Fantastic Success

Lower Green Kayaking Kayak Seal Launch Kayak Camp Girls

First a Kayak Camp update. As you know, kayaking has really caught on here at Rockbrook, and in response to that growing interest, we’ve begun offering 2 special 1-week camp sessions devoted entirely to whitewater kayaking. We’ve called these sessions “Rockbrook Rapids.” Today, the first of those sessions ended and we began to hear some of the exciting stories of how their many river trips went during the last week. The girls ran a section of whitewater every day, building skills and confidence on the water as they progressed through class I, II, and some class III whitewater. On two occasions, the crew camped near their river.  They ran the Lower Green, the Tuckaseegee, the Nantahala, the Chattooga (2 days), and the Upper Green rivers. This afternoon when the van pulled into camp after their last trip, the girls looked pretty tired and maybe a little grubby, but I’ve never seen a group more proud and satisfied. Unloading their gear, the girls happily handled the work, knew exactly what to do, and chatted effortlessly. It was neat to see that kind of camaraderie after just one week of shared outdoor adventure experience. The staff and the campers alike said the whole week was awesome. