Make New Mistakes

“So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.”
—Neil Gaiman

We awoke this morning to the rising bell as usual, and groggily got out of bed. (I’m sure somewhere on camp, girls get up with pep and energy, but on the senior line, we place a high value on sleep.) Once we woke up a bit, though, by sharing bits of news for the day at breakfast and playing a stimulating game of Ships and Sailors at morning assembly, we were ready to greet the day.

Today was the first day of a new rotation of activities. On the first day of activities, it’s as though the whole camp is refreshed and reenergized—girls are trying new things, or at least taking activities with new people. It gives campers a sense of variety, and asks them to choose whether they want to continue developing one particular skill or to try something completely new.

IMG_9756-1While walking around camp, I got to see the benefits of both of these approaches to activities. I first walked in to a dance class full of senior girls, practicing for the upcoming dance show. Some of them had danced before for plays and musicals, while others were laughing about how it would take them quite awhile to learn a chasse. The mood in dance, though, does not distinguish the girls who have danced from those who never have. A counselor teaches in a calm tone, laughing right along with the girls as they try to get the moves at once. They show me the beginning of their dance, and they are all equally excited about the success of their ripple. The girls are equally excited about coming together to do the ripple. As I walked away from the dance class, it hit me how welcoming and inclusive the dance class had been. Dancing, particularly in front of other people, is a vulnerable and intimidating action. Yet here were ten teenagers, making progress together, but mostly feeling totally comfortable and happy trying something new.

I think this exemplifies the philosophy of activities at Rockbrook. We are focused on the process rather than the outcome. In this way, mistakes are not just okay—they are celebrated. When campers make mistakes, it means they have tried something new and challenged what they thought possible. The noncompetitive environment of Rockbrook helps campers feel safe and supported even when they do make a mistake. They feel intrinsically motivated to try new things without outside pressures.
Initially when I came to Rockbrook, I remember being hesitant about this philosophy. Coming from a competitive academic environment and skills-focused surroundings, I wanted my activity to focus on outcome. If a girl could not tie a figure eight knot at the end of climbing, then what was she really learning? Eventually, though, I realized that I missed the point. I think this is typical outside of camp—school and sports are so focused on an objective that we rarely consider the virtues of the process itself. For climbing, even when girls do not reach the top, they are learning to push themselves beyond what they thought their limits were, but also learning that sometimes it is okay to stop. Rockbrook’s philosophy has become so central to my perspective outside of life. Although objectives are still important, I have learned to slow down and consider all that I am learning along the way.

IMG_8175-1I witnessed this today in climbing, actually. I arrived at climbing toward the end of the period, so Clyde Carter, the head of our outdoors program, was teaching the girls knots as the class was winding down. I saw girls trying to tie the knots, some ropes looking like a scrambled tangle, others coming close but it falling apart as they tried to tighten it. Clyde remarked in his gently humorous way, “They’re doing everything right, except tying the knot.” This was a perfect description of the feeling of following instructions step by step, but still struggling with an objective. There was no pressure to learn the knot, and some campers decided to put the rope away and get out of their harnesses. A couple of them were determined. One stood in front of Clyde and said assertively, “I will get this knot!” He then proceeded to explain it to her again and again until she could tie it.

In addition to creating a safe place to make new mistakes, the noncompetitive environment also encourages campers to be intrinsically motivated, rather than extrinsically motivated. They choose where they want their energy to go, whether it’s tying a knot, finishing mermaid laps, or going on a whitewater-kayaking trip. This gives them the power to set and achieve their own goals, not because they are a part of a team or because they need a good grade, but for the satisfaction of completing a task they choose to care about.

