Yesterday we welcomed new friends to Rockbrook as we opened our June Mini Session. While this was the first day of camp for all these girls, it was the 8th day for our full session campers. Throughout the morning, as our new campers were arriving with smiles and trunks in tow, the full session girls attended a flag raising ceremony and chapel. Instead of being a religious service, our Sunday chapel focuses on a pertinent theme that relates to all girls at camp, such as nature, generosity, or friendship. This week, our chapel theme was “Individuality,” an apt topic for our diverse community. The quiet, collective time at chapel gives campers a chance to reflect on their experiences and connect to the space and people around them.
With the dining hall completely full of excited girls, it was also easily filled with laughter, singing, and camp cheer. At the end of lunch announcements, everyone learned about the special event of the afternoon: Mad Science day! All the campers, old and new, were split into five groups named after famous female scientists: Jane Goodall, Rosalind Franklin, Marie Curie, Mary Anning, and Rachel Carson. Groups rotated through different stations around camp to craft parachutes for aliens, learn about molecules and fossils, and face boat building challenges. Campers were able to channel their inner scientist through costumes, problem solving, and crafting throughout the sunny afternoon.
The sunny weather luckily continued through today, providing perfect weather for a multitude of activities and out of camp trips. In addition to our daily activities such as needlecraft, swimming, and yoga, the Adventure Staff lead out-of-camp trips for campers of all ages and experience levels. Our talented Adventure Staff make it possible for campers to step out of their comfort zones in ways they may not have access to back at home. Canoeing, kayaking, climbing, and hiking are all common here in Brevard, but for campers from out of state or from other countries, these are new and unusual sports. By providing outdoor recreation trips, we are able to create a space for campers to try new things, foster new friendships, grow new skill sets, and challenge themselves further than they have before. Whether it is her first time ever in a canoe or her 12th time climbing Castle Rock, there is always an exciting adventure to be had in our beautiful corner of Western North Carolina.
We all look forward to Sundays at Rockbrook, and for several reasons. First, Sundays are a day when we get to sleep in; the rising bell rings and we wake up at 9 instead of 8am. After our active week, a little extra rest this morning was a good and well-appreciated thing. The treat continues when the girls can come to breakfast in their pajamas, essentially roll out of bed, put on a sweatshirt or robe if it’s feeling chilly, and shuffle to the dining hall through the fog (both literally and figuratively!). This morning, in addition to the eggs, bagels and cream cheese, fruit, granola and yogurt, we enjoyed sweet Krispy Kreme donuts, another Sunday tradition at camp. Rick even had a tray of special gluten-free donuts for the girls who required or preferred that.
About an hour after breakfast, at 11am, the Hi-Up campers (10th graders) presented their flag raising ceremony out on the hill. Raising the flag ceremonially, including reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing America the Beautiful has been a long tradition at camp also. The whole camp dresses in their uniform and then creates a u-shaped formation around our flagpole. Today the sun was bright making our red and white uniforms look great on the green grassy hill.
Immediately afterwards, everyone walks silently in a single file line to the outdoor amphitheater for our weekly “chapel” assembly. For us, this is a moment of calm in our week to reflect a bit about core principles, values and ideas, rather than a religious ceremony of some kind. The campers themselves select a theme and then design a program that usually includes songs, poems and stories that illustrate the theme, with some time reserved for Sarah to add her thoughts. Today, our theme was “Special Places” and the girls talked about what makes certain places more special than others identifying the importance of friends, feeling at ease, and fond memories. They said special places don’t have to be fancy or far away; they can be your back yard or a special tree. Sarah read the book Our Tree Named Steve by Alan Zweibel which beautifully describes that exact idea! I’m sure the girls enjoyed thinking about where their special place or places might be.
Our Sunday lunch, which is always something special, was another impressive presentation by Rick, the Rockbrook chef and kitchen manager. Beginning early in the morning, he made pan after pan of homemade lasagna, baking the layers of pasta, marinara sauce, ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. With heaping bowls of salad and bread to complement, there was nothing but rave reviews about our midday meal.
An all-camp event for the afternoon is another typical Sunday activity at Rockbrook, and today we held an exciting tournament of games and relays, the “Red Bird Olympics.” First we divided all the campers into three teams, being careful to distribute the age groups, and then gave each team a bottle of washable paint to identify/decorate themselves— one red, white, and blue (The 4th of July is just two days away after all!). Take a look at the photo gallery to see how that turned out— everyone had their team’s color painted on them somewhere, maybe just a stripe on an arm or across a cheek, but in some cases much more!
Every camper participated in at least one of the relay events. Two were about careful tossing and catching: one with raw eggs and the other with water balloons. Girls on the same team would toss, and if successfully catch, they would step back to toss again from a greater distance. This continued until only one pair remained successful. Another challenge had the girls searching for a piece of gum hidden in a pie pan full of flour. We had a crazy sponge relay where members of each team raced back and forth carrying a soaked sponge, transferring water from one tub to a smaller bucket.
