Camp Estivation

Estivation fun at camp

Word of the Day!

estivate.

This is a great word that applies to camp. You’ve heard of “hibernate,” which basically means to “spend the winter in a dormant condition.” Well, estivate means the opposite— “to spend the summer, as at a specific place or in a certain activity.”

Looking it up here, you find that estivate is derived from the latin word aestīvāre meaning “to reside during the summer (akin to aestīvus of or relating to summer).”

So, what’s the best way to estivate this year? At Rockbrook Camp! Are you a camp estivator? Are you ready for some seriously fun estivation?!! Oh yeah!

Camp Carnival Fun & Games

children assemble for camp opening ceremonyWelcome August Mini Session Campers!! Welcome to Rockbrook! Today a big group of new and a few returning campers arrived for this, our last mini session of the summer. Like our other mini sessions, these are shorter sessions perfect for younger and first-time campers, so for the majority of these girls, this was their first day at Rockbrook. After waiting most of the school year and now until August, their anticipation made for high pitched, and maybe a little nervous, excitement. It doesn’t take long though to settle down after meeting the staff members and other girls, and realize how friendly and welcoming everyone is. Parents are sometimes surprised how quickly and easily their daughter is ready to say goodbye, and to run off with her new cabin mates.

While the new mini session campers were checking in and getting settled, the full session girls followed our regular Sunday schedule— sleeping in a little, enjoying a breakfast with fresh Krispy Kreme donuts, dressing in their white uniforms and red ties, performing the flag raising ceremony, and attending the wooded chapel service. Chapel today was put on by the Senior campers and the theme was “Growing.” Right before lunch the whole camp gathered under the big walnut tree on the hill with the gorgeous mountain view in the background, for our Sunday assembly. This a chance to introduce key staff members (e.g. Mandy, Jessi and the Line Heads), see skits about the various activities available at camp, present the “Mop Awards” to the cleanest cabins, learn and sing a couple of new camp songs, and afterwords, take state photos. Biggest state this session? North Carolina, by far.

Swimming camp buddy tag girlRight after lunch the new campers and their counselors zipped down to the lake for their “swim demonstrations.” Sarah, several lifeguards, and Elizabeth, our head of the waterfront, ran through the exercise designed to test everyone’s ability to swim and tread water. When a girl “passes” the swim demo, she receives a special colored buddy tag alerting the lifeguards of her swimming skills. If someone’s uncomfortable in the water, or if they can’t complete the “demonstration,” she will have to wear a life jacket and stay in the shallow end of the lake, but is certainly welcome (though not required) to come down for swimming lessons during her swimming activity or during one of the free swim periods.

The afternoon’s activity was a crazy water carnival we held down on our sports field. It was crazy because there was so much action, so many girls having fun in different ways at the same time. We had a giant inflatable water slide where after climbing up, would shower you as you flew down into a pool of water at the bottom. There was a tent where several counselors were painting faces (and arms, and backs and stomachs!). We had a coconut bowling game going on, and a “cake walk” game where the girls danced in a circle, landed on numbers, and if lucky won a tasty cupcake prize. The snow cone machine was making icy treats non-stop, and everywhere there was someone working out a hula hoop.

Camp carnival water slide girls Girls Camps Slip and Slide fun Camp shaving cream carnival game

The slip-n-slide was probably the biggest hit. What could be a better use for a long sheet of plastic? Stretch it down a gentle hill, add a little baby soap and water, and launch yourself down for a wet slippery ride! Add some upbeat music and you’ve got an awesome time. The big surprise though, was a shaving cream fight at the end of the Carnival. We passed out a couple of cases (yikes!) of shaving cream, and the girls took off trying to spray each other, splatter it in each others’ hair, and ultimately cover their entire bodies in white slippery foam. All kinds of creative hairstyles soon appear, with laughter and smiles all around. Be sure to check out the photo gallery to see more of that. We rinsed off a bit under the hose, and headed back up for a quick shower before dinner. Whew! What a fun afternoon, and a great way to open the August Mini session.

childrens camps carnival scene

We Swim, Dress Up and Slide

It’s hard to say which flavor of muffin is most popular at camp. With Liz, our baker, creating so many new varieties from scratch— not to mention the traditional kinds— there are too many to choose from. There’s blueberry, but also key lime muffins, cranberry walnut, but also chocolate chip, and sprinkles, and white chocolate almond! Liz arrives at 6:30am each morning and gets to work right away to have the muffins baked and cooled by the mid-morning muffin break. Since there are more than 300 people (campers and staff members), that’s a lot of muffin trays, papers and individual dollops of batter to prepare! The muffins are always so good the girls literally run to the dining hall when they hear the bell announcing “Muffin Break.” For everyone at camp, Liz is a hero!