It is easier to make mistakes and to try new things in an environment that is noncompetitive, but it becomes even easier when that environment also does not take itself too seriously. We all had a great evening program that is best described as silly. The evening program was called Jug Band, and we all paid homage to the mountain heritage of Rockbrook. We dressed up in flannels and overalls, fashioned our own instruments out of hairbrushes and water bottles, and headed down to Vesper Rock for an old-fashioned campfire. We sang songs like ‘Mountain Dew,’ ‘Rocky Top,’ and ‘I Love Little Willy,’ while campers told their favorite jokes and counselors performed goofy skits. Everyone laughed and played along to the mountain tunes before the moon lit up the mountains and signaled that it was time for bed.

Unlike any other place I know, Rockbrook gives us subtle freedom and the realization that we should be making mistakes. We should never demand perfection from ourselves because it is only within trying new things, not taking ourselves too seriously, and being gentle with ourselves can we begin to take authentic ownership of our lives. These first session girls have one week of camp left, and we will continue learning these lessons every day that we spend at camp. When we leave, I hope we will continue to make new mistakes. I hope we continue to be brave enough to try new things and have the humility to laugh at ourselves when things do not go as planned. I hope we are able to write a paper on Romeo and Juliet or solve a hard math problem and take time to appreciate the process, not just the grade. I hope we are able to motivate ourselves to practice violin or practice our serves in tennis because we innately want to improve, not just because someone told us to. Ultimately, I hope our lives away from camp flourish because of our lives in camp.

Camp Jug Band

This is Our Camp!

“If I know what I shall find, I do not want to find it. Uncertainty is the salt of life.” –Erwin Chargaff

camper girlAnyone who has been to Rockbrook knows that there is some degree of certainty at camp: there is a regular schedule, there will definitely be muffin break every day at 10:45 (thank goodness!), and there is always something structured to do. Yet days like today, with nothing out of the ordinary planned, remind me that we all thrive at Rockbrook because when we wake up, none of us know exactly what the day will bring, and that makes each moment of each day exciting.

No one knows exactly what a day outside of camp will bring, either, but what I have noticed recently is that Rockbrook fuels this sense of curiosity and energy by creating a camper-driven environment. Because Rockbrook is set up like this, campers feel free to take initiative and take their spontaneous ideas and turn them into real fun.

This has been exemplified all day long at camp. No one batted an eye when a whole cabin of girls arrived to breakfast decked out in costumes from head to toe, but many of them got great compliments for their senses of style! At the end of breakfast, the girls made an announcement that, as a reward for clearing their table without being asked, two girls got to dress the other girls in their cabin. The girls all loved it and enjoyed parading around in their costumes all morning!

While walking around today, I dropped by KIT, which stands for “Keeping in Touch.” In this activity, girls make stationary, calendars, and boxes—anything that helps them write letters or keep special camp memories. KIT takes place in Goodwill, an historical building that is cozy with soft lighting and red curtains. The environment is relaxed and laid back, as the counselors who teach KIT have made sure that each girl is doing a project she wants to do. Conversation flows easily as the girls who have already spent a week at camp get to know those who just arrived. Everyone is engaged in their craft and content with their choice, happy they got to decide for themselves what to focus their energy on.

When I passed by WHOA, our activity on Wilderness Hiking and Outdoor Adventure, I heard something I do not usually hear casually around camp: The Star Spangled Banner being sung around a fire pit. Curious, I joined in the song, and tried to blend in. As the song ended, girls got up to speak, and I realized quickly that this was a memorial service for the miniature rafts the girls had tried to create. A particularly memorable moment of the speech was, “It was the Titanic of rafts, and that’s probably why it sank.” No one would have thought that a sunken raft would be an avenue for the subtle hilarity that ensued afterward. With a healthy dose of flexibility and an emphasis on process instead of outcome, every small activity can become something exciting and unexpected.

