Camp is an Adventure

Outdoor Adventure StruggleCamp is an adventure! It is because it gets girls outside for all kinds of exciting activities. Climb high up a real rock! Paddle a raft down through whitewater rapids. Sleep in the woods far from the “comforts of home.” These, and other outdoor activities, are just plain thrilling.

But why is that? What makes something a thrilling “adventure?”

The answer might be a little surprising, but it actually boils down to danger. It’s true; an adventure activity always carries a degree of risk. It’s an activity where we “take a risk in the hope of a favorable outcome” (as my dictionary puts it). So for example, rock climbing includes the risk of falling. Whitewater boating has the risk of capsizing, and when camping in the wilderness there’s always a chance of horrible weather (among other things!).

But of course adventure isn’t about getting hurt or experiencing some disaster (there’s safety training and equipment to help with that). It’s about avoiding danger despite the threat of it. Adventure is about overcoming the difficulty and conquering the fear associated with an activity.

Adventure activities are thrilling because we can actually do them despite the risk. Through our own efforts, applying specialized knowledge and skills, we succeed in the face of possible failure. Sure it might be a struggle, but it feels great. Yes, an adventure activity can be difficult, but also really exciting to face it and win!

That’s why, incidentally, adventure activities are so good for boosting kids’ confidence.

Being at Rockbrook provides so many great ways to be adventurous, opportunities to try activities that may look a little scary, but then with the right instruction, encouragement and role models, to also manage the risks and cope beautifully with the challenges involved. Very cool stuff!

5 Ways Camp Helps Children Grow

Summer Camp Foster Youth DevelopmentSummer camp professionals around the country, largely encouraged by the American Camp Association, have begun to refer to camps as “Youth Development Organizations.”

Being at summer camp, we all agree it seems, is more than just “fun and games.” It’s beneficial for children in unique and lasting ways. Summer camps are dedicated to helping children grow, certainly also to have a good time, but perhaps most importantly, to gain valuable skills and foster personal development.

But what are the ways children grow while at camp? We’ve often said Rockbrook is “a place for girls to grow,” but what kind of growth can we expect?

Here are 5 powerful ways a summer camp experience fosters youth development and growth for children:

1. Social growth: Going to a sleepaway summer camp means joining a close community of people living and playing together 24/7. It builds inter-personal skills like sincere communication, conflict resolution, a willingness to share, and an enthusiasm for working as a team. Perhaps more importantly, the highly social nature of camp really encourages children to make friends easily. It’s a fun, down-to-earth, friendly environment that naturally draws children together.

2. Character growth: Summer camp, simply because it’s living away from home, is an ideal opportunity for children to become more independent. As they make decisions for themselves, for example when selecting their activity schedule, children learn to embrace the freedom (opportunities) and responsibility (consequences) their choices entail. With its non-competitive activities and with the care and support of the camp counselors and staff, camp provides children fantastic opportunities to succeed. It’s a real boost to campers’ self-confidence and self-esteem when every day includes accomplishment. Of course, it can also include setbacks and disappointments, but summer camp is always supportive and encouraging. It inspires resilience by providing role models of courage and determination.

3. Humane growth: An overnight camp like Rockbrook is also a great place for children to strengthen and develop greater humane values. Starting with a general warmth and sensitivity toward others, camp fosters cooperation and respect. Camp is also a place to meet children from different countries with perhaps unfamiliar cultural assumptions and religious traditions. It provides real world reminders, despite these differences, of our common humanity.

4. Practical growth: Residential summer camps provide an incredible variety of activities for children. They combine quality instruction, equipment and facilities specially designed to challenge kids’ sports abilities (like tennis and horseback riding), nurture their artistic and creative talents (painting, ceramics, and dance for example), and build their outdoor adventure abilities— all practical, real world, life-long skills.

