Say hello to Casey Blair, Rockbrook’s new Program Director!
Everyone at Rockbrook is thrilled to announce that Casey Blair will begin serving as the full-time Program Director at camp. If you’ve attended camp recently, you already know Casey because over five years she has been a cabin counselor, Line Head, lifeguard, and most recently the Staff Coordinator. In addition to joining the team of directors, she now will be planning and organizing camp activities and summer events, managing the equipment and supplies for activities, and assisting special program staff members.
Casey was born and raised in Louisville Kentucky. She attended Centre College in Danville, KY, where she received a Bachelors of Art, majoring in studio art with an emphasis on ceramics. After that, she did an internship at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, working with school groups. From there, she went to University of Louisville, where she received a Master’s in the Art of Teaching (MAT) degree, becoming certified to teach elementary school grades K-5. She did her student teaching at Farmer Elementary and worked with 1st and 4th graders.
Casey is very excited to work at camp year round. She is eager to start planning for next summer, and “getting to talk about camp everyday.” She explained, “the campers keep me coming back— getting to know them, seeing what they have learned at camp and watching how much they have grown throughout the school year is always fun.”
When asked what she loves about camp, she said, “It’s the people. I really love the kind of community that we cultivate here. It is open, welcoming, and encouraging. And of course, I love the North Carolina mountains.”
This is the fourth year that Robbie Francis of Go Swan Filmworks is visiting camp to film and present a series of highlights videos.
We’ve had great feedback from parents about Robbie’s past productions. He can film for one day and beautifully capture much of the action, and many of the sweet moments at camp. In under two minutes, you can really tell how these Rockbrook girls are loving camp.
Robbie filmed this past week and now we have his first video of this session. Once again, he’s made something special, and I think you’ll really enjoy it.
Our first full day of camp began this morning with every activity area ready to launch into action. A full breakfast of orange juice, fresh fruit, oatmeal, granola and yogurt got us started, and the morning assemblies (held in each age groups stone lodge) of up-beat camp songs set the tone for an equally full day.
The other day, after being asked, I counted up the number of buildings at Rockbrook. Including all of the camper cabins (25), activity buildings, staff housing and support buildings, there are 53 different structures at camp. That’s a lot of roofs! And today every one of them was being used for the jam-packed life that we enjoy at camp.
Eight different places were home to creative craft projects. Weaving colorful yarns on the looms in Curosty with Nancy, pinching and rolling clay in one of the pottery studios, tying friendship bracelets, dripping dye on t-shirts, making layers of paper collages, brushing on watercolor paints, embroidering small swatches of fabric— the girls began many, many art projects.
Sports too! The girls shot rifles and bows with .22 caliber bullets and arrows hitting their targets. They balanced on the beam after stretching in the gymnastics area of the gym. All three tennis courts saw various tennis drills and short games. The gaga ball pit also was stirred up by game after game, with girls jumping and swatting as the ball bounced in their direction. Of course the lake, which (next to the dining hall!) is probably the most popular place in camp, was humming with fun as the girls flew down the water slide, performed tricks off the diving board, and just played around on different floating toys. As the weather cleared up throughout the day, the lake seemed to become even more popular.
The first riding lessons also took place today, with the girls who wanted to ride meeting new horses during one of the 4 activity periods. There were riders in every ring just about all day long. The outdoor adventure staff offered climbing on the Alpine tower, trips through the zip line course, a hike to Rockbrook Falls, and opportunities to learn the basics of whitewater kayaking down at the lake. Ellie and Jamie, our dynamic kayaking instruction duo, enticed dozens of girls to try out the cool new whitewater kayaks added to the Rockbrook fleet this summer.
Rick’s famous “cheesy bread” and homemade vegetable tomato soup, Becky’s fresh “Confetti” muffins, and chocolate chip cookies and milk before bed, were all top-10 foods popular from last summer that we enjoyed today as well.
With all of our activity areas cranking, familiar camp foods, a chance to spin the wheel in the dining hall (more about that later!), hula hooping on the hill during twilight, and evening program featuring silly, hilarious skits performed by each cabin group in their line’s lodges, it felt good to have a full day at camp. Everyone seemed happy, energized and settled in, which proves it doesn’t take long for girls to feel comfortable and at home here. It would make you smile to see it.
