Building Community: Challenges and Relationships

Now that we are into the second week of 3rd session, the CITs and Hi-Ups have had some time to get used to their new roles at camp. As part of the Leadership Ladder, these girls are transitioning from campers to counselors. Part of this transition is extra training throughout the session. This training comes in the form of hands-on experience helping counselors in activities, setting for and cleaning up meals, and spending time with campers. In addition, they participate in training periods led by our Directors and Leadership team on topics such as cabin logistics, learning Rockbrook history, and and behavior management.

Recently, I got the chance to talk with both Hi-Ups and CITs about the activity philosophy at Rockbrook. While walking around camp observing the various activities, we discussed why we do activity sign ups and activities in our particular way. Hi-Ups and CITs all had thoughtful answers to any question posed to them. They took the time to reflect on their own experience as campers, and then start to think about activities at Rockbrook from a counselor perspective. Their maturity, insight, and understanding of our philosophy was impressive!

First, we discussed the concept of “Challenge by Choice.” During the sign up process, campers can challenge themselves or be encouraged by their counselors to try a new activity. Sometimes this is a nerve-wracking moment for campers, who may think: “none of my cabin mates signed up for dance,” “I’ve never been a good swimmer,” or “what if I’m not good at embroidery?” We hope that through these moments campers can learn to be independent and be willing to choose their own adventures. During activities, the challenge is more obvious in some than in others. Increasing your accuracy in archery, reaching the top of the alpine tower, or perfecting your serve in tennis are clear goals campers can strive towards. The craft activities can also be challenging, however, especially if you’ve never thrown on a pottery wheel or used a large floor loom before. In these activities the challenge is more subtle, and can be seen more through the process rather than the finished piece. The counselors facilitate the challenges in appropriate ways so that each camper has her own experience. Seeing other campers trying new things and the constant environment of encouragement and support allows girls to branch out of their comfort zones.

Second, we discussed the relationships that are able to flourish at camp. Taking activities is just one of the ways that the social and emotional needs of campers are supported at camp. The Hi-Ups and CITs all commented on the benefits of signing up alone for activities in addition to signing up with a group of your cabin mates. On one hand, campers get to make new friends amongst their age group. On the other, they get to become closer with the other girls in their cabin. One Hi-Up mentioned how she would be too nervous to sign up for tennis by herself, but if she signed up with a friend, she would be more willing to take that risk and try something new. Either way, campers get to make new friends through their shared triumphs, failures, and laughter in activities. Plus, they are able to meet counselors from other lines, who may inspire them to sign up for an activity they otherwise wouldn’t take.

Through activities, campers and counselors of different age groups get to interact in a low-pressure, high-encouragement environment. Pottery, yoga, jewelry making, play rehearsal, horseback riding—these are just the channel through which our community is created. This safe, supportive space for genuine relationship-building is what makes camp unique, and is why campers come back year after year to see the friends and counselors who have impacted them along the way.


—Jenna Lilly

3rd Time’s the Charm

Helpful Hi-Ups on opening day!

After a warm welcome from counselors on opening day, our campers were eager to dive into all the action of camp! Today everyone began their first rotation of activities. Twice a week, campers get to select what activities they would like to take for the following three day rotation. Over the course of a full session, a camper could try every single one of our 22 activities. While that makes it seem like camp is jam-packed and busy, our daily schedule actually has free time built in throughout the day. Free swims and twilights allow the campers to have extra time at the lake, time with their friends, or just a chance to shower! We want our campers to learn and experience new things at Rockbrook, but also have the time and space to explore on their own.

When campers take activities, they get to have time with campers and counselors from other cabins. All our cabin counselors teach along with a few specialists, who help with some more technical activities. For example, pottery, curosty (weaving), and folklore (mountain crafts) have specialists because these crafts require more skill, experience, and safety precautions. Campers are able to form relationships both in and out of the cabin because our counselors teach activities. Plus, the girls get to learn more specialized, unique crafts they may not learn at home thanks to our talented activity specialists.

Hanging out at the alpine tower.

