our canoe and went after them. From then on we stayed mostly in the river. We would hardly get settled when we would laugh so hard that we’d go in again. We were supposed to be at Penrose at four o’clock, and Late was there to meet us. Poor man, I know he wished he had lived up to his name, for we were an hour and a half late. Did we have a good time! Well, I should say! To say nothing of a hot late supper.”

—Mimi O’Beirne. July 30, 1927.

Halloween Costume Ideas

With Halloween approaching, everyone’s thinking about what costume to wear and camp is a place with a highly-concentrated amount of costume ideas! It’s typical to change clothes more than once a day to dress up for things like Granny Bingo, ’80’s Dance Party, Harry Potter-themed Birthday Night, twin day, and lots of other happenings. Here are some stellar costumes from this year:

Dana's as a Senior Ladies' Auxiliary Member
Love the Glasses!
Collen, Jess and campers as Dr. Seuss characters
Mandy and Jessi as Hawaiian tourists

It’s Your Adventure Girls

Adventure Girls

Are you ready for some adventure girls? Are you ready to put yourself out there, or up there as the case may be? Camp is the perfect place for girls to try out outdoor adventure sports. There’s rock climbing, high ropes course climbing, wilderness backpacking, camping, hiking, whitewater kayaking and rafting, to name just a few.

But what makes these adventure activities? They all are a little intense, a little uncertain, and a little scary. They often test girls’ mental resolve and determination, and sometimes require physical effort beyond the ordinary. Adventure activities usually require special safety equipment and techniques as well (think ropes, paddles, helmets, tents, etc.).

When girls first try adventure sports, they are usually surprised how well they can do. With quality instruction, encouragement, and some practice, most of the girls at camp can climb a real rock, paddle a kayak, and camp overnight in the woods— and this in just their first year at camp! Everywhere you look there are adventure girls at camp.

A Noncompetitive Riding Program

Riding Equestrian Kid

The equestrian program at Rockbrook follows the core philosophy guiding the camp, in particular its emphasis on encouragement and its overall non-competitive character. Being free from the pressure of competing, horseback riding becomes so much more fun for kids. The goal becomes personal satisfaction, greater self-confidence, and a simple joy of improving their equestrian skills.

Beginning and experienced riders alike thrive in this non-competitive atmosphere. Matching each rider with the right horse and the right instructor, the Rockbrook riding program allows everyone to learn at their own pace, and feel good about the experience. It’s just nice to not worry if you’re the best or not, and just focus on your own riding. Definitely exciting and fun, always educational, but relaxed too.

Camp Food and Kitchen

One of the most common questions we hear is “What’s the food like,” which translates into,  “How often do you eat tater tots and chicken fingers?” The answer is, not very often! The kitchen strives to find that balance between kid-pleasing-comfort-food while at the same time being health conscious. There is always a deluxe salad bar at lunch and dinner and a vegetarian option at all meals.

Corey
Corey

Rick Hastings was our Head Chef this year. He has a background in vegetarian cooking and has also worked at a camp before. He and his fabulous kitchen crew welcomed campers into the kitchen to help prepare the day’s meals and snacks –  including muffins for the daily mid-morning muffin break!

Shucking Corn for Dinner
Shucking Corn for Dinner

Here is what the Senior linehead counselor, Sarah Thompson, said about the food and kitchen staff this year:

IMG_4171_m
Food tastes better prepared with a little love!

“I cannot praise the kitchen staff highly enough. A happy camp is a well-fed camp and they feed us exceedingly well! The magic started during  staff orientation (Capers? Fresh Basil? Is this really camp food?) and did not let up as the summer weared on. The food is healthy, innovative and delicious.

What impresses me the most, though, is the staff’s attitude. They are unfailingly helpful and upbeat, even when faced with hordes of hungry and demanding people.  More importantly, they realize that the kitchen affords valuable opportunities for the camper. The kitchen staff has opened its doors to several campers this summer, allowing girls to assist. Often, they are girls who are somehow most in need of the opportunity. There are some places at camp – the climbing tower, for instance – where girls are clearly going to gain confidence and other skills. This year’s kitchen staff has turned the kitchen into such a place for campers. The knowledge, independence and self-confidence they have instilled in the girls is nothing short of amazing.”

“Cooks you made a wonderful dinner! You know we’ll never get any thinner!” – From the Cook Song

Tetherball Games Strategies

Tetherball Playing Strategy

Do you have this in common with Napoleon Dynamite— being a tetherball champ? Sure you’ve played before at camp, and you know how to play tetherball, but maybe you need a few more strategies to really pump up your game. Here’s a couple of things to practice.

The most important strategy is mastering an extreme angle when serving. By hitting the ball sharply down, it can swing high over your opponent’s head. This is always a good tactic.

It’s also important to use both hands when playing tetherball. You can hit the ball more powerfully, but also add unexpected spins and hits by changing which hand hits the ball. You can surprise and confuse the other player with different fast/slow, open/closed, left/right hand maneuvers.

Equally important to mastering tetherball is being quick on your feet. Moving forward and backward quickly, and knowing when to move sideways. This not only makes it difficult for the other player to decide how to serve or hit the ball, it gives you a better chance to make defensive hits.

Of course, being a tetherball sports champ takes practice, but that’s what the games at camp are for!

OK, do you have any other tetherball tips, strategies or tactics?

Summer’s for Getting Outdoors!

Kids Outdoor Activity

In the recent debate over how many days kids should stay in school, it’s often claimed that they could learn more by shortening the summer vacation. More days studying math, science, arts and reading would make our kids more educated, it’s claimed. Certainly this is true; the more you study something, the better your competency in that subject. However, what is lost by taking time from summer and devoting it to further study? If we choose more school time, what are we neglecting as a result?

One thing that would clearly suffer, and something that summer camps are known to enhance, is time outside, sustained outdoor activity for kids. It’s during the summer that kids have the time and the permission to play outside. They can return to nature, explore all the amazing details of the environment, and really feel what so many of their ancestors felt outdoors. Being inside at school most of day, and for most of the days each year, there are very few opportunities for kids to enjoy outdoor activity. They suffer from what Richard Louv has now famously dubbed “Nature Deficit Disorder.” The psychological, personal and intellectual consequences of our kids losing touch of nature are now well understood, and are widely condemned. Extending our kid’s school year, and thereby further limiting their time outside in Nature deserves that same condemnation.

This is also an environmental protection issue. If we reduce the ability of our kids to experience and know the outdoors, we make it much less likely they will value and love it. If their Nature Deficit Disorder is made worse by reducing their time outside of school, they won’t feel strongly about the wonders Nature provides, and consequently they will feel less concern for protecting the environment. Not knowing and loving nature from their personal experience, they’ll be less apt to protect it. Here again, time outside (and away from school) makes kids more human. It provides another, equally important, form of education. Denying them opportunities to learn outside, even when in service of traditional academic learning, is a perilous position for us all.

NC Camp from the Air

Western North Carolina Camp Aerial View

Our friend Carroll Parker dug this photo out of his files and emailed it to us the other day. Carroll grew up around Rockbrook because his father helped Mr. Carrier build the camp back in 1921. This aerial view of the camp shows western North Carolina and all it offered back then— the thick forests, streams, the “ever-bearing raspberries,” the French Broad River horseback riding ring, tennis courts, chicken coop, horse barn, gardens, and an apple orchard.

It’s fascinating to see what western North Carolina and Rockbrook Camp looked like back 1920s and 30s. Stay tuned, we’ll be posting more archival photos soon.