For quite some time now we’ve used the phrase “a place for girls to grow” as a tagline describing the Rockbrook experience. By this we mean, in addition to being a “really great time” for girls, camp is a remarkable context for learning things that can really help them later in life. Camp is fundamentally educational, “transformative,” even enlightening for the children here.
Knowing that camp matters like this, it’s fun to consider how girls grow from the experience, how they benefit from their time at Rockbrook. Everyday we see the benefits of summer camp at work— growing independence, blossoming social skills, newly found interests, resilience in the face of setbacks, burgeoning care and kindness toward others, an appreciation of community, and so forth. There are so many amazing opportunities for our kids’ best qualities to be energized and bolstered by camp!
Today a conversation I had with a new counselor helped bring another trait to mind. We were remarking that the newness of camp, the fact that so many things here are different from life at home, requires girls to be brave, in particular, to conquer any fears they might have about the inherent uncertainty that comes with a new experience like camp. Now, thinking about it more, I believe it’s true; camp teaches girls how to deal with uncertainty.
Particularly at first, uncertainty colors a great deal of the camp experience for girls as they encounter all sorts of novel and unfamiliar things. There’s our immersive outdoor setting, thrusting everyone into direct contact with the weather, with bugs, little creatures, the complex beauty that resides all around us. Also at camp, there’s the multi-layered social dynamics of cabin life, the idiosyncrasies of bunkmates and the necessary communication, cooperation and compromise such close quarters demand. There’s the perhaps strange foods being served. There’s the immediate independence that accompanies being away from home, far from the comfort, support and problem solving parents are quick to provide. Every new camp activity likewise includes a layer of uncertainty: the concepts and skills needed, the essential personal qualities that make participating possible. There’s the overall culture of Rockbrook too, its odd lingo, traditions, and expectations for behavior.
Each of these aspects of camp life are bound to bring up questions with uncertain answers. In nature, “Will that bug bite me?” In the cabin, “Who of these girls will be my best friend?” “Will I like the vegetable soup for lunch?” “What should I do with my free time?” “Will I be any good at playing gaga ball?” “What is the Dee Ducky?” “Is it really OK to sing that loud?” These and so many other potential questions make camp rife with uncertainty.
But here’s the thing; these Rockbrook girls are completely handling it! Despite the very real uncertainty woven through life at camp, they are answering all of these questions by simply being here. These girls are exuberant, not afraid of what might happen, or too anxious to jump right in. With bravery and often real confidence, they manage to stay positive in the face of whatever is happening. There’s a unique power at camp helping girls put aside uncertainty, move forward with very little hesitation and embrace a range of outcomes. Girls at camp deal with uncertainly so effectively it’s rare they even acknowledge it!
The source of this power at Rockbrook, how we might explain camp’s unique ability to encourage girls to deal effectively with uncertainty, is another complex question. I suspect though that this power springs from the forces of community here and the values that define our culture— kindness, caring, and generosity. When you feel included, respected, supported and cared for by everyone around you, not knowing what will happen, not knowing the answer to those types of questions, becomes far less worrisome. In this community, its just easier to trust things will be OK.
Finally, I think this ability to deal positively with uncertainty at camp is what makes all the other areas of personal growth here possible. It simply makes embracing what’s new, trying new things, and connecting with new people more exciting than scary, more a fun opportunity to seize than an experience to avoid. Yes, camp is a place for girls to grow. It’s a special community where they find the power to deal with uncertainty and experience the benefits of that habit.