One station was the lake where we held 3 different relays. One was an exciting greased watermelon race that required the girls to propel a greasy watermelon through the water without using their arms or hands. The second involved transferring a t-shirt from person to person after swimming a distance, and the last involved girls covering themselves with shaving cream and then sliding down the water slide. All three were definitely silly, but also crazy exciting to watch.
In fact, that’s a good part of the fun— cheering on your teammates as they tackle the challenges of the games. The girls made up cheers for their teams, jumping and screaming in support. The cheering was absolutely wild during the “human knot” event.
In the end, we weren’t sure which team actually “won” the Olympics because we didn’t keep score. I suppose we could have, but how would that matter? Like so much at Rockbrook, for these games too, the fun was in the doing not in the measuring of what’s done.
After dinner and spending some time signing up for a new set of activities that will start in the morning, all the girls grabbed their crazy creek chairs or sleeping bags and pillows to head down to the gym for a movie. We first danced to a few pop songs while everyone was arriving, watched a fun animated short film called Presto, and then enjoyed the Pixar feature film Inside Out. Gathered together and relaxing this way was a nice close to our very full day at camp.
It’s not quite the 4th of July yet, but that has not stopped us from getting ready for the holiday and celebrating it with a good dose of red, white and blue.
If you’ve been following along by reading these blog posts and scanning the daily online photo galleries, it’s clear that we have jam-packed days here at Rockbrook. We’re happily playing, having more muffin-fueled conversations than you can count, and being physically active— swim, climb, ride, run, shoot, flip and zip —all day. After a whole week of intense fun like that, it felt really good this morning to sleep in an extra hour. Everyone seemed to have no trouble relaxing longer and then coming to breakfast in their PJs for a treat of fresh Krispy Kreme doughnuts along with Rick’s egg sandwich fixins’ (English muffins, cheddar cheese, scrambled eggs, and ham) and our yogurt/fruit/granola/cereal bars.
After breakfast everyone dressed in their camp uniforms (white shirt and shorts, with red tie) and assembled on the hill around the flagpole so the Hi-Ups could lead a flag raising ceremony. In two rows, they marched toward the flagpole, raised the flag, led us all in the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of “America the Beautiful.”
The Juniors next led the Chapel assembly on the theme of “Goodwill.” They chose songs like “Lean on Me” and “What a Wonderful World” and took turns speaking about what “goodwill” means to them. They shared stories about when people were especially kind and helpful. Sarah explained why there is a cabin at camp named “Goodwill” (It’s named after the birthplace of Rockbrook’s founder Nancy Carrier, a plantation in SC by the same name).
After rest hour, we held the day’s main event, a fun all-camp relay race: the “White, Blue and Red-bird Olympics.” We randomly assigned all the girls to three multi-aged teams (red, white and blue) and gave each a gallon of washable body paint to “express their team spirit.” You can imagine how that turned out! Each team also came up with a cheer, and a strategy about who would participate in the different group challenges and relays to come.
The relays themselves were classic. At the lake, the teams raced to move a greased watermelon up and back through the water, as other girls tried to ride the waterslide “Big Samantha” as fast as possible. Another group madly soaked sponges and ran to squeeze out the water, filling a nearby bucket. In the gym, after a break for a few slices of watermelon, the girls took turns pairing up for a three-legged-race, the Dizzy Lizzy spinning bat run, and a costume challenge that involved dressing in various costume items, running and then removing the costume for the next member of your team. Another athletic challenge was the sack race held on one of the tennis courts. Using burlap sacks that once contained coffee beans, the girls climbed into the sacks and hopped the width (and back) of a tennis court as fast as possible. Meanwhile, things got a little messy on another court as the teams tossed eggs back and forth, stepping farther apart with each toss. I’d say the winners successfully tossed their eggs about 40 feet. Amazing!
All the groups ended up at the landsports field after their relays, the perfect place for the final event of the afternoon: a giant all-camp shaving cream fight. Cases of shaving cream bottles, dozens of squirt guns, and almost 100 water balloons were distributed across the grassy field. The sound system was queued up with an up-tempo pop song, and suddenly white foam was spraying everywhere. Laughing and shrieking with delight as they sprayed each other, the girls soon had emptied their cans of shaving cream and then went on to style each others’ hair or simply cover themselves completely. You’ve never seen a group of girls, from the 6-year-olds to the biggest teenagers, have this much crazy fun. Absolute exuberant hilarity! And so fun to see, even if it meant getting a handful of shaving cream planted on your back unexpectedly.
Nearby, Richie, Rockbrook’s builder and facilities manager, who is also an officer in the local volunteer fire department, stood by with a 600-gallon pumper firetruck ready to provide a welcome shower. When he turned on the hose, spraying warm water high in the air, it took no time for a wet dance party to erupt as the girls cleaned off. It was an exciting way to rinse off before heading back up to their lines for a “proper” shower before dinner.
The whole afternoon was the kind of full-on fun we love around here. It was loud and silly, sweaty and messy. It was full of laughter and cheers, girls letting loose, and friends having the best time together. Such good stuff.