In addition to signing up for archery, jewelry making, and swimming, campers can audition for the play and take play practice as an activity. If you have been following the blog so far this summer, you already know the play this year is the Little Mermaid! The play is one of the most eagerly awaited events at camp, because the campers and play directors work all session towards their performance on the final day. Today, auditions began at 2nd free swim in the Hillside Lodge, and campers were lining up on the porch waiting for their chance to try out. At camp, anyone who tries out for the play gets a part—all you have to do is sing a song of your choice! The more the merrier is how we see it at camp; especially with the Little Mermaid, you can never have too many fish!

Our first full day of camp ended with excitement in the dining hall. After announcements, we played a round of Spin the Wheel! On the wall near the door to the kitchen in a white board wheel on which there are written various prizes. If a camper or counselor is lucky enough to be the last one standing after several elimination rounds (i.e. stay standing if you are wearing a friendship bracelet), then they may spin the wheel. Today, Senior 4 won Dress a Director, so tomorrow they will announce which director they want to dress up and when. Spin the Wheel is just one of the many fun surprises awaiting us this 3rd session. As they say, 3rd time’s the charm!

To conclude our blog, please enjoy this haiku from our Waterfront Director, Audrey:

First full day at camp 

Play auditions—sing a song!

Spin the wheel, spin the…

Enjoying free time with friends and flowers.

The Start of Something New

Now that Second Session has officially begun, campers have eagerly jumped on all the opportunities for fun and adventure at camp. Every day except Sundays, campers take activities that they can choose themselves. Mondays at camp are always full of new experiences because they are the first day of activity rotations. Today was especially delightful because it is the first day of the fist activity rotation, and it is the second day of the whole session.

Every Sunday and Wednesday night after dinner, campers choose their next round of four activities that they will take for three days. Some campers enjoy taking the same activities every time because they want to continue building their skills, they particularly enjoy being with those activity instructors, or they are just big fans of that activity. On the other hand, some campers choose new activities every rotation in order to try the most they can while at camp, since many of our activities are things that are often not available at home. Either way, campers practice decision-making and independence when they pick activities and challenge themselves to try new things.

For instance, today in Curosty, our weaving activity, campers sat by the creek and learned how to make baskets that they will be able to take home and use. 

Meanwhile in Yoga, campers not only practiced different poses and breathing techniques, they also learned about yoga philosophy and history in order to ground their yoga experience and relate it to their lives.

No matter the activity, campers are able to take something away with them when they leave camp. Whether it is a freshly honed skill in knot tying, an experience on horseback they’ve never had before, or a new friend they made in needlecraft, each camper heads home with more than they arrived with. The combination of immersion in nature, working with activity specialists, and daily opportunities to build both skills and relationships make activities at Rockbrook a unique learning experience.

Girls arm in arm at summer camp

Comfortable and Confident

water slide splash

It’s only been a few days into the session, and already it’s clear that camp life is the good life. A casual stroll around the camp, really at any time, proves it. We have happy girls everywhere, engaged caring counselors, and genuine enthusiasm spilling out of every activity. It’s remarkable too how quickly this positive momentum has appeared. You see it at archery when the girls cheer for each shot that hits the target, at the Alpine Tower when a camper makes it to the top platform, and at Curosty when the looms vibrate from quick fingers at work.  The poses at Yoga, the canoe strokes at the lake, the backhands on the tennis courts, the careful protocols and aim at the riflery range —together, there seems to be a natural rhythm to camp now. It’s fascinating to see all this relaxed, comfortable and confident activity.

