Camp provides so many wonderful opportunities for girls to try new things- whether it’s creative, athletic, or adventurous. Our counselors spend quite a bit of time preparing to become experts in the instruction of our camp activities. Often time this preparation can be quite a process! One of our fabulous cabin counselors, Mallory, recently received her Yoga Instructor Certification. She recounts her experience and how she plans to use her new knowledge in the future below:
“I literally did yoga from before sunrise to after sunset on many occasions (6am to 8:45pm…CRAZY!), but I loved every moment of it. We learned to adjust students, come up with class themes and sequences, learned to sing/chant in sanskrit, and worked on some fun arm balances. We got to do a kids’ yoga class, a chair yoga class, a prenatal class, a mommy-baby class with sandbag babies, and more! I tried a lot of different styles of yoga (Bhakti, Jivamukti, Ashtanga, Anusara, Viniyoga, and Kundalini) with a lot of AMAZING teachers! We ate a lot of weird green smoothies (avocado, dates, walnuts, banana and chocolate, anyone?) since we were always doing yoga…I’m super excited to begin teaching yoga and figuring out how to incorporate it into my future science/public school teaching!”
Opening the main session of camp, like we did today, is a great event at Rockbrook, one bringing together enthusiastic staff members dressed in their camp uniforms, smiling and encouraging parents, and hundreds of super excited campers. The collective energy of all these people, most of whom have been waiting for this moment since last summer, is almost explosive. Like wild pogo sticks, girls were jumping up and down trying to hurry up their moms. They were squealing with happiness seeing each friend, whether a counselor or a camper. Reuniting with camp, rejoining the great community of people here, is an embrace that feels really good. While most of the campers arriving today and the staff greeting them already have Rockbrook roots, it didn’t take long for the new girls to sense how warm and friendly this place is. Cabin mates were quickly swapping stories, heading off to explore the camp together, to play a little tetherball, or to make a simple friendship bracelet while trunks were moved and other campers arrived throughout the morning.
As the last few parents said goodbye and headed down the hill, the first event was an assembly on the central hill of camp beneath the big walnut tree. In the bright sunshine up there, and with the occasional light breeze, the view of the mountains (and Cedar Rock off in the distance) was gorgeous. Sarah led the assembly, introducing the head counselors and special staff members. The Hi-Ups, our 16-year-old campers, stood up and taught everyone a couple of songs from the RBC songbook, including the 3 different “Line Songs” (each age group’s rallying chant/song). Karin and Courtney, our camp photographers, then snapped a quick photo of everyone according to the state (or country!) where they live. It looked to me that NC had the most, with GA and FL close behind, but there was definitely a wide range. You can see them all in today’s photo gallery.
Remember, you access the daily photos by logging into your parent account established when you registered for camp. The system allows you to “star” your favorites, email photos to friends (at no charge), and even post them to your Facebook wall. Easy sharing! You can also send “guest accounts” to friends and family members, allowing them access. There’s a way to purchase prints and hi-res downloads too. We post a lot of photos, some coming in late at night, so be sure to check back often.
After lunch, which was a great example of Rick’s wholefoods approach- his homemade macaroni and cheese, fresh fruit salad, local tomatoes, peas (and regular salad bar and PB&J station), we began a fun rotation where cabin groups took tours of the camp, visiting all the different activity areas and buildings. Later today when the girls sign up for their first set of in-camp activities, it will help them to know where to find Curosty, Goodwill, the Hillside Lodge, the Alpine Tower, Hiker’s Rock, and the Riflery range, for example. Another stop on the rotation was our gym, where Charlotte and Frampton charged everyone up with several “get-to-know-you” group games. They ran around playing “Birdie on a Perch,” raced together during “I’m a Rockbrook Girl and You’re a Rockbrook Girl if…,” laughed their way through “Chicken in the Hen House,” and played a little “Knockout” basketball. Breaking the ice a little with these games was just right to get the afternoon going.