The other day I heard a snippet of conversation between two campers talking about their friends. One girl explained, “I have friends at school, but my friends here at Rockbrook are my ‘forever friends.'” What a great way to put it! Friends made at camp are exactly that— so strong, so close, so meaningful, they last. It’s pretty clear. The people here at Rockbrook aren’t just companions or playmates; they’re not simply other girls assigned to your team, or brief acquaintances that happen to eat meals with you in the dining hall. Instead there’s a deepness to many of the friendships formed at camp, an emotional quality that makes relationships here more genuine and powerful.
Why camp friends are forever friends is an interesting question. What is it about summer camp that makes a difference when is comes to forming friendships? My first thought is that we make good friends at camp by virtue of spending so much time together. When you share all your meals, spend all your free time, and do so much together with the same small group of people, you are bound to grow closer. Consistent shared experience simply brings people together. And this togetherness of camp is almost inescapable considering the sleeping cabins holding 10 or more people (no private rooms here!), the lack of electronic devices (which are inherently isolating), and the collaborative character of all our camp activities. There can be moments of solitude for everyone at camp, but generally time at camp is a collective life that keeps us inter-acting with each other throughout the day. This makes good sense, by the way, if having fun is one of the goals of camp. After all, doing something with others is clearly more fun than doing it alone, whether it’s putting on a silly costume, paddling a whitewater raft, or eating a meal.
While this is a start, I suspect there’s more to understanding what drives camp friendships than simply being together and sharing core experiences. Perhaps more importantly, camp life also includes a set of ideals and values, a culture, that guides how we treat each other as a community doing things together. At Rockbrook, this camp culture starts with kindness and generosity. It respects and values everyone, creating enthusiasm and building genuine encouragement. Beginning with the directors, embodied by the staff members, and sustained by Rockbrook’s many traditions, there is a feeling here of warmth and acceptance where every girl is appreciated and supported. This culture makes it easy to cooperate instead of compete, to pitch in rather than check out, and to inspire more than criticize. The Rockbrook camp culture, quite intentionally, brings out these best qualities in people, campers and staff alike, making it a special place oddly different from what’s typically valued in other circles.
This, then, is the secret sauce. The nature of this culture, all of its practiced ideals, provides girls the freedom to explore who they really are, to develop the character and spirit of their “authentic selves.” In this way, camp empowers girls to trust themselves. Free of social judgment, camp life helps awaken confidence, giving girls the power to overcome their own assumptions about who they should be. I believe stripping away these assumptions and being genuine is what makes forever friendships possible. It feels good (“What a relief!”) to be true to yourself too, to be welcomed and nurtured by a real community. No posing needed. Instead, as camp teaches us to be brave personally, it establishes the basis for the most rewarding form of friendship.
So while we’re doing so much together at camp— riding, climbing, weaving, shooting, and playing, for example —we’re discovering that our true selves make the best friends, that being kind makes us happy, and being together like this is always more fun.
Yesterday afternoon, our current mini session Seniors and their counselors packed a lunch for a trip to this waterfall located up on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Not knowing what weather we’d find at that elevation (a little over 5,100 feet compared to Rockbrook’s 2,300 feet), we took our chances and made the long climb in the buses up US276. As we ascended, however, the mistier and foggier it became. Finally up on the parkway, we stopped for a view and found we were within the clouds, completely immersed in the grey vapor and soon quite cold from the driving moist wind. Needless to say, there was very little “view,” and suddenly our picnic plans seemed at risk. We realized though, driving a bit further, that the wind was the culprit, and that with some shelter, the view to the north was sensational and the outside temperature was suitable, albeit still a little cool. The rain was very light, barely a mist, so we were able to find a nice overlook and have our picnic after all. Once at the trailhead for our hike, it began to rain a little harder and again I could tell from the looks on a few of the girls’ faces, there was some doubt that we could continue. Fortunately, though, the rain blew past us quickly and we could reach the waterfall without too much effort. Sure we got a little wet, and yes we had to take extra care scrambling down and over wet rocks, but the trail, lined with glistening bushes, was gorgeous and the falls were magnificent. Despite what first appeared as terrible conditions, our determination and perseverance rewarded us in the end.