IMG_7172

This notion of camper ownership extends to every part of the day and every place around camp. Eating in the dining hall is always a little unpredictable because no one ever knows what songs will get sung. The Hi-Ups (the oldest Rockbrook campers) get to choose and lead the songs, but any table can request them! My absolute favorite part of meals, though, are announcements. There are many predictable (and important) announcements about adventurous trip offerings, tie-dye pick-ups, and lost and found. What makes Rockbrook different, though, is that campers take initiative and make their own announcements too. We were treated at dinner to two juniors performing a self-written song on their favorite activity: Nature! Set to “The Shark Song,” a familiar camp tune, the girls replaced the verses with “terrariums”, “Rockbrook Falls”, and “cool counselors”. The girls even made the journal in which they wrote the lyrics down! The rest of the camp gushed at how perfect the announcement was, and broke into excited applause. Not only do campers take ownership of camp, the rest of camp enthusiastically celebrates their initiative because everyone appreciates this spontaneity.

Twilight gave us another avenue to explore as a group of girls chose to venture down to the Rockbrook Garden. Every age group was represented, and it was moving to watch the senior girls helping the younger girls get excited as they walked down the hill together. When we arrived at the garden, Chelsea, the friendly and calm Rockbrook gardener, addressed the campers saying, “Girls, welcome to your garden.” The garden is a plot of land by the land sports field. Chelsea works hard to plant a variety of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers. It is incredibly calming and relaxing to be there during this twilight time, when the day’s heat is finally easing up, when the sun is setting, but there is still gold in the sky, when wind chimes are providing us with gentle sounds, and we get to romp around in what feels like a secret garden. There are rows of fruits, vegetables, and herbs that will eventually find their way into the Rockbrook dining hall! Surrounding the vegetables are beautiful flowers—heaps of sunflowers and daisies of every color. It is nothing short of perfection.

Even better, we got to do so much more than look at it. Girls proceeded to pluck strawberries right off the vine and eat them; others tried kale for the very first time. Some created bundles of lavender and verbena to tuck into their pillows at night, while others picked flowers and fashioned bouquets for their new friends. Chelsea also gave the girls some lettuce to plant in the ground, and many also helped water the plants. Regardless of what they did, I saw so much sheer joy in being able to actively engage in a space like the garden. On the way up the hill, I heard a girl comment that she was somewhat hesitant to come to the garden because she thought it would be a structured lesson about plants. She had no idea she would be allowed to pick anything or try anything, and that most requests she had would be answered with “yes,” and a smile.

After the garden, we headed back up the hill for evening program. Most nights, cabins work together to plan a skit. Though counselors are always nearby, we try not to be too involved—it’s a great opportunity for girls to work together and get as creative as we please! As I was watching a skit whose characters were debating the origin of French Fries (France or the United States…in the end, it was actually Belgium!), I was struck by the originality that stems from campers creating so much of the direction of their camp lives. I realized that, at Rockbrook, the phrase I heard at the garden should be applied more broadly. It’s as though every moment of every day is saying, Girls, welcome to your camp.

Camper Dressing up Fun

Camp Wizardry

Professor McGonagall at campMoaning Myrtle at camp“Welcome to the Wizarding World of Rockbrook!” That proclamation launched our special event this afternoon for the whole camp. Instead of our regular afternoon activities, Rockbrook became immersed in all things Harry Potter. It began at lunch when Chase and Hunter, already dressed in ceremonial robes, announced the proceedings and presented everyone with a personal letter, signed by Prof. McGonagall, inviting them to attend the “Rockbrook School of Witchcraft and Wizardry” under the direction of “Headmaster, Sarah Carter, D.Wiz., X.J.(sorc.), S. Of Mag.Q.” Written in calligraphy, the letters looked amazing. Next the Sorting Hat appeared to sort all the campers into one of the four Hogwarts “Houses,” Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, or Slytherin. These groups would then attend “classes” (special activities) in the afternoon.

During rest hour in their cabins, the girls worked on their best wizarding costumes— sporting colorful hats, robes, round glasses, scarves, sashes, boarding school ties, and make up. The counselors dressed up as well. We had Professor McGonigall, Hermione, Moaning Myrtle, Professors Snape and Umbridge, and of course Lord Voldemort and Harry Potter.