5. Physical growth: Camp is chock full of action! Whether it be swimming, jumping, climbing, dancing, riding or running, Rockbrook keeps girls in motion. It introduces them to all kinds of ways to develop physical skills. With all the great food (made from scratch!), outdoor living, and big active fun, camp has important health benefits for children.

Everyone knows Rockbrook is super fun, but in these five ways, it’s powerfully formative as well.

teen girl grows climbing

To Build a Fire and Stack Apples

Learning to build a fire at summer campo you know how to build a fire? Well if your camper signed up for the activity we call “WHOA,” which stands for “Wilderness Hiking Outdoor Adventure,” there’s a good chance she’ll have learned to here at camp. The counselors talk about the importance of heat, fuel and oxygen. They demonstrate the importance of dry wood (having it pass the “snap test”), and they give plenty of examples of how to stack the wood to insure the smallest twigs light first and the heat generated will rise up and ignite the larger sticks. The girls pick up on it pretty quickly, and when there’s the prospect of roasting a marshmallow, they are surprisingly motivated. 🙂

Kids Hiking Summer CampIt has been such amazing weather these past few days! Cool in the mornings with a little fog early, and then warm but not too hot in the afternoon. We had one of those welcome afternoon thunder showers today, making everything moist and cool. With the creeks up again, Jessi decided to take a group of girls on a hike to Rockbrook Falls before lunch. This is the largest waterfall on the Rockbrook property, and is formed as Dunn’s Creek cascades down below Dunn’s Rock. You can see it on the camp map. The girls first hike the trail to the creek, but then make their way upstream by hopping from rock to rock, back and forth across the falling water. The falls are a good ways up and really beautiful to see.

Kid Win it summer camps gameKids Summer Camper gamesOK, if not fire building, what about stacking 4 apples in a column? Juggling feathers? Eating an oreo cookie without using your hands, and that happens to be placed on your forehead (!)? These are just some of the games we all played after lunch in our all-camp “Minute to Win It” game. Starting with each age group in their lodge, each cabin dressed as a team and competed in several different crazy relay races. Ordinary items like golf balls and boxes of tissues became props for physical challenges. It was wonderful to see how much fun we could have, how hard we could laugh, trying to do these tasks. Even those of us watching, get a kick, for example, out of seeing someone being wrapped up in toilet paper! It was good camp fun, being with friends and enjoying silly games you wouldn’t likely do at home.

Summer campers kids dancingAfter dinner was a highlight of the session for many of the girls, for the senior girls in particular— the dance with Camp Carolina. We held two simultaneous dances with our Seniors going to Camp Carolina and their Middler and Junior boys coming to Rockbrook. Splitting like this made the dances less crowded and allowed us to tailor the music for each age group. The showers at camp got a real workout before the dance, and all 200 hair brushes got used as well. It’s quite a phenomenon! Overall, the whole affair was lighthearted and fun. Tonight the counselors dressed up like traffic crossing guards, and we saw more camp tie dye t-shirts than anything else. Group dancing is mostly the name of the game so everyone can be included.  As you might guess, the girls stick together— safety in numbers!

It was a little late for us, but what a night to wrap up another great day in the “heart of a wooded mountain.”

Summer campers girl dancing

Camp Life and Soulcraft

Making ceramics by hand at summer campI just finished reading Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew B. Crawford, and it struck me that he would probably be a big fan of camp. The book is an argument for working with your hands, for engaging the material world as opposed to the more abstract constructions of modern life (think TV, all forms of digital entertainment, even the work of most “white collar” jobs). The ordinary lives of most Americans, including our kids, are too often divorced from the joys of working with real things and with real people, and as a result our relationships suffer and we find ourselves dissatisfied. Crawford suggests working with our hands, enhancing our “manual competence,” can serve as an effective antidote to this modern affliction.