The third stop in our rotation was the lake where everyone was treated to a quick dip to demonstrate their swimming ability, and afterward receive a personal swim tag and green swim bracelet. The entire lifeguard team, including Sofie and Sarah, help run all the girls through this process of jumping in the lake, swimming out 50 feet or so, back another 50 feet, and treading water for 60 seconds. For some girls, the “refreshing” temperature of our mountain stream-fed lake makes this more difficult (or at least a good reason to swim quickly!), but the majority of the girls do well, qualifying them to swim in the deep section of the lake and to ride the water slide. For girls who struggle, the lifeguards will offer to help them improve, and when ready, retest them, but in the meantime require them to wear a lifejacket in the shallow end of the lake. There are two free swim periods scheduled each day, so if a girl wants to work on her swimming skills, there are many opportunities to work with the lifeguards.
After dinner tonight the girls will have cabin meetings, getting to know each other further, and then making their first selection of activities. They’ll choose four different ones (2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon) that they’ll keep for 3 days before selecting a new set on Wednesday evening. The excitement level all day has been humming at about 100%, and now ready to launch, I suspect it will be difficult for everyone to sleep soundly tonight. Like most days at Rockbrook, there’s just too much to look forward to.
Each year a new toy falls into fashion. In 1952 Mr. Potato never had his head on straight. 1996 brought the Elmo Doll and his very ticklish tummy. Outer space hit Earth with the introduction of Furby in 1998. Barbie is the girl who has done it all since 1959. Koosh balls, Play-doh, Pogs, Cabbage Patch Kid Dolls, Raggedy Ann and Andy provide us with hours of entertainment. We love and play with them until their hair turns shabby and they’ve lost their malleability. They take center stage in the imaginary worlds we create for them.
As we gain experience and maturity, toys slowly lose their luster. They’re pushed to the back of shelves and shoved into toy boxes to collect dust and make way for the next big thing that’s out on the market. Red yarn hair, hot pink clay, and a potato with a face don’t quite have the zip they once did in our lives, and so each each year a new toy falls out of fashion.
Summer camp, however, is an experience that never fades. The magic that we experience while in our haven in the woods follows us an entire lifetime. Dust bunnies never gather around our camp memories. Camp never makes way for the next big thing. It is the most precious gift we can give a child.
What are you giving your kids this holiday season?
Does it seem to you like we are living in an increasingly hectic world? Look around and you’ll see families, and more importantly kids, being pulled into a whirlwind of commitments and scheduled activities, all while having less time than ever for quieter, slower things. They’re holding a hectic pace rushing from school to sports practices, from homework to home chores, cutting short time with family, or just the freedom to pursue whatever comes to mind. With rushed meals, complex logistics for “getting things done” and that ragged feeling of not getting quite enough sleep, it’s no wonder kids can so easily be unhappy.
Could it be that by “doing everything we can” to help our kids succeed and achieve, we parents are unintentionally failing to do something else? By charging full speed ahead and taking advantage of every opportunity, what other important things are we missing?
It reminds me of a quote by Tomas Tranströmer (b. 1931), the Swedish poet who won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature. The author of more than 15 collections of poetry, Mr. Tranströmer has been described as “Sweden’s Robert Frost,” a poet who “gives us fresh access to reality… through his condensed, translucent images.” You definitely should look up his work. At any rate, he also wrote,
“You can see beauty if you look quickly to the side.”
Quite keenly, this is a prescription, a welcome reminder that beauty is all around us, that if we stop speeding ahead and take a quick glance to the side, something wonderful is right there waiting to be discovered. It might be as simple as a clump of grass squeezing itself between two bricks, or the decorative trim on an old man’s hat, but more importantly, it could be a person, or a new inspiring experience. It’s pretty clear that as our lives become more hectic, we are missing out on all kinds of subtleties and precious opportunities to expand what we already know. How unfortunate, especially for our kids!
Thankfully, there is summer, a time when kids can slow down and enjoy a meandering pace. And likewise, thank goodness for summer camp, that special place where kids meet wonderful people, and every day encounter fun activities and new experiences. Camp is just brimming with these kinds of positive opportunities to grow. It provides the right balance of structured instruction and free time to pursue casual interests “just for the fun of it.” At Rockbrook, the rewards of “looking quickly to the side” are frequent, rich and immediate.
While the rest of the world grows increasingly hectic, Rockbrook is an exception. And that’s a good thing.
