It’s Backwards Day! After dinner last night, during the regular time of announcements in the dining hall, Chase our program director surprised the girls by describing the creative challenge of being “backwards” the next day. Right away at breakfast this morning we saw the silly confusion of girls dressing backwards— t-shirts, shorts and hats worn in reverse… hairstyles too —braids running down foreheads, pony tails covering girls’ faces. The kitchen meals were reversed with burritos for the morning meal and breakfast foods (hash browns, bacon, eggs and fruit) for dinner. All around the camp, campers would suddenly walk backwards. Down at the rifle range, the instructor commanded, “Line the on ready,” and so forth. Back strokes at free swim, left-handed tetherball, and down-climbing at the Alpine Tower— there were small, inventive examples of being backwards all day long.
Meanwhile, the Hodge Podge craft activity was focusing on making tie-dye t-shirts in its classes. With squeeze bottles of brightly colored dye ready, the girls first folded and tied a white t-shirt into a chevron, bullseye, spiral or other pattern using rubber bands. Red, blue and yellow dyes, making shades of purple, orange and green, came next, the girls making decisions about how (which colors, where and how much) to apply them. In a few days, after the dye has time to set, it will be fun to unfurl the shirts, rinse them, and admire the colorful patterns created.
At the archery range, the girls were concerned with accuracy and precision rather than creativity. Like the target shooting at Riflery, the goal here is to remove variation and shoot the center of the target with each arrow. Practice, repetition, steady technique, and adherence to recognized protocols help focus the outcome (bullseye!). The most skilled archers are not creative when shooting; they are consistent.
Naomi, the head of our fiber arts program, tells me she has observed this contrast between creativity and consistency in the way campers approach craft projects. Some children want clearly defined steps, a recipe of sorts, to guide them through a project, while others want more open access to the materials and techniques, eager to play with options, make unexpected combinations, and literally venture outside the lines. She seemed to observe some campers being more immediately creative, while others more concerned with “getting it right.” At the same time, we both thought that everyone inherently has the ability to create. But like some muscles, some us are stronger at first and have developed that ability more effectively. There’s the notion that creativity is a force within all of us that we need only set free. And it’s a personal skill worth developing because it can serve us well when faced with new problems or other obstacles in the future.
There’s lots to say about the benefits of developing one’s creativity, and likewise how we might encourage our children to exercise their “creativity muscle,” but it’s worth noting that camp is the perfect place to do that. Everyday there are opportunities to create at camp. “What would you like to do?” is the question. All manner of practical and aesthetic decisions are made throughout the day. There’s time for exploring, and friends to accompany every new journey. Crucially, at Rockbrook there’s constant support and encouragement for trying new things, dressing up, and bold expressions, always without judgment or embarrassment. From acting in the play to evening cabin skits, and for so many more examples, there’s a freedom here to create, to give it a go “just for the fun of it.”
Also though, and this might be the most important factor, at camp there’s no electronic, passive entertainment. We put aside our screens, and thereby open up time to create. Without the seduction of that familiar flicker, camp provides kids the time, space and culture to encourage their creativity to burst out. In this screen-free environment, they can face a blank canvas and dive right in with paint, choose their own colors, and go boldly forward. They can feel more confident to explore what’s unfamiliar, and learn from the process no matter what the outcome.
Celebrating creativity… It’s a pretty fun habit! And good for us too!