Suddenly, around 3pm, the whole camp was filled with music from the Harry Potter movies, and everyone set off to their different activity stations. One class/station was potion making. This had the girls mixing all sorts of powders and liquids in small glass jars. Some combinations, like baking soda and vinegar, foamed while others turned different colors, thickened, or bubbled like soap. It was somewhat messy, as a potions class should be, but most of the girls ended up with colorful concoctions worth keeping.

Another class everyone attended was wand making. Here the girls used hot glue to build up twisting patterns and alternating layers on wooden dowels and sticks. Adding some brown paint then made the wands look like they were carved with intricate handles and unique shapes. It didn’t take long for the girls to be carrying the wands and casting spells throughout the camp.

Harry Potter Wand Kid Camp Harry Potter Girl Summer Camp Wizard Girl

The “Common Room” was another stop. There, the counselors were serving “Butter Beer” (cream soda) and “Broomstick” snacks (pretzels). Each group wrote a song or chant. Girls were face painting (a lightning bolt shaped scar, perhaps) and applying temporary tattoos. Meanwhile, another group played Quidditch down on the sports field. Akin to soccer, this game had girls racing around trying to throw a ball into the opposing team’s goal (hoops suspended on the soccer goal posts). A “golden snitch” ran through the games now and them. “Bludgers” threw water balloons at players and “Keepers” did their best to protect the goals during the play.

At one point toward the end of the afternoon, two counselors enacted a duel between Harry Potter and Voldemort. It included the two characters flying by on a zip line, wands drawn. (Don’t worry, Harry defeated Voldemort in the end). Finally for dinenr, the staff rearranged the dining hall into long tables, added decorations like floating (suspended by fishing line) lights, to mimic the “Great Hall” in Hogwarts. The feast included roasted chicken, mashed red potatoes and gravy with grilled vegetables, and brownies for dessert. It truly was a delicious feast.

Like so many of the special events at camp, this afternoon got us all moving, acting a little silly in costumes, and simply enjoying each others company in a creative way… Some of the good things at camp!

Harry Potter Campers

Equally Full

camp-weaving-instructorOur first full day of camp began this morning with every activity area ready to launch into action. A full breakfast of orange juice, fresh fruit, oatmeal, granola and yogurt got us started, and the morning assemblies (held in each age groups stone lodge) of up-beat camp songs set the tone for an equally full day.

The other day, after being asked, I counted up the number of buildings at Rockbrook. Including all of the camper cabins (25), activity buildings, staff housing and support buildings, there are 53 different structures at camp. That’s a lot of roofs! And today every one of them was being used for the jam-packed life that we enjoy at camp.

Eight different places were home to creative craft projects. Weaving colorful yarns on the looms in Curosty with Nancy, pinching and rolling clay in one of the pottery studios, tying friendship bracelets, dripping dye on t-shirts, making layers of paper collages, brushing on watercolor paints, embroidering small swatches of fabric— the girls began many, many art projects.

rifle-girl-shooterSports too! The girls shot rifles and bows with .22 caliber bullets and arrows hitting their targets. They balanced on the beam after stretching in the gymnastics area of the gym. All three tennis courts saw various tennis drills and short games. The gaga ball pit also was stirred up by game after game, with girls jumping and swatting as the ball bounced in their direction. Of course the lake, which (next to the dining hall!) is probably the most popular place in camp, was humming with fun as the girls flew down the water slide, performed tricks off the diving board, and just played around on different floating toys. As the weather cleared up throughout the day, the lake seemed to become even more popular.

tennis-camp-girl-playergirls-camp-kayaking-instructionThe first riding lessons also took place today, with the girls who wanted to ride meeting new horses during one of the 4 activity periods. There were riders in every ring just about all day long. The outdoor adventure staff offered climbing on the Alpine tower, trips through the zip line course, a hike to Rockbrook Falls, and opportunities to learn the basics of whitewater kayaking down at the lake. Ellie and Jamie, our dynamic kayaking instruction duo, enticed dozens of girls to try out the cool new whitewater kayaks added to the Rockbrook fleet this summer.

