DIY Halloween Costumes Ideas

Are you still looking for Halloween costume ideas? Well, camp is one of the best sources of costume inspiration because as you know, we love dressing up at Rockbrook! Costumes make all of our theme special events come alive, but they are also something that makes every day, certainly every meal, and almost every moment just that extra bit special.

At camp, we foster a deep love for silliness and self-expression. You can see that in tutus, sparkly fairy hair, colorful face paint, and glitter (so much glitter!). This spirit of creativity and free flowing whimsy leads to some really great spur of the moment costumes at camp!

pac man costumes

Our camp banquets are a chance for 9th grade campers to really stretch their creative muscles! If you have some cardboard and paint laying around the house then you could make these amazing Pac-Mac and ghost costumes. This would be a simple and easy DIY costume for just one person or for a whole group of friends. Another amazing banquet inspiration is from “That 70’s Banquet.” I’m sure every camper has at least one tie-dye shirt in her closet. Grab that, some jeans (the more flare at the bottom the better) and make yourself a flower crown. You’ve got an instant 1970’s colorful classic.

Up for just a little shopping? Take a cue from some of our camp themes this summer! A great scientist (mad or otherwise) is simply a white coat, plastic gloves, and a pair of goggles away! Add a beaker and white wig for extra detail.

silly camp costume

Camp is a place where you can express yourself and know that the community will support you and celebrate you for exactly who you are. Sometimes that’s a peacock on the hill, or a mermaid at archery or just lots of smiles and shine and silly faces and glitter (oh, so much glitter!).

However that creative spark manifests in our campers, we want to encourage it. Silliness is brave. Rockbrook is full of brave, bold, silly and special girls!

“There’s power in looking silly and not caring that you do.”
—Amy Poehler

mad science costume
teen camp costumes

A Monoprint Making Workshop

Today a group of eight girls had the opportunity to take a short trip down the road to visit the working studio of Ann Dergara, a painter and print maker living here in Brevard. Ann is a professional artist with more than 50 years of experience showing her work, writing and teaching, and she’s a great friend of Rockbrook.

monoprint roller.
monoprint painting
monoprint making
monoprint result

When we arrived, we were greeted by Ann and her small dog, Alice Cooper. The girls enjoyed Alice’s greeting and were very eager to pet her furry back. Ann and Alice then led us into their cozy basement studio where Ann stores and creates some of her work. The girls immediately began taking in the different paintings and prints displayed around the room. Ann wasted no time as she described the unique art of print making. She informed the group we would be working on monoprints. The magic in monoprints is they are original and are only printed once. Ann flipped through several of the prints she has created telling us she has made around forty thousand in her career.

Ann then lead us through a doorway into the room where the fun happens. She had a table set up with a bright assortment of colored inks, a variety of fresh brayers (used to roll out the ink), and some clean plexiglass plates. As Ann spoke, she used a plate to demonstrate how monoprints can be made. She took a brayer and began rolling thick black ink onto her plate. She then grabbed a paint brush to add a layer of grey ink filling in the rest of the white space. Ann wrapped up her demonstration by adding textures onto her plate with different types of fabric. The girls were “ooo-ing” and “ahh-ing” every step of the way.

After aprons were on, each girl found an open spot around the table. Some immediately grabbed a paint brush or a brayer while others planned in their heads what colors they would use and what they would create. Similar to all aspects of camp, each girl had their own beautiful way of approaching their print. Voices chattered ideas back and forth while also applauding and encouraging one another. Those girls who hesitated at first quickly began to feel more empowered and confident in their decisions! In no time, each girl was happily creating their print with confidence and joy.

As the girls began completing their prints, Ann had them step up to her printing press. The printing press is where the magic happens. It is the machine that finishes up the printing process. Ann would place a decorated plate on the press before covering it with a damp piece of paper. The press was then slowly rolled over the plate and the final result of the one-of-a-kind monoprint is revealed. Once again, everyone applauded each other over the work being produced. After all of the prints were complete, the girls were then ready to begin the process again by creating a second print. This time they had some experience and felt more confident stepping up to their plates.

Like monoprints, Rockbrook girls are one-of-a-kind. We travel from different corners of the world to spend a few weeks of our summer at camp. Once here, we bring our diversity together to teach, encourage, empower, and support one another. At the end of our print making session we were able to go home with beautiful prints. Similarly, all of us at Rockbrook will be able to return to our homes with bits and pieces of our summer. Girls may come home with friendship bracelets, cabin-made t-shirts, other art projects, or bend-a-back beads. They bring home all of these gifts, along with their sweet memories, which they will cherish until they can once again return to the Heart of the Wooded Mountain.

mono print workshop

Creative Mistakes

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” — Scott Adams

creative weaving kids

We are so fortunate here at camp to have the extra time to slow down and be creative. As head of Curosty, the weaving activity here at Rockbrook, I see firsthand everyday the results of this extra time. From circle weavings to baskets to woven headbands, the girls have made many a woven ware that they may not have had the chance to at home. Along with this opportunity to nourish their creative selves, the girls are also afforded the freedom to make what I like to call “creative mistakes.”