There also has been tremendous interest in the adventure trips being offered each day. When the staff announces a trip, the girls have been literally running to sign up. There’s been so much interest in overnight backpacking, for example, we’ve added more chances to go in the coming days. The Juniors have been filling day hiking trips, and tomorrow’s rock climbing outing to Looking Glass Rock will have a full group leaving bright and early. Likewise for the zip line trips: quickly full of eager adventurers. It’s impressive how much these girls are ready for everything camp has to offer!

sliding rock camp kids

The entire Senior line spent their cabin day evening having a wild time at Sliding Rock. Just before dinner we loaded up all the buses, and drove up to a great grassy spot in the forest for a picnic dinner of hot dogs, Rick’s homemade coleslaw, potato chips and fruit. A quick game of “I’m a Rockbrook Girl” helped digest our meal before driving the short distance to the Rock.  Once again, since we were sliding after hours, we had the place to ourselves and the girls could easily get back in line to slide several times.  Some slid as many as 6 or 7 times tonight! Back in the buses and after a short drive back down the mountain, Dolly’s Dairy bar was our last stop of the evening.  Cups and cones of delicious “Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion,” or some other camp flavor made a nice cap for the fun trip.

Keep that snail mail coming. Receiving a true card or letter in their mailbox is a wonderful gift for the girls. Follow the instructions for keeping in touch on this page.

rifle target kids

Delightfully Busy

Pottery Wheel Hands
Camp Girl Weaving

As we’ve clicked along this week, it’s been wonderfully busy, I’d say delightfully busy with adventure trips, activities here in camp, and a full dose of costume, song-fueled silliness. Take all the crafts for example. Camp is like a multimedia arts studio run by kids because at any minute of everyday you’re bound to see t-shirts being tied and dyed, sparkly beads strung on wire for jewelry, and soft yarns woven into mats on a floor loom or carefully knitted into a hat. In the two pottery studios today, the wheels were spinning and coils of cool, brown clay were being stacked neatly to make bowls. Watercolor paintings, hand-dipped candles, and highly decorated collage memory boxes are some of the other items being created.

There are four scheduled activity periods each day, allowing our girls to balance the creativity of arts and crafts with more physical pursuits too. Today both the Alpine climbing tower and the zip line course had groups of girls scrambling. As some climbed up 50 feet using ropes, logs and stone-like handholds, others zipped down about 1000 feet of steel cable and over 3 different suspension bridges in the woods. In the gym, there was a game of volleyball on one end, while on the other, the gymnastics girls worked on the balance beam. Just down the hill from the gym at the riflery range, other girls were firing away, and according to the instructors, shooting really well with several bullseyes announced at lunch. Likewise for archery— we heard that 3 girls this morning each shot a bullseye with their bow and arrows.

Child Nature Explorer

Several trips headed out of camp today as well. For hikes, Clyde led a group of Middlers on a high-altitude hike near the Shining Rock Wilderness area, topping out at over 6000 feet on Black Balsam and Tennent mountains. The weather was perfect making the views from that height absolutely gorgeous! Meanwhile, a small group of Junior campers traveled to the Dupont State Forest to visit Bridle Veil Falls, an amazing portion of the Little River that flows over 120′ or so of gently sloping rock. It has multiple pools and cascading falls, all brightly exposed to the sun. With the great weather we had today, it was magical. After lunch, the paddling staff and a group of Senior girls loaded up a trailer of canoes and floated a section of the French Broad River not far from camp. Again, the excellent, dry sunny weather made the trip both relaxing and fun as the group followed the meandering tree-lined banks of the river through the valley.

Our evening program tonight happened in the gym where we all dressed up for an all-camp game of “Family Feud,” or for us, “Cabin Feud.” First, to give the event a true Rockbrook feel, we added costumes inviting everyone to dress up with the theme “When I Grow Up” in mind. In costume, answer the question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Of course there were several doctors in the house, but also a few clowns, farmers, and hippies. Two campers dressed as their own counselors— the epitome of admiration! Like the famous TV game show, in our “Cabin Feud,” two groups squared off by providing answers to questions like: Name a fruit that you ordinarily can’t buy just one; Name something that makes you itch; Name a popular trip at Rockbrook; or Name places on your body that often get sunburned, for example.  Each question has multiple answers, of course, so when teams answered correctly they were awarded points with the highest tally winning in the end. Part of the excitement came from the girls shouting their outrageous answers to the questions, and from the audience’s reactions, but with a giant cookie cake trophy at stake for the winning cabins (one for each age group), everyone was fired up! It was a night of good camp fun. Sure it was silly and loud, wacky and pretty outrageous, but that’s exactly how we like it.

