What a Wednesday!

What a Wednesday! Today our regular activity schedule paused for the afternoon to allow cabin groups time for a special activity together. This mid-week “cabin day” is a great time for girls to bond with and get to know their cabin mates even further. The counselors put a lot of thought into cabin day, starting their planning and preparation at the beginning of each week. The other fun part: it’s a surprise for the girls! They never know if they might be hiking up to Castle Rock, playing group games at the gym, having a spa, making a yummy treat, being creative with a craft project, or leaving camp for an exciting adventure at Sliding Rock! Each week it’s something different and enjoyable for the girls.

Decorated Jar held by summer camp girl

Today, one of our Junior cabins created “compliment jars” for one another. This involved first decorating large mason jars with stickers, paint, tape and scraps of colorful paper. Once they had personalized their jars, the girls then wrote complements on small slips of paper dropping one into each person’s jar. Soon each girl had a jar full of complements to read. This is an exciting time for everyone, and such a fun way to make all of the girls feel loved, noticed, and celebrated by their peers and counselors alike. Compliment jars are often displayed in the girls cabins and even treasured at home throughout the school year!

Meanwhile, a Middler cabin could be found hanging out in the ‘nest’ near Castle Rock, the huge rock face right up the mountain on the camp property. The top of Castle Rock is a fantastic hiking destination, offering an amazing view of the Blue Ridge mountains, and out on the face, we have 5 different rock climbing routes the girls can tackle. This year, though, Rockbrook gained a new addition up there— The Nest! The nest is an alcove tucked under a wide, flat portion of Castle Rock where we found the perfect place to hang Eno hammocks. Using rock anchors, we can set up a nest of up to 15 hammocks, creating a fun hangout area with a beautiful view of the forest and the surrounding mountains.

girls wearing t-shirts painted at camp

A different Middler cabin was having a fun and messy paint fight on the hill! This involved white t-shirts, bright paints, and lots of laughs! The girls began with clean shirts, but by the end of this activity, their t-shirts were far from white. They took turns painting on one another’s shirts, and happily splattering each other. This was a special day for this cabin, because these girls love to get creative and messy, and how often do girls get to play with this kind of abandon? This cabin was laughing and smiling non-stop, and they finished up this paint-filled cabin day by jumping in our refreshing lake to clean up.

tea party set on porch

One of the more original and exciting cabin day ideas today was a tea party being held by one of our senior cabins. This cabin’s counselors transformed a table on the porch of the Hillside Lodge into a fancy tea party setting, where the girls were instructed to arrive wearing their “fanciest gowns,” which for us means “amazing silly costumes!” These girls drank tea out of mugs, ate tiny cakes, and practiced ballroom dancing around the lodge. It was refreshing to see our senior campers enjoying themselves so much at a tea party, which most of them said they had not done since they were much younger. This particular cabin day activity provided these girls an opportunity to play and pretend again, to use their imaginations, and to celebrate and laugh with one another. Once a again, opening up, being a kid at camp, felt really, really good.

girl camp kids dressed in costumes
group of summer camp teenage girls
camp kids holding picnic dinner

A Sparkling Day

Camp girls arrival day

When the weather is this perfect, like it was today, it makes everything more pleasant at camp, and even inspires us to change our plans to enjoy being outside a little more.  You can always check our Rockbrook weather station for the details, but the cool, dry air moving through our area right now, and the bright, sunny skies that result, have been spectacular. The afternoon high temperatures have been in the low 80s and the lows at night have been near 60 (even in the 50s!).

In this weather, and also because so many smiling excited faces were arriving, the opening of our second July mini session really sparkled today. The check-in process unfolded smoothly, and by about 11:45 the whole camp was assembled and ready to go. Today was also (the camp dog) Felix’s first birthday, so as Sarah introduced him to the campers, they enjoyed singing “Happy Birthday” and laughing when they clapped once to mark his age. The “mop” awards recognized one cabin from each line as especially clean, and several girls were thanked for showing exemplary “Rockbrook Spirit” when they helped someone recently.

Rick’s signature opening day lunch of homemade mac-n-cheese, fruit and salad refueled us before setting out on camp tours, cabin meetings and swimming demonstrations for the new campers.

bucket water dumping game
kid limbo game
luau party camp girls

The main event of the day, a Polynesian Luau lake party, also took advantage of the gorgeous weather, with games, crafts, snacks, music and dancing. The Hi-Ups (our 10th graders) and many of the full session senior girls helped staff different stations where the younger campers could enjoy an activity.

Of course, we included dressing up for this party— Hawaiian shirts, plenty of lei necklaces and grass skirts, flower face painting, and colorful swimsuits all around.

There were games where coconuts were bowled toward empty cans, bean bags tossed toward corn holes, hoops hula danced, and backs bent to slide under a limbo bar —all to win fun RBC prizes like sunglasses, jump ropes and stickers.

The largest consistent crowd huddled around the “bucket dunk” near the lake. This is a funny contraption designed simply to dump the contents of a bucket (in this case water scooped from the lake) onto the head of someone sitting below when a string is pulled. That’s it! Girls took turns volunteering to be “dunked,” as contestants aimed bean bags at a corn hole board.  If someone tossed her beanbag into the hole, she won a chance to pull the string. Naturally, this whole scene drew a crowd of spectators as the buckets of water splashed down. Splash, cheer. Splash, cheer.

There were chances to be crafty too. The girls could make a “grass” skirt from colorful streamers tucked into a string belt, or use tissue paper to make a flower bracelet.