There was a little bit of Potter Mania at Rockbrook today. Marking the release in theaters of the final Harry Potter film, we decided to decorate RBC in all things HP. We of course had plenty of campers and counselors dressing up as characters from the series— lots of maroon and gold, green and black stripes, Harry Potter shaped eye glasses, and lightning bolt shaped scars (drawn with dark eye liner or paint) on dozens of foreheads. Some of the campers clearly planned for this day because their costumes included more elaborate hats, capes, wigs and make up. Girls were decorating magic wands, and carrying them around, would shout out spells now and then with a sly giggle and in their best English accent. Several of the counselors and the Hi-Ups really pulled out the stops by decorating the dining hall like the Great Hall of the Hogwarts Castle: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Slytherin, and Ravenclaw, all represented. The equestrian staff even put together a game of Quiddich for the girls, keeping the theme going. This involved riding around a series of cones and, from atop their horse, trying to toss a small ball through a hula hoop at one end of the ring. The whole day was very imaginative and fun.
You may have noticed this from checking the online photo gallery, but one of the neat things about life at Rockbrook is how much time the campers here spend doing things with their hands. Everywhere the girls are making things, building things, and decorating things. All of the arts and crafts activities are examples of this (weaving, painting, sewing, ceramics, etc.), but so are the adventure activities (climbing and paddling, e.g.), the sports (archery and riflery, e.g.) and even the horseback riding. These girls are working with all kinds of physical materials, manipulating, shaping and arranging real, not virtual, things. They are, in this way, connecting to the physical world, often to nature, and to their own sensations and feelings.
What’s important about this “hands on” experience central to camp life is how much the girls really love it. This may be because the rest of the year lacks the same opportunity for kids to do much with their hands, and it’s simply novel and fun, but it could also be because camp is feeding a hunger. Perhaps kids need chances to work with their hands, to make things, to forge real connections with the physical world, and modern life, with its pre-processing of almost everything, is making “hand work” (working “by hand”) less common. The manual character of camp is satisfying an important need kids don’t even know they have. Instead, they simply know it’s really fun, really satisfying, to make stuff, whether it be a clay pot, a tie dye t-shirt, or even a magic wand. Maybe, we as human beings need this kind of manual experience, and we’ve forgotten it. Thankfully, there is camp to remind our children! As they grow older, we can hope they’ll remember the satisfaction they gained from working with their hands at camp. If so, I suspect they’ll be happier.
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.
After 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 unforgettable 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!
The riflery activity at camp, target rifle shooting, is something that really grows on you. Once you learn the safety rules at the rifle range, and get used to the basic techniques (not to mention the sound and smell of guns going off!), what can you do to improve your shot at camp?
Well, here are two important tips for shooting well. First, you need to have smooth trigger control. Learn to apply slow, consistent pressure to the trigger of the rifle so you can fire it without jerking. Squeezing the trigger quickly or erratically will definitely throw off your aim and mess up your shot. Next, it’s just as important to control your breathing when shooting, to take deep slow breaths rather than quick or hurried breaths. Here too, breathing too rapidly can make it difficult to aim steadily. Holding your breath just before pulling the trigger can help. Overall the goal here is to hold really still so you can make very small adjustments while aiming your rifle.
Back at camp you’ll have plenty of time to practice your shooting.
It’s been a long tradition at Rockbrook to spend an evening or two each session having a camp dance with a local boys camp. Just like in the movies, our girls will travel over to the boys camp, or the boys will come over to Rockbrook. We’ll set up a sound system in the gym, get dressed up and dance around to music selected by the CITs. Over at High Rocks, the boys camp over the mountain from us, we held the dance last summer, which was a square dance, outside on their tennis courts. When we go to Camp Carolina, the other boys camp in town, they clear out their dining hall for the dancing.
These dances are always very exciting for the girls, partly because they are so infrequent, but also because they involve boys. Since Rockbrook is an all girls camp, having boys around is infrequent too! Of course this can make things a little nervous and awkward at first, but once everyone gets moving, both the girls and the boys relax and have fun.
When you’re really dancing, it’s all smiles. We love camp dances! 🙂