Camper Staff Twins

Amazing Things Happening

Swim Laughing Camp Girls
laughing camp girls

Special events happen just about everyday at Rockbrook. Often announced as a surprise, they could be special craft workshops like a woodworking demonstration. They could be a costume theme for a meal, like tonight when the girls dressed like their favorite celebrity. Of course, there are always special outdoor adventure trips announced in the dining hall each day— canoeing on the French Broad River, rock climbing on Looking Glass Rock, or an overnight backpacking trip into the Pisgah National Forest. During the period of free time after dinner that we call “Twilight,” we often announce surprise events, for example a drum circle, or when the girls could build “fairy boxes” down at the camp garden, or head to the gym for 45 minutes of Zumba.

Camp Tower climbing blindfolded
Dance Camp Class
Kid pottery tile making
Painting Class summer camp
Fire Roasting Marshmallows

Meanwhile, everyday there’s amazing things happening in all of the in-camp activity areas. For example, the Alpine tower provides our girls with fantastic climbing challenges. With more than 30 different ways to climb up (all 50 feet to the top), it takes quite a while to “do it all.” Plus, some girls are now climbing the tower blindfolded… just for the fun and the added challenge. Some of the routes up are already really difficult with swinging obstacles and overhanging sections. So, it’s incredible to watch some of the girls successfully climb without being able to see! Swinging on your belay rope (sometimes upside down) while being lowered down is a nice thrill that comes after each climb.

The Lakeview Lodge (one of the three stone activity lodges at camp) also serves as our dance studio. Each of the four dance classes happening this week has been a mix of learning individual dance moves of various styles and working on choreography, synchronizing individual moves into a complete dance routine. There will be an opportunity to perform their routines at the end of the session during the intermission of the camp musical.

The ceramics classes have been really showing off this week too. The girls have been decorating tiles and plaques (rolled out slabs of clay) with texture impressions, small clay coils, and carvings. They’ve made small animal sculptures, cupcake and mushroom boxes, as well as wheel-thrown vessels like cups and bowls. Later next week, the girls will begin glazing their creations so they can be fired in the kilns in time to have fully finished pieces to take home. Bright and colorful, it will be exciting to see the final results.

The painting and drawing classes have been concentrating on watercolor paints, and experimenting with color theory as the girls blend their paint. They’ve been using different brush types as well, creating interesting effects for their pictures.

Fire building is one of the skills the girls are learning in the WHOA activity this week.  If you’ve ever tried to build a fire, the wood you use matters a lot. The girls know how to select dry wood, but also how to gauge that by listening for a distinctive snap when a twig breaks. Some have been able to achieve a “one-match” fire without using any paper…. a real accomplishment. Of course, the possibility of roasting marshmallows and making s’mores can be a powerful motivator, as well!

Outdoor adventure, sports, and creative arts are daily experiences at camp, and this has been a full and rewarding week of each. As your girls sample these options, learning from the challenges they represent, they’re not just enjoying themselves. They’re also growing a bit, becoming more confident and accomplished, developing skills and perhaps surprising talents.  All this and more, in the name of fun. It’s very neat to see.

Summer Camp kids

A Harry Potter Afternoon

Wand Making Camper
Camp Potions Class
Harry potter camper

Don’t worry, it’s Harry Potter day! Actually, it was a Harry Potter afternoon as we switched things up a bit today and held wizardry-inspired events for all the girls. It all began at lunch when the “Sorting Hat” divided the campers into one of the four Hogwarts “Houses,” Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin. Then back in their cabins after lunch, the girls and counselors worked on costumes. Some emerged with Harry Potter glasses, robes, scarves, boarding school ties decorated according to their house, and there were several lightning bolt shaped scars drawn with eyeliner. The counselors dressed as Hermione, Professor Umbridge, and even Lord Voldemort.