Rick’s famous “cheesy bread” and homemade vegetable tomato soup, Becky’s fresh “Confetti” muffins, and chocolate chip cookies and milk before bed, were all top-10 foods popular from last summer that we enjoyed today as well.

With all of our activity areas cranking, familiar camp foods, a chance to spin the wheel in the dining hall (more about that later!), hula hooping on the hill during twilight, and evening program featuring silly, hilarious skits performed by each cabin group in their line’s lodges, it felt good to have a full day at camp. Everyone seemed happy, energized and settled in, which proves it doesn’t take long for girls to feel comfortable and at home here. It would make you smile to see it.

muffin-break-girls

Power with a Heart

Camp Horseback Riding ClassHorse Jumping Girl at Summer CampWatching the campers ride has been an especially fun treat recently. Dozens of girls have signed up for riding, some for their very first experience working with a horse, and others with more advanced skills. We have nine staff members devoted to teaching horseback riding at camp this summer, and with 30 horses in the RBC herd, there’s always a lot going on at the barn, from tacking up for a mounted lesson, to the farrier trimming the hooves on one of our Connemara ponies, to feeding and mucking out stalls. For the campers, there’s always something to learn too, both about the complexities of caring for the horses, and also about how to improve their riding skills. Today a beginner-level lesson in the upper ring had the girls doing a great job walking their mounts, steering them independently, while down in the lower (larger) ring, the advanced riders were working on jumping what looked like about 2 feet over rails. Both groups seemed happy and proud of their accomplishments.

It’s always been a question why some girls are so keenly drawn to horses, as so many girls love riding here at Rockbrook. The Kitchen Sisters have just released an episode of their podcast “Fugitive Waves” that explores this phenomenon. It’s entitled “Horses, Unicorns and Dolphins.” In the 20-minute episode, we hear the voices of young girls, authors, research scientists, and lifelong riders describing why they ride, and how they feel in their relationships with these powerful animals. My favorite line from the program is when one rider describes horses as “power with a heart.” In a sense this summarizes it. Horseback riding is so meaningful, so magical, for girls because it includes a special relationship with that heart, an emotional collaboration with that power, and fundamentally, a unique form of friendship between two beings. For those open to this sort of relationship, there’s really nothing quite like horseback riding.

Camp Tennis GirlAll of the other Rockbrook activities kept the campers busy throughout the morning activity periods. At tennis the girls worked on their volleys, while at archery and riflery, they steadied their aim. The girls climbed the Alpine Tower, and swam in the lake, if they weren’t stretching into yoga poses in the hillside lodge. Some made tie-dye t-shirts, and others sewed pillows. Some knitted hats, as other girls tied new bracelet patterns out of colorful embroidery floss. There was volleyball in the gym and cartwheels in the gymnastics area, as the WHOA instructors demonstrated how to build a fire. It’s astonishing how many different things the campers were doing at the same time all over camp!

Kids Playing Under WaterfallAlso this morning, a group of Junior campers took a “swim” hike to Moore Cove in the Pisgah Forest. Dressed in their swimsuits with towels and water bottles stashed in day packs, they followed the gentle uphill trail into the cove. It’s a short walk that ends at an 80-foot tall waterfall. It’s been pretty dry lately, so the falling water was more like rain as it dripped over the rock high above. This made a perfect place to cool off in the warm sunshine, and the girls made great use use of the opportunity letting the water spray all over them. They played in the pool below and had a great time building cairns from stones they found… a real forest experience, real play, and definitely real fun.

