Nature Camp for Girls

Outdoor Play in Nature

Richard Louv, who we’ve mentioned before, has published a new and interesting article discussing the benefits of outdoor play, the problems caused when it’s neglected, and what we might do to encourage it. The article is in the March-April 2007 issue of Orion magazine, and is entitled “Leave No Child Inside” (link to the full article). Louv has no trouble documenting an overall decline in the amount of time American kids spend outside, and likewise the numerous problems associated with this “virtual house arrest” (“threats to their independent judgment and value of place, to their ability to feel awe and wonder, to their sense of stewardship for the Earth—and, most immediately, threats to their psychological and physical health”).

Despite the forces behind this “nature-deficit disorder” (“disappearing access to natural areas, competition from television, smart phones and computers, dangerous traffic, more homework, and other pressures”), Louv also finds a “growing movement to reconnect children and nature.” What’s crucial here is the positive childhood experience of nature most of us adults share and recall fondly. No matter what our current profession, level of income, or political views, we love those experiences… turning over rocks in the stream, hiking through tall ferns, catching a glimpse of a hawk overhead… and we want our children to have them too.

Louv’s point is that with this kind of broad agreement on an issue, we should be able to do something about it. There’s power to this movement because “no one among us wants to be a member of the last generation to pass on to its children the joy of playing outside in nature.”

Fortunately there is camp. There is a special community designed to help children reconnect with the the natural world, and fortunately, they love it!

Girls Sleep Away Camps

Girls Camps Sleep Away Program

We’re back from the American Camp Association national conference in Austin, Texas where we enjoyed hearing Dr. David Elkind talk about the power of play (free and unstructured play) in children’s social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. He was invited to address the conference of sleep away camps because he understands traditional summer camps as excellent contexts where this kind of play is encouraged. Dr. Elkind explains in his new book entitled, The Power of Play: How Spontaneous, Imaginative Activities Lead to Happier and Healthier Children.

Here’s a quote that jumped out at me. He writes,

Not only does summer camp provide children relief from the pressures to achieve, it reacquaints children with the natural world, with the importance of friendship, cooperation, and the fragility of the environment in which we live.

The book, of course, goes into lots more detail and provides specific advice about how to encourage this kind of beneficial play, but here are a couple of the main points.

  • Cut TV time to allow for playtime.
  • Get children together so they can initiate play.
  • Avoid providing too many toys too often.
  • Keep free time on the schedule.
  • Spend time outside.

There is much to say about each of these, but it’s neat to see how summer camp, and particularly a sleep away camp like Rockbrook, can really encourage them.  Camp is just one of those places where kids can be kids.

Activities for Girls at Camp

Dressing up at summer camp

One of the best parts of being at camp, and particularly an all-girls camp, is how easy it is to relax and find yourself acting kind of goofy. With less judgment and a non-competitive community vibe, there seems to always be a chance to dress up in some crazy costume or combine some silly things to wear for a creative game.

When everyone’s into it, and there aren’t any guys around, it’s great to just let loose and try on a different look. Thinking back on it later, back at home or school, it shows how what you wear really doesn’t matter that much to who you are. 🙂

Kids Craft Camp

Kids Craft Camp Activities

We found this great photo from last summer and it reminded us of how much fun it is to tie-dye t-shirts at camp. It’s always exciting to see what your shirt looks like when it’s done, and so difficult to wait overnight while the dye sets! And like all the craft activities at camp, getting to bring home all of your creations makes it even better.

How many tie-dye shirts do you have? Let’s see…. one every summer at camp, at least!

Girls Exploration of Nature

North Carolina Land Snail

What a great shot! Could it be the rare Noonday Globe Snail (Mesodon clarki nantahala) found only in North Carolina? We’re not sure, but we think it’s a really cool example of the discovery that nature provides girls around camp (It’s lush, to say the least!). A camper in the photography activity took this photo last summer wandering around camp.

Our camp alumni are always quick to tell us about their memories of the plants, animals and insects they remember from camp… Snails included!

Girls Camps Activities

Summer camp girl activities

Here’s a question that people ask frequently. “What are the different activities offered at Rockbrook Camp?” Or, “How many different activities can the girls do at camp?” It’s really quite a list, but if you can imagine all the fun things girls would like to do at camp, Rockbrook covers the bases. Here’s the list.