For snacks, loads of fresh fruit kabobs (strawberries, grapes, watermelon, and cantaloupe), cups of red punch and unlimited tropical fruit flavored snow cones were all popular. All afternoon beach-themed music added to the festivities, inspiring dance breaks in the games.

I’ve seen a lot of these opening day, all-camp special events, and ordinarily there are pockets where jitters can dominate the mood for a few of the girls. All the people, the craziness of the action, and the sheer novelty can sometimes be foreign and overwhelming. Walking around today, however, I was impressed how happily the girls were participating in the different activities, breezily trying different things, and playing together in groups. These girls are clearly ready for camp. So ready!

teen summer camp girls

Constantly Crafty

Camp girl smiling in yellow kayak with yellow helmet and pfd

Today at the lake several senior girls spent time working on their kayaking roll. They practiced the technique used to roll a kayak back upright after flipping upside down. As I’m sure you can imagine, these narrow whitewater kayaks, while being designed to cut through the water easily, are also prone to tipping. When a kayaker hits a river rapid and surfs over or through a wave, there’s a fine line between balancing just right and leaning so far that, in an instant, you’re upside down. At that point, there are two options: you can abandon ship and swim free of the boat by popping the grab loop on your spray skirt (doing what’s called a “wet exit”), or you can twist and snap your hips, and use your paddle to push against the water to roll back upright. Learning to roll is a tricky set of coordinated moves that requires a fair bit of practice to perfect. And practicing takes dedication and determination because it involves spending lots of time upside down in the lake. Some of these girls want to “get their roll” so badly, they will sign up for extra time practicing during their free periods (just before lunch, for example). Reports from the paddling staff are that a couple of girls have gotten it! Next week we’ll offer another kayaking trip to the Nantahala giving the girls a chance to try their new rolling skills in moving water.

If you’ve been following the photos posted each day in our photo gallery, you probably have a sense of how constantly crafty we are at Rockbrook. There are arts and crafts everywhere, and the girls are creating some really cool stuff. In the Hobby Nook cabin, for example, the campers in “Folklore” are finishing pillow dolls, each unique with different scraps of fabric sewn together, stuffed with polyester fluff, and decorated with buttons and yarn. Both ceramics studios have been phenomenally productive as well. The girls there are making bird houses, throwing mugs on the wheel, and sculpting whistles (yes, that actually work!) shaped like turtles and other animals (I think I saw a dragon too). The Hodge Podge girls have been unveiling spectacular tie-dye t-shirts, each with complex designs— hearts, spirals, stripes, and even smiley faces —and psychedelic color patterns. Over in “KIT” (“Keep in Touch”), the campers have been busy making cards, beautiful folded greeting cards from fancy ornate papers, fun stickers and stamps. And the weavers in Curosty continue to amaze. Their work is simply gorgeous.  When you see the armload of crafts your daughter has created, the products of her creativity and imagination, you will definitely be impressed.

Camp girl's cute sewing project
Clay snail made at camp
Girls holding cards made at camp

Tonight’s evening program was another surprise special event, a square dance with the boys of Camp High Rocks. After dinner, with hair and teeth thoroughly brushed, we loaded all of our seniors into 4 vans and 3 buses for the short trip up the mountain to High Rocks, while simultaneously, they transported their younger boys down to Rockbrook to hold a dance in our gym. Having two dances allows us to handle all these children! Stepping out of the van at High Rocks, one girl may have been feeling a little nervous because she turned to me and said, “I forgot what it feels like to be around boys.” It didn’t take long, though, for everyone to be smiling and having fun. With these nice girls, and the boys equally so, the whole event was lighthearted, even a little goofy as they giggled after “messing up” and grabbing the wrong arm or spinning in the wrong direction.

We took a short break after about an hour for brownies and lemonade… a chance to mingle a bit and recharge for a few more dances. On the drive home, one senior in my van said she had a great time, even enjoying the dance more than the “regular” dances we have with other camps. Bluegrass might not be their favorite genre of music, but these girls appreciated the chance to talk with the boys, and to “have something to do,” as one senior put it. For all the best reasons, it was a wonderful evening.

Square Dancing Children
Camp square dancinf kids
Summer Campers square dancing

Dude, Do you Extrude?

extruded pottery and glazed ceramics

One of the ceramics hand-building techniques we teach in Rockbrook pottery classes is extruding. This involves creating clay forms, or consistent shapes, by pressing clay through an extruder, a simple hand-powered machine. An extruder is really a piston of sorts operated by a lever. On one end of the piston’s cylinder is a wooden or metal plate called a die. Different dies have different shapes cut out of them. The whole thing works by filling the cylinder with clay, and pulling the lever of the extruder, thereby forcing the piston to push the clay through the die, and out in the shape of the cutout. It takes muscles to pull that lever, but it’s so cool to see the extruded clay come out!

Some dies extrude circular tubes, but there are also square, hexagonal and octagonal tubes as well. You can extrude slabs, coils and even half-spherical shapes. Extruders are great at making long, even forms of clay.

Of course, these shapes then can become the building blocks for more complex hand-building projects. Extruded clay can be combined to make really complex sculptures, for example when extruded tubes are cut at different angles and joined to make multi-sided vessels.

And don’t forget glazing and firing these pieces. Like all the pottery and ceramics projects at camp, the results are beautiful! Yep, at Rockbrook, we do extrude.