All of the Senior campers gathered later this afternoon for a picnic dinner in the Pisgah Forest, and a stop at Sliding Rock. Our picnic this time included a huge pile of watermelon, baked spaghetti the kitchen prepared for us in advance, salad, and sliced baguettes. I’d say it was far more of a complete meal than a “picnic.” One girl bragged to me that she ate 14 pieces of the bread! After eating, we enjoyed digesting our dinner a bit by running around playing a game of “I’m a Rockbrook Girl.” Akin to musical chairs, this game gets the the girls running from one place to another in a circle with each round identifying a new “Rockbrook Girl” for the center of the circle. There’s a lot of laughing and screaming, like all great outdoor games. It was a short trip in the buses back to “the Rock,” and soon the girls were zipping down the natural water slide splashing into the deep pool at the bottom. It’s hard to describe how much the girls love sliding rock. As you slip, spin and roll through the “freezing” cold water, it’s only natural to scream your head off, and as you watch your friends, to laugh hysterically. It’s all great fun.

“Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion” came next when we stopped at Dolly’s Dairy bar. If not that flavor, then some other sweet treat topped off the outing when everyone ordered their favorite in a cup or cone. Eating the ice cream, even after all the chilly sliding, really heated everyone up and in no time we were singing songs, posing for more photos and simply enjoying the evening together. It was the perfect way to finish up an excellent trip out.

Sliding Rock Thumbs Up Girls

Getting into the Groove!

IMG_9764_mThe first full day of camp is always a mixed bag of emotions for our campers. For campers young and old, new or returning, there’s a lot to process throughout this day. New activities to try, new people to meet, new friends to make… It can seem just as overwhelming as it is exciting. This is the day that marks the start of the few weeks these girls have waited 12 months to experience again, and that knowledge carries a lot of anticipation and anxiousness as the girls leave breakfast to enter a day of fun, creative activities.

Our staff are very attuned to the first-day jitters. We encourage everyone to wear their name tags to make the introduction to new peers as easy as possible. We also make sure to cater to all experience levels in each activity, helping a novice pinch-pot maker feel as comfortable as an expert wheel thrower. This is integral to our philosophy behind activities at Rockbrook.

IMG_9846_mIMG_9924_mWe’re also so excited to start this day because the girls have each customized their own activity schedule. This independence isn’t easy for every girl. Sometimes it’s more comfortable to do what someone has told you to do, but taking the braver step to choose their own activities is a huge sign of growth and maturity. Rockbrook encourages our campers to lean into the discomfort of trying new things, and to create a “new normal” for themselves where they achieve things they may have never thought possible.

One particular group of campers experienced a Rockbrook milestone they have probably been looking forward to since their very first day of camp ever, driving up the gravel hill years ago. The two cabins of CAs—the second-oldest group of campers—proudly announced at lunch that Banquet is coming and that they are pumped!

IMG_0355_m(2)The CAs ventured after breakfast with Jeff into the DuPont forest on a hike that mirrored their brainstorming process. On the drive there, the girls threw out as many ideas of potential Banquet themes they could think of, many of which I suspect they’ve been dreaming up all year long. Upon arrival in the trail parking lot, we read aloud every idea to give the girls a chance to begin to sift through themes they really liked. Throughout the hike, Jeff stopped the girls three times. At each stop on the trail they discussed pros and cons of certain themes, each time eliminating a few as they went. The group engaged in good discussion, honoring each individual’s thoughts and ideas. The energy in the air was palpable and the collaboration between the girls was inspiring.

IMG_9887_mFinally, as they reached the peak of the mountain, the 2015 Third Session CAs emerged from the forest with a Banquet theme that all girls were excited about. They’ll spend the next few weeks hard at work in their secret, off-limits “Cabin 9” at the end of the lower line working with paint and glitter to transform the Dining Hall into a whole new world. Get ready, folks, because these CAs are going to put on a show!