A creative mistake isn’t your conventional mistake. It isn’t a roadblock. It’s not a signal to rip up your project, throw it in the trash, and start all over again. It is a mistake that can lead to a new way of doing something and, as a result, lead to a more interesting finished project. It may feel disruptive in the moment, but when embraced, it is a thing of creative beauty.

Weaving Child

A day doesn’t go by that I don’t hear campers nervously proclaiming, “I made a mistake!” as they drop their project onto the table in defeat. I very quickly tell them there is no such thing as a mistake in Curosty, and encourage them to keep going with their project. Bumps of yarn sticking up from a woven bookmark makes for a cool texture. Running out of time to weave a rug turns into a little mat for your cat. Just recently, I had a camper who was working on a circle weaving make the decision to veer from weaving in the circle shape because she wanted to cover up the blue yarn she no longer liked. Her finished weaving had dashes of yarn across the center making for a really neat design with unexpected pops of color.

At school or at work we are not always given the space to make mistakes, but here at camp it is welcomed as a tool for learning and discovery. There is value in making mistakes in a creative endeavor because it can turn into something uniquely you.

As a camper once told her Curosty classmates: “The quirks are how you know it’s not from a store.”

fiber arts children

Fighting that Familiar Flicker

Backwards Day Campers

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.

Archery pull girl

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!

Yoga pose kids

A Pervasive Spirit of Creativity

weaving pot holder

Why are there so many craft activities at Rockbrook and why are they so popular? It seems like everywhere you turn there are girls creating something complex and colorful, combining unexpected materials, contrasting and coordinating with beautiful results. One answer is that there are intriguing techniques to learn and inspiring instructors excited to share what they know. In pottery, for example, the girls have become fascinated by the wheel and have been eagerly giving them a spin. It’s fascinating to watch a carefully centered ball of clay turn, and then muddy yet steady hands, gradually shape and pull the clay into a bowl or cup. Just seeing it makes you want to try it. Likewise, there’s a fascination to tie dying, the careful folding, twisting and tying of the white t-shirts. When the richly colored dyes soak into the shirts after being selectively applied from plastic squirt bottles, it’s like a flower blooming in slow motion. It literally brings out “ooohs and aaahs.”

I also think there is a pervasive spirit of creativity here at Rockbrook, and while that spirit also drives our enthusiasm for costumes, writing and singing songs together, and performing skits for each other, it finds daily expression through the many craft activities available. Weaving potholders or larger fabrics on the floor looms, layering colors of paint on paper, tying intricate knots in cotton thread and stringing beads for a bracelet, the girls can be imaginative and inventive in ways that we are quick to celebrate. That kind of encouragement to be boldly creative feels really good and is lots of fun.

Teen Girl Canoe Trip

Finally, I’d say our craft activities are popular with the girls because here at camp— and this is true for almost everything we do —we do them together. We share the experience with each other, with people we care about and know so well. In other words, the camp community enhances the process of making art, of being creative, and developing artistic skills. With a group of girls knitting on the back porch of Curosty, the group will be laughing and chatting.  Being social, reacting to each other’s excitement, or perhaps being quick to lend a hand with a challenging bit, adds to the joy of weaving a basket with your feet in the creek… “Doesn’t the sun feel really good next to this cold water?” Whether it’s paddling a canoe down the French Broad River, shooting archery, or decorating a memory box, having good friends around to do it with makes the activity more meaningful.  Being a little slower paced, our camp craft activities are particularly good examples of this, but doing so much around here together, as a community, is another reason camp life is so great.

And none of these reasons craft activities are popular at camp (the inherent opportunities to learn, create and socialize) rely on the quality of the final products the girls make— the paintings, pottery sculptures, weavings, and so forth. The real rewards come from the process rather than the end result. The process of making crafts together is way more important than having the crafts they make.  Sure, the girls are also proud of what they make, and they’ll probably present something they’ve made to you as a gift on closing day, but while they’re here, the fun is in the making. It’s in dressing up, and not so much in the nature of your costume. The fun is the hiking, and not the destination (Turn that goal into a stroll!).  I think that focus is another ingredient in the secret sauce that is camp.