Sports

  • Archery
  • Riflery
  • Gymnastics
  • Sports (basketball, soccer, group games)
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Drama/Play
  • Nature Discovery
  • Dance
  • Yoga

Crafts

  • Curosty (basket weaving, loom weaving, knitting, cross stitch)
  • Hobby Nook (batik, candle making, leather working, woodcraft)
  • Hodge Podge (tie dying, fabric painting, misc. decorations)
  • Pottery (wheel-thrown, hand-built)
  • Jewelry Making
  • Journalism & Creative Writing
  • Papercrafts & Scrapbooking

Outdoor Adventure

  • Backpacking
  • Day Hiking
  • Whitewater Kayaking
  • Whitewater Rafting
  • Whitewater Canoeing
  • Alpine Tower Ropes Course Climbing
  • Indoor Climbing Wall Climbing
  • Rock Climbing
  • Ziplining

Equestrian

  • Horseback Riding
  • Barn Club (Horse Grooming & Care)

Four different general categories— Skill-based, Creativity-based, Adventure-based, and Equestrian-related— that’s 28 in all! There’s certainly a lot going on. Lots of action! And this doesn’t count any of the extra special events! Learn more about these camp activities.

What is the Best Girls Camp?

Best Girls Camp Lake View

What is the best girls summer camp in North Carolina? You’ll often hear claims of being the “best,” but what does that really mean?

It’s really hard to say, of course. There are so many great traditional overnight girls camps out there, ones with beautiful facilities, outstanding counselors, and a diverse program of activities, the differences can be subtle and often boil down to what’s emphasized and what stands out as a strength at any particular camp. All camps have a set of values that helps define its culture, and what it really feels like to be there, and often it’s that feeling that can make a difference.

Many people do consider Rockbrook (at least “one of”) the best girls camp(s) in the south, with its equestrian program, ceramics program, adventure activities, and historic wooded setting. The culture of Rockbrook— emphasizing kindness, caring, generosity and inclusion —also helps distinguish it.

Another way to put it is to say the best camp is the camp you love. It’s the camp for you, the one where you feel at home with good friends and fond memories. For a camp with a long history like Rockbrook, it’s easy to understand why so many consider it the best.  Poke around, and you’ll see why!

Summer Camp for Young Girls

How old do you need to be to attend Rockbrook?

The youngest girls are 6 years old, and the oldest are 16.


This question comes our way quite a bit, and some parents are surprised to hear that we have a group of campers we call the “Juniors” who are as young as 6 years old. The youngest girls in camp, these are children who have finished kindergarten through the fourth grade. That might seem pretty young for a sleepaway camp, but the Rockbrook program is well designed for this age group, providing these young campers wonderful opportunities to try new things, explore the outdoors, and become more self-confident while away from home.

junior girl summer camp

We also take extra care to assign counselors to this age group who are ready for the care and guidance that young girls often need. The Junior have their own set of cabins, bathroom and showers.  They have a unique stone meeting lodge that happens to also have the best view in camp— miles and miles of mountains in the distance!

As long as they are ready for summer camp, Yes, even the youngest girls love camp.

Nature Camps

Nature Camp Writing Spider

Yikes! What’s that?! It’s a spider Sarah spotted at camp a few weeks ago, and odds are it’s a female Writing Spider (Arigiope aurantia). It’s actually a very common spider in North America, and is also known as the “Black and Yellow Garden Spider” or (even cooler!) the “Golden Orb Weaver.” It’s famous for the intricate web patterns it weaves, the web it “writes” with X marks along the strands.

There’s lots to learn about these amazing spiders. Here’s a nice article (with photos) describing the Biogeography of the Writing Spider.

For young children to having a chance to marvel at creatures like this is one of the wonderful parts of nature camps like Rockbrook. You never know what cool critter you’ll find.

Oh, and don’t worry! The writing spider is not considered poisonous to people (even though it looks like it would be!).

Horse Games for Girls

Ready to learn about some horse games? I’m not talking about a video game, or something that’s only on a screen. What about a game that can be played with a real horse, riding it in the real world? That’s SO much better!

Toward the end of each session at camp, we have a day of “barn games.” It’s when we come up with fun activities a little different from the regular summer camp riding lessons. Here at Rockbrook we are learning to ride, but also having great fun playing games at the barn.

Girls Horse Equestrian Camp

Red Light, Green Light

A classic horse game is “red light, green light.” This is a mounted game where girls learn to control their horse, starting and stopping on command. The goal is quick responses to the commands.

Apple Hunt

One of the most popular games is the “Apple Hunt.” This is when the riding instructors hide several apples out in the fields, and the girls are challenged to ride around and find the apples. One apple is marked, and the rider who finds it gets a special prize. They’re all great fun!

Hand Painting

Another popular horse game we play at camp is hand print painting. Colorful water-washable paint goes into a tray and then girls take turns dipping their hands into the paint to paint hand-prints on a light colored horse. It can be really creative and fun to add your hand to the horse!

Relays

Finally, Rockbrook Camp girls really enjoy the horse game that is essentially a relay. Each rider takes turns carrying a baton or other object and then riding across the ring to hand the baton to another rider, who then rides it back to the original side. This game is fast and fun!

Do you know any horse games that are fun to play? Let us know.

Be sure to check out the comments for this post… More than 300! Wow!