Dinner tonight was the best representation of camp really being in full-swing. We thought yesterday was grand, having so many new arrivals and feeling the camp filled with fresh excitement. However, at tonight’s pizza dinner, the Dining Hall was roaring with happy conversations and enthusiastic (and loud!) singing. We cheered, we requested so many songs, and we sang our hearts out. As fun as yesterday was, we can now say that camp has officially started. Our Third Session 2015 campers are finally here, immersed fully in camp life. Let the games begin!

— Chrissy

Building Leaders

Teaching the BasicsAt Rockbrook, our primary focus is always to give campers the time of their lives in a fun, crazy, safe, and exciting environment. Our objective is to give girls the chance to let loose and get a little crazy, and create memories that will last them well into adulthood.

Full CostumeSteady…..We do have another objective, though—one that is woven into much of our programming, often in subtle ways, but at times more explicitly. We know that the girls playing in our camp today will not be campers forever. There will come a time when these girls will be populating boardrooms, operating rooms, courtrooms, art studios, sports arenas, Houses of Congress, and maybe even the White House. Much of what we do here is geared toward helping them to become the strong, positive leaders that they will need to be in the years to come.

Though, officially, our leadership program does not begin until the summer after ninth grade, we encourage all of our campers to be independent thinkers from the moment they step onto camp on their very first day. One of the most important ways that we foster this independence is by allowing our campers to choose their own activities every three days. No counselors, no directors, and no parents can tell them which activities to choose—only the campers, be they seven or fifteen, can make that decision. We urge them to choose activities based not on what their friends are choosing, but rather on what they are interested in, what they are excited about, and what activities might challenge them. Through this process, campers can learn the immense satisfaction that comes from crafting an experience that is wholly and completely their own.

Never Too SmallWorking HardWhat’s more, our campers put together and perform skits nearly every night with their cabins. Returning campers look forward to these skits every summer—they are fun, goofy, and often hilarious ways to top off the day. Planning the skits, though, is not without its challenges. Skit-planning requires girls to think creatively, to determine how every girl in the cabin can contribute to the performance, to pool their resources (usually costumes) and use them in a way that benefits everyone, and to make sure that everyone is on board and happy with the process.

On top of all of that, the girls aren’t planning the skits under the direction of a counselor. The counselors wait in the lodge, and leave the planning, from beginning to end, to the girls. Throughout the session, the campers get plenty of practice in learning to solve disagreements in mature ways that benefit the cabin as a whole, without the interference of an adult. To help this process along, particularly for the younger girls, campers might be assigned days to be the “skit director.” On this night, they are the leader of the skit-planning, and it is up to them to make the tough decisions and make sure that every girl’s voice is being heard.

Yes, it can sometimes be messy—as learning new skills frequently is—but our campers often leave here at the end of the session with a better understanding of how to be a great leader of a team, and, sometimes more importantly, how to be a productive member of a team.

When campers reach 9th and 10th grade, they begin to take on more responsibilities around camp. They shoulder the responsibility of planning an elaborate Banquet as CA’s, then take on the myriad duties of a Hi-Up, many of which are vital to the smooth running of camp. Some girls are always nervous to take on this leadership role at camp. What they might not realize, is that they have been preparing to be leaders, at camp and elsewhere, since the moment their parents dropped them off on their very first day.

HUP Pals

Loud and Lively

Teenager girls choresFresh baked muffinsThe “Hi-Ups” are our 16-year-old, 10th graders at camp. They live together in a special two-story cabin “high above” (hence their name) the camp in the woods behind the dining hall. This cabin, in addition to having a bright front porch with a clear view of the final zip line in our Zip Course, is rumored to have secret amenities these oldest campers enjoy. For example, according to some junior campers, the Hi-Ups have a flat screen TV and a Jacuzzi in their cabin… Wink, wink 😉 The Hi-Ups are essentially in charge of the dining hall. They arrive before each meal to set all the tables. They serve the large bowls and platters of food, fill drink pitchers, distributing what each table (cabin of girls) needs for every meal. Then, when everyone is done eating and the announcements have wrapped up, the real work begins— cleaning the dining hall. That means racking up the dishes for the CIT dishwashers, wiping down tables, sweeping the floor, and emptying all the trash cans. You can imagine, with almost 280 people eating, this is quite a chore. It helps to have many Hi-Ups, like the group of 15 this session, but in any case there is work to be done. And this group is doing that work superbly. With a little Taylor Swift playing in the background, they are cheerfully tackling these chores 3 times a day. You’d be proud if you saw them.