In addition to “Play Outside this Summer,” which I wrote about here, one of the Rockbrook tag lines is “A Place for Girls to Grow.” It is another short phrase that, also like our mission statement, summarizes the goals we have for your girls at camp, our aspirations for everyone at Rockbrook. Quite simply put, we hope your girls will grow from their experience at camp, that they will develop in important ways, all the while having the time of their lives. We want camp to be for them both formative and fun.
This hiking trip, as is true for so many other experiences at camp, is a good example of how this growth takes place. It created for all of us a set of personal challenges and thereby opportunities to learn. Beyond dealing with slightly uncomfortable weather, it presented physical challenges because it required us hike a steep trail and at one point to balance carefully over slippery rocks. It required true teamwork as each person helped another through one especially tricky area. The hike demonstrated that a positive attitude— an enthusiastic, supportive, encouraging, friendly approach— is powerful and often a crucial part of a successful group endeavor. It provided experiential evidence that setbacks and disappointments can be overcome with perseverance. It became another page in a wonderful book of experiences your girls are writing at camp, a book filled with life lessons that will undoubtedly play a role in their later success.
So many of the other challenges at Rokbrook provide these opportunities to grow too. On the surface of things we are sewing pillows, weaving baskets, balancing on the beam, paddling canoes, shooting rifles, and getting to know each other while relaxing in the grass before lunch. We are doing amazing things everyday. But what’s most important about camp lasts much longer. Years from now your girls probably won’t remember very much about what they did or didn’t do at camp. They’ll forget that hike. Instead, they’ll recall the positive feeling of being a part of a caring community. They’ll know first-hand how honest communication, compromise and cooperation makes every group grow closer, more powerful, and rewarding. They’ll be more confident, more resilient, and more courageous when faced with challenges later in life. From their time at Rockbrook, we know they’ll have grown.
There are many marvelous things in store for these girls later in life. We’re quite proud to join you in guiding them toward that future success.
For quite some time now, Rockbrook has remade its “Horse Show” held at the end of its sessions into something non-competitive and more celebratory. Instead of riders set against one another, we allow girls of all abilities to show their skills and to be recognized for their equestrian accomplishments. With other girls from camp watching, they may simply canter around the ring, walk over poles, or wow everyone with an impressive jump. We provided cool red ribbons for all of the participants who rode in the show today. For others, the equestrian staff also brought out one of our Welsh ponies, whose name is Cool Beans, to let the girls paint him with bright hand prints. Cool Beans was pretty patient (cool!) through all of this, and with multiple different color hand prints all over him, looked fabulous (cool!) too.
Today our drama instructors had a few jitters as they made final preparations for the performance of this session’s musical, The Jungle Book. They took over the gym early this morning to transform the stage into a jungle scene with trees, vines, rocks and other flowering plants. Throughout the session, girls have been learning songs, practicing choreographed dances, and memorizing speaking parts for several characters from the well known musical version… The bear, Baloo, the boy Mowgli, the python Kaa, the tiger Shere Khan, the girl Shanti, and plenty of monkeys and elephants. The entire cast sang versions of the classic songs like “I Wanna Be Like You” and the “Bare Necessities.” After the performance, which brought cheers and applause from the other campers and parents watching, I noticed more than one person humming along to one of the songs.
Tonight, our final night of the first session, was also the night of our closing campfire, our “Spirit Fire.” Dating back to the very first summer of Rockbrook in 1921, this special campfire is a time for everyone to reflect upon their time at camp, sing some of the “more serious” or traditional songs, and often get a little sad about camp ending. It’s a magical setting, with crickets chirping in the background, the sun setting into twilight, and more than 250 voices singing softly around a blazing fire. Some girls stand and speak at the Spirit Fire, happily and easily expressing their love for camp and the strong feelings of friendship they have for so many people here. It’s astounding to see how meaningful all of this is to them. The Spirit Fire is a special time when all of the excitement and fun of the last few weeks steps aside to reveal the emotional connections that make our time together so important, so good, and in the end, so adored.