Instead of the bell signaling the end of rest hour, the whole camp was filled with cinematic music playing through speakers on the office porch. That signaled the four groups/houses to begin making their way toward different activity stations. One of these was “potions class” where the girls followed complex written spells combining all sorts of colorful liquids and powders into small glass bottles. Some combinations bubbled and other turned colors, surprising the girls.

No wizard is complete without a wand, so another of the “classes” was wand making. This had the girls use hot glue to build up twisting patterns on sticks and dowels. They added paint, and multiple layers of glitter to personalize each wand, ending up with some really amazing creations. Suddenly, all over camp there were spells being cast and wand duels springing up.

Meanwhile on the landsports field, another group played a version of “Quidditch.” We made it related to soccer, only the girls would use their hands to try and throw a ball into the opposite team’s goal. There was a “golden snitch” running through now and then, and “bludgers” throwing water balloons to disrupt the play… All elements of the game as it’s played in the Harry Potter books.

Another stop was more festive, with the counselors serving “Butter Beer” (cream soda) in decorative cups, and “Broomstick” snacks (pretzels). Each group at this stop wrote a song or chant to that they would later sing for the entire group out on the hill. It was then that two counselors dressed like Harry Potter and Voldemort came flying by on the zipline and after landing, had a wand duel, which Harry won (of course!). Finally, the dining hall was decorated like the Great Hall at Hogwarts with long tables, floating lights (suspended with fishing line), and painted banners signifying each house.

It was an afternoon complete with many of the things that make a special camp event great: costumes, music, action, creativity, snacks, and plenty of smiling friends to join along the way.

Harry Potter Potion Kids

Redbirds, Jitters, & Camp Camaraderie

By Chrissy Swartz, Waterfront Director

A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver

All night my heart makes its way
however it can over the rough ground
of uncertainties, but only until night
meets and then is overwhelmed by
morning, the light deepening, the
wind easing and just waiting, as I
too wait (and when have I ever been
disappointed?) for redbird to sing.

Was Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver a Rockbrook girl? She certainly could have been, given her delicate writings and musings on nature and its beauty. I was shocked when I came across this poem recently while reading a collection of her poems at camp since the redbird is such a traditional symbol of Rockbrook. Immediately I related A Thousand Mornings to life at RBC—especially to the feelings of excitement and hesitation that the first few days of camp bring.

pottery

Breakfast on this first full day of camp is always full of cautious energy. The campers, counselors, and activity instructors are all raring to go. As soon as breakfast ends the camp leaps into full swing. The girls head off to their activities, and it feels like Second Session has officially begun. Once again camp is filled with the sounds of children playing in different areas of camp, their laughter floating above the lake all the way up the hill.

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 11.45.37 PM

Soon the nervous butterflies and hesitations disappear as the girls chat at muffin break about their first activity period. Everyone has a story to share. By Free Swim many of the girls were coming down in groups to take a dip in the lake with their friends. It’s wonderful to see friendships new and old bringing girls together so quickly on the first full day.

We also finally got a rainstorm this afternoon! We haven’t had rain for a few weeks, so the shower was much appreciated. It wasn’t enough to disrupt activities, but it did encourage girls to take advantage of bonding time in the cabin. The rain makes things grow, including cabin camaraderie. It’s wonderful that so much happened today at camp, both outside in activities as well as inside the cabins among the girls. Cabin culture is a huge part of the camp experience, and today was a very formative day in that regard, especially since the rain encouraged a cozy afternoon after the storm.

3girlssilly

By dinner the energy was buzzing in the dining hall. After four activity periods, the day seems endless because so much has already been done. The girls were laughing and singing loudly and proudly, finally allowing themselves to settle in a bit more to the crazy camp lifestyle.

Twilight offered a trip down to the camp garden, as well as another chance for the girls to get more comfortable with the charms of camp and their friends on the hill. Finally, the night ended with cabin skits on each line, offering a new way for cabinmates to bond over a shared experience of performing ridiculous skits in fun costumes in front of their peers. Milk and cookies topped off the evening as the girls went off to bed, a new day patiently waiting on the other side of a second night in the mountains. Tomorrow, the redbird will sing again.

cameras

Love from the Lake,

Chrissy