Girls silly costumes

A Harry Potter Afternoon

Wand Making Camper
Camp Potions Class
Harry potter camper

Don’t worry, it’s Harry Potter day! Actually, it was a Harry Potter afternoon as we switched things up a bit today and held wizardry-inspired events for all the girls. It all began at lunch when the “Sorting Hat” divided the campers into one of the four Hogwarts “Houses,” Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin. Then back in their cabins after lunch, the girls and counselors worked on costumes. Some emerged with Harry Potter glasses, robes, scarves, boarding school ties decorated according to their house, and there were several lightning bolt shaped scars drawn with eyeliner. The counselors dressed as Hermione, Professor Umbridge, and even Lord Voldemort.

Instead of the bell signaling the end of rest hour, the whole camp was filled with cinematic music playing through speakers on the office porch. That signaled the four groups/houses to begin making their way toward different activity stations. One of these was “potions class” where the girls followed complex written spells combining all sorts of colorful liquids and powders into small glass bottles. Some combinations bubbled and other turned colors, surprising the girls.

No wizard is complete without a wand, so another of the “classes” was wand making. This had the girls use hot glue to build up twisting patterns on sticks and dowels. They added paint, and multiple layers of glitter to personalize each wand, ending up with some really amazing creations. Suddenly, all over camp there were spells being cast and wand duels springing up.

Meanwhile on the landsports field, another group played a version of “Quidditch.” We made it related to soccer, only the girls would use their hands to try and throw a ball into the opposite team’s goal. There was a “golden snitch” running through now and then, and “bludgers” throwing water balloons to disrupt the play… All elements of the game as it’s played in the Harry Potter books.

Another stop was more festive, with the counselors serving “Butter Beer” (cream soda) in decorative cups, and “Broomstick” snacks (pretzels). Each group at this stop wrote a song or chant to that they would later sing for the entire group out on the hill. It was then that two counselors dressed like Harry Potter and Voldemort came flying by on the zipline and after landing, had a wand duel, which Harry won (of course!). Finally, the dining hall was decorated like the Great Hall at Hogwarts with long tables, floating lights (suspended with fishing line), and painted banners signifying each house.

It was an afternoon complete with many of the things that make a special camp event great: costumes, music, action, creativity, snacks, and plenty of smiling friends to join along the way.

Harry Potter Potion Kids

Adding Some Edge


About once a week we head over to the Nantahala River for whitewater rafting, like today, when two groups of Middlers and Seniors made the 2-hour run down the river. Being the only girls summer camp that has a permit to run these trips (The US Forest Service issued us the permit back in the early 1980s), we decided long ago to make rafting a big part of our adventure program. We don’t charge extra for the trips and we let everyone who’s old enough (Middlers and Seniors, in our case) sign up to go if they like. All of this has made rafting very popular with Rockbrook girls, with about 90% of them choosing to raft every summer. For many, it’s their favorite adventure trip out of camp. Rockbrook really is “that rafting camp,” as one person put it.

Rafting Silly Kids Posing

Last night we also gave the girls the option to spend the night at our outpost camp before their rafting trip. Over in Macon County and adjoining the Nantahala National Forest, Rockbrook acquired and improved this unique piece of property with camping shelters (simple screened, structures), a small bath house, and a dining hall where we can have our meals. It’s a great place, “out in the middle of nowhere,” literally “at the end of the road,” where we can enjoy camping only 15 minutes from the river. It’s a beautiful place too. We had a wonderful time together last night singing songs around the campfire, making s’mores, and listening to the nighttime calls of a nearby whippoorwill. I was impressed by how relaxed and happy all the girls were as they spent their time together on the overnight, particularly because the group was made up of a few teenagers as well as young girls who had just finished 5th grade. There wasn’t one person trying to be cool, or exclusive. Instead, they all happily hung out together, slept in the same shelter together, sang songs and laughed at each others jokes. This showed me that these girls really trust each other, and that despite their age differences, really like each other too. It was a remarkable expression of “Rockbrook Spirit” that would make you proud to witness.

Kid Zip Line
Zip Canopy Course Bridge

There is another adventure activity popular with the girls at camp— we run it almost everyday —and it’s unique because of Rockbrook’s topography: our zip line course. Instead of zips and bridges going from platform to platform suspended in trees like most zipline “canopy tours,” our 3 ziplines (2 of which are new this summer) and 3 bridges (2 new ones here too) are suspended between gigantic boulders. The cables are bolted directly into solid rock making them extraordinarily strong anchor points for each span. The first zip is especially cool; it begins high to the right of “Stick Biscuit Falls,” the 50-ft waterfall directly above the camp, and slowly passes you across the front the falls, about 80 feet in the air, as you slide along the cable to a rock face on the far side. The next 150-ft zip begins at another boulder and sends riders over a gulley below, filled with rhododendron and mountain laurel. From there the riders make their way across the 3 swinging bridges: a beam, cable, and platform bridge. The final zip is a screaming 450-ft ride all the way back to camp. It takes a group of eight campers about an hour to complete every thrill of the course.