In fact, the entire kitchen crew are heroes at camp. Rick and his crew are really working hard to create great balanced meals for us, and this isn’t “camp food,” pre-processed, frozen, nuggets of whatnot fried and served with ketchup. Nope. All the main dishes are homemade, from the pizza dough, to the pancakes, to the chicken and dumplings. Rick puts together every meal’s menu, so for dinner yesterday we had baked tilapia, wild rice and a spinach salad. Each tilapia fillet was spiced individually, and the salad included a homemade sesame salad dressing. It’s also amazing how Rick takes time to make special vegetarian options. So for example, he made vegetarian dumplings combining green tomatoes, goat cheese and a light sauce with the dumpling dough. It was a pleasantly surprising combination, and with a big green salad, made a great meal. Sorry to talk so much about the food at camp, but after being away for a couple of nights camping, it’s hard not to!

Junior camp girls play dress up game Middler camps go to sliding rock trip camps senior girls go on swimming trip

Wednesday we took cabin photos before lunch and during rest hour. Gathering everyone in each cabin, dressed in their camp uniforms, and taking their photograph is a long tradition at Rockbrook. Part of the fun is that each cabin gets to select where it would like the photo taken and how to arrange each person. There are so many different places at camp to pose— on one of the many huge rocks, down by the lake, standing in a creek, or on a porch or set of steps. It’s fun for campers to keep their copy of their cabin photo and to collect them over the years in a scrapbook or camp photo album.

For Wednesday afternoon’s cabin day activities, the three lines split up. A few junior cabins went on short hikes to Castle Rock and Rockbrook Falls, but one stayed to put on a dress up fashion show in the Junior Lodge. Silly, silly stuff. Meanwhile, several cabins of seniors took a quick trip into the Pisgah Forest to take a dip in a swimming hole. The water was pretty chilly (like all the creeks and streams in these mountains), so it took a while for most of the girls to get wet. After dinner, all of the mini session Middlers took a trip up to Sliding Rock. Many of the girls had never been to Sliding Rock before, so it was particularly fun to see them zip down the rock and funny to hear them scream when they plunged into the cold water below. There are lots of photos of this in the RBC gallery. Naturally, on the way home, we had to stop at Dolly’s for a cone, a yummy sweet treat of some kind. Being all things chocolate, the Rockbrook camp flavor is still one of the most popular. It was a little bit of a late night for these Middlers by the time we got back to camp settled down, but we all enjoyed ourselves in true RBC fashion.

Camp Life and Soulcraft

Making ceramics by hand at summer campI just finished reading Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew B. Crawford, and it struck me that he would probably be a big fan of camp. The book is an argument for working with your hands, for engaging the material world as opposed to the more abstract constructions of modern life (think TV, all forms of digital entertainment, even the work of most “white collar” jobs). The ordinary lives of most Americans, including our kids, are too often divorced from the joys of working with real things and with real people, and as a result our relationships suffer and we find ourselves dissatisfied. Crawford suggests working with our hands, enhancing our “manual competence,” can serve as an effective antidote to this modern affliction.

You’ve probably heard of “Nature Deficit Disorder,” a concept fashioned by Richard Louv describing the negative consequences of children spending too little time in the outdoors. Here we have a similar notion linking negative effects to living a life abstracted from the sensuous, physical nature of the real world. And just as it’s a response to Nature Deficit Disorder, summer camp provides children a wide range of opportunities to work with their hands, to make things and explore the real world (including the people around them!). Every day of life at camp challenges kids to do things with their hands, to actively engage the material world, whether it be building a clay mug, learning a flip off the diving board, or dressing up like an old lady to play bingo with your friends and laughing your head off.

Crawford doesn’t talk much in his book about children, and not at all about summer camp, but if you know anything about camp life, you can easily see how it also serves children well in their development of “manual competence.” Kids love camp, and they’ll tell you that it’s because it’s simply “a lot of fun,” but maybe a large part of that can also be traced to their need to connect to the physical world. After all, camp is exactly that.