Another Hi-Up responsibility is distributing the muffins during our morning “muffin break.” The kitchen crew bakes up a surprise flavor of muffin each morning in time to give everyone a warm, soft, usually quite sweet, treat between the 1st and 2nd activity periods (around 10:45). The Hi-Ups grab the trays of muffins, and hand them out to the other campers trough a screened window slid open on the end of the dining hall porch. Today we enjoyed pumpkin muffins, and the day before that classic chocolate chip. When you write your girls at camp (sent an email lately?), ask them what their favorite muffin flavor is so far. I bet the word “chocolate” will be in their answer!

Girl Loading a GunCamp Quilting ProjectThe second day of activities moved everyone about the camp today being creative, active and adventurous along the way. In pottery, a few girls were trying their hand on the potter’s wheel while others were pressing lace into slabs of clay to make decorative tiles. The jewelry making activity was introducing beads and multi-strand friendship bracelets, while in Curosty, tabletop and floor looms clicked away. A group of juniors sat in the sun by the creek weaving baskets just as other girls worked on watercolors with the counselors teaching painting in Hobby Nook. We heard the pop of .22 caliber rifles from below at the riflery range and the “thunk” of arrows finding their targets at the archery activity area. Girls were learning back flips in Gymnastics, and cross-court volleys in tennis, playing ga-ga ball and later a huge game of kickball on the landsports field. Climbers were “on belay” climbing the Alpine Tower and Castle Rock high above camp, while 2 groups of girls made their way through the RBC Zip Line course (which has 3 zips through the woods and 3 different bridges connecting start and end points). The kayakers and canoers were busy learning strokes on the lake, as other girls practiced their cannonballs off the diving board.

Rafting crazy RapidSuper Costume at Summer CampMeanwhile, 64 campers took rafting trips today down the Nantahala River in Swain County. We offer these trips to all the Middler and Senior campers (Junior campers are too small according to our Forest Service permit) and generally about 95% of them sign up. The trip is that fun! The first group of 5 rafts spent the night camping at our nearby RBC outpost, waking up and arriving at the river to meet our veteran guides at the river’s put-in. The weather was a little misty starting out, so we suited up all the girls in blue spray jackets for extra warmth. After smashing through the rapids “Patton’s Run,” “Pyramid Rock,” and “Delbar’s Rock,” the sun poked out and it felt great. The Nantahala is a nice beginner’s whitewater river providing a balance between easy, calm sections and rapids that build as you go. In this way, the whole trip alternates between singing camp songs while floating along and screaming your head off through the bumps and spray of the larger rapids. The sun stayed out for the afternoon trip, and we were all back at camp in time for dinner.

For a special dinner too, because tonight was Birthday Night! And even better, it was Super Hero Birthday Night! So out came the costumes… Batman, superman, spiderman (their female versions of course). We saw Captain America, Wonder Woman, Dumbledore from Harry Potter, and many, many spontaneous, highly imaginative, super girls. All over the dining hall, as everyone sat according to their birth month, there were exclamations of “Pow!” “Bam!” and “Whamo!” Mixing the cabins and age groups like this was a fun way to both celebrate everyone’s birthday and enjoy 12 different homemade birthday cakes that the Hi-Ups decorated earlier today. We must have sung “Happy Birthday” or shouted it out 30 or more times! Still, it was a silly, loud and lively, meal made even more fun by all the great girls being together and enjoying it.

Tennis Camp Girls