Camp Kids Love Muffins
Night Zip Line Kids

Speaking of our zipline course, two groups of senior campers took their ziplining to a new level after dinner. They went at night! It’s true; staying up late, we used headlamps attached to our helmets, other flashlights and glow sticks to illuminate our way. Part night hike, part group dynamics initiative, and part edgy idea, the girls had a blast zipping through the dark, launching themselves into the night with just their headlamp for orientation. As we moved from point to point, the girls had a good sense that this was a little over the top, making it even more fun than they expected. A couple of them said to me, “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever done.” A small creative twist turned something already pretty cool, into the “coolest thing ever!”

The same thing happened this morning when the girls discovered that the Rockbrook baker had added some edge to today’s muffin flavor: “chocolate chip cookie dough.” You might be wondering how to make a “dough” muffin?  You first bake a chocolate chip muffin, but then serve it with a blob of cookie dough on top. An outrageous topping, I know, but also, oh so good. They really were something else. I heard from several girls, in fact, that this was their new favorite muffin flavor.

We’re off to a fantastic start of the session. With this many really wonderful girls at camp, it’s no surprise.

Camp Kids Hugging

A Fun Sandwich

Alpine Climbing Kids Camp
Dance Kids Camp

There’s news from the climbing staff down at the Alpine Tower, our 50-foot tall climbing tower located in the woods behind the gym. If you rode our bus shuttle on opening day you may have caught a glimpse of it. It’s an impressive structure made from 20-inch diameter treated telephone poles, 14,000 lb aircraft cable, 1/2-inch galvanized bolts, Crosby clamps and 1-inch think nylon ropes… all fastened into a pyramid shape creating 3 sides where girls can climb. There are different routes up each side, some with rope ladders, climbing walls, swinging logs, and all sorts of handholds bolted to the poles. With dozens of ways to climb the tower, some straight forward and others being a tricky challenge, it can satisfy all kinds of climbers. The news is that a few “crazy climbing girls” have climbed to the top using all three sides of the tower and have begun attempting them again while blindfolded. Yes, blindfolded! It might sound impossible to climb without seeing, but these girls can do it, carefully feeling for good holds, making slow progress and trusting their climbing instincts to stand and balance on each foot. It’s amazing to watch!

There are amazing things to watch in the dance studio as well. Located in the Lakeview Lodge, with its stone walls, 4-foot fireplace, and hardwood floor, one end of the studio has a wall of mirrors perfect for rehearsing group choreography. They may not start out completely in sync, but it’s fun for the girls to practice their moves, giggling as they figure things out. The instructors tell me the girls are preparing two different dances that will be part of the musical to be performed at the end of the session. That will be fun to see!

Waterfall Campers Hiking
Canoe Trip Packing

In addition to the in-camp activities, our out-of-camp adventure trips have been heading out in multiple directions all week. The recent fantastic weather has made the conditions for hiking, rock climbing, kayaking and canoeing just perfect. Here are some of the trips… The kayakers have been to the Green River, the French Broad River, and the Tuckaseegee River so far this week and they are planning to paddle Big Laurel Creek tomorrow. There have been day hikes to the Dupont State Forest to marvel at some of the waterfalls, for example, the Hi-Ups hiking to High Falls to take a swim at the pool of water below. Rock climbers have set up multiple routes on Looking Glass Rock out in Pisgah, spending all day out.

One special outing thrilled a whole cabin of Middlers last night. It was an overnight canoeing trip on a section of the French Broad. They packed tents, food and cooking gear, as well as everyone’s personal belongings (clothes, sleeping bag, etc.) in 8 canoes for the trip. They paddled along the gently moving water, the river bank curving left and right, for about 2 hours to reach a grassy campsite where they pitched their tents, cooked dinner and enjoyed making s’mores around the campfire before heading to bed. The next morning under bright sunny skies (Yay!), after pancakes for breakfast, the crew repacked their boats and paddled a shorter section of the river to the takeout spot. It was an excellent trip.

Meanwhile, the girls back at camp had a chance to bust out (actually re-create by swapping elements) costumes again. For our “Twilight,” that block of free time between dinner and our “Evening Program,” the counselors organized a game that crossed a scavenger hunt with Halloween trick or treating. Wearing their costumes, the campers hunted all over camp for places to find someone handing out treats (stickers, glow sticks, small toys and candies). Groups of wacky, colorful girls had a grand time pausing for photos while they scurried about searching for the next goodie to add to their bags. It was a brief, fun special event sandwiched into another full day at camp.

Halloween Costumes Campers