Sliding Rock North Carolina Fun

Sliding Rock Natural Water Slide in North CarolinaThis part of North Carolina, in the western part of the state, is well known for its lush mountains and waterfalls. In the Brevard area alone there are more than 250 named waterfalls (Do you know the two that are on the Rockbrook Property?). Some of these waterfalls are quite remote and hidden, but others are popular places for swimming.

The most famous example of these waterfalls is Sliding Rock. This is a place in the Pisgah National Forest where Looking Glass Creek cascades about 60ft over a smooth sloping rock and drops into a deep pool at the bottom. The Forest Service has developed it into an organized recreation area so it can provide parking, lifeguards and first aid services during the busy summer months. In the last few years, Sliding Rock has become so popular the Forest Service has begun charging a small fee to use the area.

The Rockbrook Middlers and Seniors take a trip to Sliding Rock most sessions. We go at special times when the area is less crowded and we always bring our own additional lifeguards. It’s a great mountain experience for the girls, and when you top it off with a trip to Dolly’s Ice Cream stand, it really can’t be beat.

You’ll have so much fun, you might raise your foot in excitement!

Hilarious Horse

hilarious camp horse

Isn’t that the funniest picture you’ve ever seen!? You just never know what kind of silliness will burst out down at the Rockbrook stables. Certainly making the horses “look good” is a part of it!

We love this photo also because it so beautifully represents the feeling of the riding program at Rockbrook. It shows that the girls are not only learning a lot about riding, improving their horsemanship skills and experience, but also having a great time. Being together at the barn is for some girls, their absolute favorite part of camp life. Rockbrook is well known for its riding program because it does an amazing job balancing things like this.

The Importance of Play

Did you know that play is about more than just “fun and games?” You might have heard that “play is children’s work,” and maybe you’ve realized that play often boils down to having spontaneous fun, but what makes play beneficial? What about the long term benefits of play?

Girls Play

It turns out there is a ton of research indicating that play is very important for human beings, even essential for our well being throughout our lives, from childhood through adulthood. One leader of this research and an advocate of what we might call “play for all,” is Dr. Stuart Brown, MD. He is the founder of the National Institute for Play, an organization

“committed to bringing the unrealized knowledge, practices and benefits of play into public life. [The Institute] is gathering research from diverse play scientists and practitioners, initiating projects to expand the clinical scientific knowledge of human play and translating this emerging body of knowledge into programs and resources which deliver the transformative power of play to all segments of society.”

One general conclusion Dr. Brown’s research has shown is a strong correlation between adult success and play. Language skills, thinking skills, and of course, social skills all benefit from unstructured play. And since these are crucial areas for adults as well, it’s important to develop a habit of playing throughout our lives. We can improve these adult level skills by continuing to play.

Here’s a great video of Stuart Brown giving a lecture about the importance of play. He argues that “play in childhood makes for happy, smart adults — and keeping it up can make us smarter at any age.”

We like this a lot.  It verifies something we’ve been talking about for years; play, and in particular outdoor play, is really important.  More than just entertainment, it’s a powerful benefit for children’s health and happiness.  This research helps us understand how these benefits extend far into adulthood as well.  Naturally, camp is the perfect place to experience all of this.  Free from the over-structured, over-scheduled nature of school, and free from boredom-inducing electronic media, camp provides daily opportunities for play.  Children are so much better for it.

Hey, don’t forget to play!

4th of July… Camp Style

Watermelon PicnicThe 4th of July began with everyone waking up to the sound of horses running down the cabin lines, and the equestrian staff yelling “The British are coming; wake up; wake up!!” Dressed in festive red, white and blue, the riders and their horses made quite a scene. The entire camp stumbled out of their cabins and made their way to hill for a quick flag raising ceremony, ending with everyone reciting the pledge of allegiance.

The rest of the day we enjoyed our regular camp activities… crafts, outdoor adventure, sports, horseback riding.  Then for dinner, Rick prepared an excellent cookout of burgers, corn, chips and watermelon.  We all sat and ate on the hill, and since we had some music playing, sang and danced too.  It was a nice way to spend the  evening.

Capping off the day, everyone gathered again on the hill for a great fireworks display. For about 20 minutes bangs and colorful flashes in the sky entertained us before turning in for the night.  Overall, it was a great day of all-camp activities and holiday celebration fun.