The first full day of camp opened quietly this morning with a thick fog lingering from yesterday’s rain. Some girls, not yet accustomed to the schedule at camp, were up before the rising bell ringing at 8, while others seemed pretty sleepy when they arrived for breakfast at 8:30. Everyone though, enjoyed a hearty breakfast of oatmeal, fruit, yogurt, cereal and juice to start the day.
After breakfast, the girls assembled in their lodges (Each age group or “line” has it’s own stone lodge.) for a quick meeting with announcements and a song or two. These “morning assembly” times are another way that the girls in an age group get to know each other, see their counselors lead and interact with the group, and simply have fun doing something together. Activity time was next. Hooray! It was finally time to run off to a part of the camp and begin climbing, swimming, paddling, drawing, shooting, riding, and creating in so many ways. Without a minute to waste, there were girls with their hands in clay, holding rifles and bows, gripping paddles and paint brushes, climbing up onto horses and all the way to the top of our 50ft Alpine tower. Happily, the weather cooperated beautifully and with sun shining, we could leave our rain coats in the cabins and instead carry a towel down to the lake for a swim.
If you haven’t heard about Rockbrook’s “Muffin Break,” you certainly will from your daughter in a letter or after camp because it is a moment each day that everyone looks forward to. It happens between the first and second activity periods, and is exactly that, a break in the camp action to enjoy a freshly baked muffin served to everyone on the dining hall porch. It’s particularly exciting because the flavor changes regularly, so the girls are always excited to learn if today’s muffin is one of their favorite varieties. Today we enjoyed pumpkin chocolate chip, a classic and very popular kind.
This afternoon the “CA” campers, who are girls who have finished the 9th grade, took a hike in the Dupont State Forest. Their goal for the hike, besides enjoying the fantastic mountaintop views and blooming mountain laurel bushes along the trail, was to discuss their ideas for the end-of-session banquet. They needed to pick a theme for this special dinner/party they plan and produce for the whole camp, and since that theme is kept secret until the night of the banquet, discussing and debating the options away from camp is a good idea. They brainstormed more than a dozen initial ideas, and by the end of the hike they had selected an exciting and creative theme, one that included thoughts about the food to be served, decorations, costumes, dances, skits, props and music. They all seemed very excited about the idea… jumping with excitement …and I’m sure it will be a great event.
I hope you are enjoying the daily photos we have begun posting. If you haven’t already, you simply login to your parent account, and click the photos link. You’ll be able to browse through each day’s galleries, mark your favorites, and at the end of the session purchase prints or high-resolution downloads, if you like. Karin, Becca and Rachel, our camp photographers, are busy taking and posting these photos for you. We hope you enjoy them.
Thank you for sharing your girls with us. Camp is off to a great start!
We’ve written before about how the average American child spends 53 hours per week consuming electronic media— television, computers, cell phones, video games, ebook readers —interacting with various screens. One consequence of this media consumption is all the advertising it includes. Woven throughout these hours of electronic entertainment is a flood of ads and product branding, to the extent of about 3000 ads per day, according to one study. Just about everywhere our children go, including their schools, they are exposed to carefully crafted advertising messages. Advertisers know that children constitute not only a large market themselves, but also a powerful force capable of influencing their parents’ spending. Even more insidiously, they know exposing children to brands very early in life can have lasting brain effects that influence their buying habits as adults.
Recognizing this trend in America, researchers have begun to study the effects pervasive advertising and branding have on children, their (cognitive, social and personal) development, and their overall physical and psychological health. Unfortunately, it’s not good, with links to tobacco, alcohol and drug use, to obesity, to premature sexual activity, and to fostering negative body image ideals. There is strong evidence that advertising and even subtle branding messages have profoundly negative effects, so much so, several European countries, Greece, Belgium and Sweden for example, have banned advertising that explicitly targets children.
Fortunately for the children that attend summer camp, there is a true break from media consumption and from its accompanying advertising. Spending time at Rockbrook, playing outside, and enjoying real friends and relationships, function as countering forces. Back to the basics of childhood, girls at camp find they are more creative, more imaginative and more adventurous. We all know camp is a refuge; it is in this way as well— a refuge from advertising and branding. And that’s a great thing.