We begin our Sundays at Rockbrook differently than other days of the week by, at least for the morning, slowing down our ordinary zany pace. First of all, we sleep in a little, enjoying extra rest, and then shuffle to breakfast before doing cabin chores and even before getting dressed… Pjs with a fleece pulled over, and robes being typical. Just rolling out of bed feels good once in a while! For breakfast we have a special “real world” treat waiting— freshly delivered Krispy Kreme doughnuts to supplement our regular cereal, fruit and yogurt bar, and today toasted English Muffins and warm scrambled eggs.
After breakfast, the campers return to their cabins to change into their camp uniforms (white polo shirt, white shorts, and a red tie) and around 10am assemble on the camp hill for a flag raising ceremony conducted by the Hi-Up campers. Like Rockbrook girls have for decades, everyone forms a line around the flag pole, recites the Pledge of Allegiance, and sings “America the Beautiful.” Today under sunny, deep blue skies, surrounded by the full green of the woods around us, and with the breath-taking view of the mountains in the distance, all these girls in their red and white made such a beautiful sight.
Following this brief ceremony, the girls walk along the “path of silence” to the Chapel area of camp, which is a small clearing in the woods with benches arranged like a theater. Today the Senior campers and counselors presented their program on the theme of “Community.” Instead of a religious ceremony, these gatherings are for us a brief time during our week to pause and appreciate one another, and to contemplate the fundamental values and feelings we all share, no matter what our religious upbringing at home. We want all girls, irrespective of their religious beliefs, to feel comfortable and included at Rockbrook, so we strive to make our Chapel programs reflect that priority. Today Samantha played the guitar as her cabin mates sang a song they wrote. Several other girls spoke about how Rockbrook feels like a family to them, with each person bringing different gifts to the group. Everyone sang “Lean on Me” (the classic song by Bill Withers), and Sarah spoke at the end after reading the children’s book Anansi the Spider. Based on a West African trickster tale, it tells the story of how the moon came to hang in the sky for all to enjoy. These are sweet moments where your girls prove how sensitive and caring they really are.
Before heading into lunch, everyone gathered again for a more lively assembly on the hill. Here the Line Heads awarded the “Mops” (highly decorated mops… this session as 3 different “minions” from the movie Despicable Me) to the cabins with the best record of cabin inspections. The Hi-Ups performed a skit/song about their duties in the dining hall. Three counselors competed in an exciting “minute to win it” style challenge of apple stacking to see which cabin would be “dressed” the next day by their counselor. With a few announcements from the directors, and a few rousing hand-clapping versions of the Line songs, everyone was pumped up.
Our afternoon activity put a twist on a favorite classic, the “Counselor Hunt.” Today we found ourselves on an alien planet where all kinds of crazy, friendly though shy, aliens (our counselors dressed up) were hiding. Each cabin took on the mission to scour the planet (all over the main part of camp) to find aliens and return them to our spaceship (the dining hall). There, we would discover that each alien had a mysterious gift or prize to convey to the cabin who found her… Special snacks, having rest hour by the lake, or picking out the night’s movie, for example. Be sure to check out the photo gallery to see all the colorful aliens the girls discovered.
Sunday at Rockbrook offers a change of pace. It is a much more relaxed schedule that allows both time to recuperate and to reflect. Everyone got to sleep in an extra hour this morning and come to the dinning hall in their pajamas where we were all treated to donuts at breakfast. After our leisurely breakfast, all the girls and staff had plenty of time to return to their cabins and change into the traditional Rockbrook Sunday uniform of white shorts, white collared shirt, and the red sash tied in a square “friendship knot.” When the bell rang, the whole camp lined up around the flag pole to watch the color guard raise the flag. The privileged honor to perform as the color guard is one of the many responsibilities reserved for the the oldest group of campers called the “Hi Ups.” After the flag raising, and the pledge of allegiance, the campers and staff walked in silence down the lower line to Rockbrook’s open air chapel in the woods where they sat on rustic log benches. This week’s chapel was led by the Middler and Junior lines on the theme of “friendship.” Campers and counselors from these lines prepared and presented readings, personal stories, and songs centered on the topic of friendship. Sarah Carter read a book, “Our Friendship Rules” and led a brief discussion about the story before opening the floor to any campers who wished to add their own thoughts or experiences about friendship. Chapel at Rockbrook is always a positive welcoming environment where campers are given the chance to observe, express, discuss, and reflect on some of the many experiences they are learning about here at camp.
Then this afternoon, they changed out of their uniforms to dress up and show off their talents at the much anticipated Miss RBC pageant. The campers were given a few days notice to prepare a performance of their own invention. Cabins worked together as groups to come up with dances, skits, and songs to perform for the rest of the camp with everyone from the cabin participating. Today we saw lots of impressive gymnastics, circus tricks, dancing, singing, and fun. Many of the silly costumes campers brought from home came out of their trunks today to make an appearance and add to the fun, colorful atmosphere of the pageant.