Today we saw proof just how quickly the girls have both settled down and fired up here at camp. In just a couple of days, most of ambivalence about camp— remember, it’s very different from home —the uncertainties about what each day will be like, the activities, and the other girls in their cabin have for the most part faded and been replaced with understanding, friendship and enthusiasm. The girls now understand the rhythm of camp life: the 120-year camp camp bell and what it signifies, the crucial importance of “Muffin Break” (today’s flavor was mint chocolate chip, by the way), when is the best time to take a shower, that around here singing (loudly!) is highly encouraged, and lying down in your bunk after these incredibly active days feels really good. Now everyone has a buddy or two to romp around with, as well as their whole cabin group to play with at meals, rest hour, and in the cabin before bedtime. It’s also particularly striking how enthusiastic the girls are now for everything happening at camp. Cheers went up when the Nantahala River rafting trips were announced. Everyday, the optional trips are filled: hiking to Black Balsam (one of the highest peaks east of the Mississippi), rock climbing on Castle Rock, and canoeing down the French Broad River, for example. The girls are embracing every aspect of camp finding it both comfortable and thrilling… a little like relaxing in a red rocking chair chatting with friends and whooping with delight while flying through the trees on the zipline. It’s amazing how these Rockbrook girls are having this much fun so quickly and thoroughly.
I’ve been thinking about this, about why girls adapt so well to life at Rockbrook, and I think one important factor is the all-girl environment here… but in a very particular way. The most common thing you’ll hear about the benefits of an all-girl camp or school is that boys are a “distraction” and that removing them allows girls to be less preoccupied with their appearance and how they compare to boys’ abilities. That seems true, but I doubt it’s that simple. An all-girl community also has to embody other, more important principles or the same competition, self-evaluation, and social hierarchies common to mixed gendered groups will color everyone’s interactions and relationships. So, I would say there’s nothing automatically wonderful about an all-girl setting. There has to be something more fundamental also, something that when established and deeply rooted first and then expressed in an all-girl community, we can identify as the secret to camp life at Rockbrook being so easily and eagerly taken to heart.
Perhaps surprisingly, I don’t think it’s the range of activities offered, the mountain environment, the delicious food served, or the top-notch staff members at camp. These too are simply the context for what really makes our camp community work. No, I think the core value defining camp life at Rockbrook is care. It sounds simple, but starting with the relationships we have with each other, striving to reorient them in the spirit of compassion and generosity, is the key. Beginning with our staff members, who were selected because they are genuinely kind, caring people, but also modeled by the directors and specialty activity instructors, everyone at camp is supportive, encouraging and kind toward each other. Whether playing tennis, collaborating on the plan for an evening program skit, or taking turns sweeping the cabin each morning, the people at Rockbrook truly care for each other. It’s this core community value, this practiced ethic applied to our relationships with each other, that gives camp life its special energy.
Being an all-girl environment is important but only as it serves the primary goal of making everyone at camp feel included, equally loved and respected. Perhaps it’s easier for girls to be kind and caring toward each other than it might be toward boys, and that can explain why a girls camp community like Rockbrook enjoys this happy vibe. It’s just a hunch, but I think there’s something to it.