What Summer Camps are About

Summer Camp Baskets

Here’s another interesting bit of reading about summer camps, this time from Harper’s Magazine (September 2007 issue). Rich Cohen, in “The Summer of Our Discontent: An Ode to Sleepaway Camp,” writes about his childhood experience at a camp in Wisconsin, and brings to the article a good deal of research about summer camping for kids in general. There’s lots of good stuff to be found (subscribers can read more here), but I wanted to simply pass along a summary quote.

“Life at camp was changing— the nature of the kids and counselors, the very sense of what camp should be about. In the 1800s, it was about religion; in the early 1900s, it was about preserving a spark of frontier spirit; in the mid-1900s, it was about the barracks and preparing a generation for the coming war; now it’s about preparing kids for school and work, speeding them through the meritocracy.”

Yes, “being prepared” is still a big part of camp, but at Rockbrook we want kids to be kids. So camp is a place where girls can try new things, play, and play some more, create things, explore the outdoor world, gain confidence (social, physical, etc.), and have some crazy fun. Of course, personal growth and “preparation” for being a happy, well-adjusted individual happens within this context, and under the supervision of many positive role models.

I guess we could say attending Rockbrook isn’t primarily about learning how to be a better student or employee at school or work (though that might happen in the end), but it’s about having a more rounded and complete childhood experience that serves you well later in life.

Rock Climbing Summer Camp Trip

A Summer Camp Rock Climbing Trip

After breakfast we hike up the hill in camp, just up the trail behind the dining hall, to reach Castle Rock. Locking carabiners, harnesses, helmets, rock climbing shoes, and ropes… everything in place for a day up on the rock. Put on the gear and tie into the rope with a follow-through figure eight knot. Wait for the belayer to get set and begin the commands. “On belay?” “Belay is on,” she says. “Climbing?” “Climb on,” you hear, and you’re ready to go. A left foot up and you’re off. Lean to the right. A foot switch. A little tricky spot, but you get it. This is real rock climbing! Amazing view at the top. A quick rappel and you’re down. Great job!

RBC and the Brevard Music Center

Nancy Barnum Clark Carrier

Here’s a cool bit of Rockbrook Camp history for you. Nancy Barnum Clarke Carrier, the founder of Rockbrook (and who by the way is the great grandaughter of P.T. Barnum), is also one of the founders of the Brevard Music Center. The Music Center is a summer camp in Brevard for teenage musicians who come to collaborate with professional musicians, practice, perform, and just enjoy the wonderful mountain setting of Brevard. It was originally founded in 1936 at Davidson College and later moved to Brevard in 1945, only a few years after Rockbrook was established in 1921. Mrs. Carrier was also the Music Center’s first president and a director of its board until her death in 1977. Here she is in this great old photo.

Will you dance with me??

Dance at Summer Camp

It was lunch time when the girls got the announcement. The dining hall was completely filled with excited screams and a little bit of nervous laughter. Tonight was the dance. All the girls wanted to shower and get freshened up for those Camp Carolina boys, but unfortunately, due to the massive amount of rain and mud that afternoon… cleaning up was a little harder than most would’ve liked.

The boys arrived soon after dinner, and the dance was on its way. The thing I love about the dance is it’s not even about dancing with the boys, it’s about dancing with your campers. I know it was a great bonding experience for me and my girls. I mean, what bonds you better than dancing crazy to some Backstreet Boys and totally being silly!? I was dancing with one of my campers and later that night she told me that dance had been her favorite because I was the one dancing with her!

Camp Trick or Treat!?

Summer Camp Halloween Party

Walking into the dining hall, you couldn’t help but to look at every girl that passed by. It was Halloween night and we were all dressed up in our costumes. Pirates, cheerleaders, cowboys, and tourists filled each table. The Senior line put on a little after-dinner haunted house for all of us to participate in. Waiting in line, you could see all the girls were excited and anxious to get inside of the haunted house, and by the time they got through and out, you knew the wait was more than worthwhile. The seniors did a great job at making it fun and scary for all the girls, even the young juniors.

Childrens Camp Games

Summer Sports Camp

Basketball! Dodgeball! Kickball! Four Square! Volleyball! And more versions of tag than you can count! There always seems to be some kind of gym sports camp game going on— counselors and campers running around and having fun in the Rockbrook gym. One of the best things to do is to make up a game. Take something you already know, like dodgeball for example, and then change it up somehow, like by having 3 or 4 teams instead of 2, or playing with a really huge ball, or having a “come back to life” ball. Gosh, the options are almost endless!

Sleep Away Camp Girls

Sleep Away Girls Camp

When you ask people who attended a sleep away camp when they were a kid, you’ll find that they recall the experience, not only fondly, but also as one of the most important things they did as a child. And this is true for just about everybody you ask, not just the occasional “camp fan.”

A famous example here is Michael Eisner and his book about camp. There’s a lot to it, and we’ve discussed the benefits of attending camp before, but this photo speaks to the empowerment and self confidence girls often develop at summer camp. Being away from home and parents, being challenged and succeeding in different activities, and being friends with so many different types of people— all weave together to give camp its secret power.

Take that power gained as a child and watch it do great things in adults!

Girls Camps Games

Girls Games Camp

Most Sunday afternoons at camp, we have an all-camp activity, a game or event where all of the age groups get together and play. Here’s an example where we split everyone up into three different teams (pink, blue and green!) and had different relay races… egg and spoon, leap frog, fill the cup, three-legged race, dizzy lizzy, balloon-knees, and so many more.

These are all great games that require some individual skill and a touch of physical coordination, but also plenty of cooperation and shared effort among each team’s members. The best games for girls always require both.

In the end, we might keep score (though that’s often optional) and one team might “win,” but everyone has a fun time playing.

Equestrian Camp NC

NC Equestrian Camp

Going to an equestrian camp, a summer camp that offers a quality horseback riding program, is one of the best things you can do to improve your riding skills. It gives you a chance to ride new and different horses, learn from new instructors, to hear about different techniques, and to simply practice everything in a new environment. Along these lines, riding at camp introduces you to new horses and their different personalities. Overall, attending a horse camp program helps diversify your riding skills, experience and horsemanship knowledge. And of course, it’s a lot of fun too! 🙂

Canoeing Summer Camps 4 Kids

Canoeing Girls at Summer Camp

Speaking of canoeing, it’s still a summer camp activity we offer at Rockbrook. Like most of the outdoor adventure activities, we have a progression where kids first learn basic skills and safety procedures, and then move up to more challenging aspects. For canoeing, we learn the names and uses of the equipment (the boats and paddles, for example), then practice different paddling strokes and techniques to steer the canoes in the water. With all of that firmly in place, we’re off to one of the local rivers— the French Broad, the Green, the Tuckaseegee, or the Nantahala. Each offers its own unique challenges and whitewater thrills.