You’ve probably heard of “Nature Deficit Disorder,” a concept fashioned by Richard Louv describing the negative consequences of children spending too little time in the outdoors. Here we have a similar notion linking negative effects to living a life abstracted from the sensuous, physical nature of the real world. And just as it’s a response to Nature Deficit Disorder, summer camp provides children a wide range of opportunities to work with their hands, to make things and explore the real world (including the people around them!). Every day of life at camp challenges kids to do things with their hands, to actively engage the material world, whether it be building a clay mug, learning a flip off the diving board, or dressing up like an old lady to play bingo with your friends and laughing your head off.

Crawford doesn’t talk much in his book about children, and not at all about summer camp, but if you know anything about camp life, you can easily see how it also serves children well in their development of “manual competence.” Kids love camp, and they’ll tell you that it’s because it’s simply “a lot of fun,” but maybe a large part of that can also be traced to their need to connect to the physical world. After all, camp is exactly that.

Activities for Everyone

Rockbrook Girls Smiles at Pottery Activity

The first day of activities this session is full speed ahead with all of the activities ready for action. As we all enjoyed perfect summer weather (warm during the day and cool at night), campers were making pottery, designing weaving projects, and decorating their first pillow case. A few girls also went rock climbing with Clyde, our adventure director. Girls shot arrows and guns, did flips at gymnastics and cannonballs at the lake. Down at the equestrian center, Cara had girls up and riding.

Halfway through the morning at our “Muffin Break,” everyone ran for a treat freshly baked by Liz. We look forward to seeing what flavor she makes for us everyday. Today, lemon.

Jerry Stone at Castle RockAfter rest hour, Jerry, Jessi, Tara and Michelle took a big group of campers on a hike to Kilroy’s Cabin. This is a special hike to a remote part of the Rockbrook property that first takes you to Castle Rock where you can rest and enjoy the amazing view of the French Broad river valley. From there, the hike is a bushwhack through the forest with no trail as a guide. Jerry knows the way, but few others can find the old abandoned cabin. Kilroy’s Cabin is the center of an elaborate, and maybe a little bit spooky, story told at camp. I’ll save the details for later, but it involves a nurse with red hair, love, jealousy and a car crash late one stormy night on a slippery bridge. Ooooooooo. (cue eery music!).

For dinner, a classic camp favorite was served— spaghetti with red sauce. In addition to the salad bar, each table had a bowl of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and basil, and warm bread. It really hit the spot after our action-packed day. But that’s pretty normal for Rockbrook. Camp is action!

Camp Milk and Cookies

Summer Camp Treats CookiesMore Cookies!

At camp, there are cookies every night! It’s a long standing tradition at Rockbrook for all the campers (and counselors 🙂 ) to have a cookie and small cup of milk at the end of the day. Everyday the kitchen crew makes a batch of homemade cookies— chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, cinnamon nut, peanut butter, or maybe sugar cookies. Which kind is a daily surprise. When the evening program is finished, a couple of staff members from each line grabs their bag of cookies and jug of milk from the kitchen and sets it all out for the girls.

It may seem a little strange to have cookies right before bed, but it makes a nice little snack to get you through the night. Don’t forget to brush your teeth before hitting the hay. Maybe read a little in bed, and the next thing you know you’ll be waking up to the morning bell. Ahhh camp..

Let’s Go for a Swim!

Swim Summer Camps GirlsNo matter what set of activities you sign up for at camp, there are two times each day when the lake is open for “free swim.” These are right before lunch and right before dinner. It’s up to you how you spend this free time, but it feels really great to jump in the lake for a swim after you’ve spent the day at other activities around camp. You might have been playing basketball in the gym, or climbing the alpine tower, or just walking back from horseback riding, but chances are you’ll be at least little hot and sweaty. It’s summer after all! So head down to the lake, and you can meet up with some of your cabin mates and find out how they’ve been spending their day. The Rockbrook swimming lake is fed by a mountain stream, so as anyone will tell you, it’s guaranteed to cool you off.

Let’s go for a summer swim!

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 GirlAt 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.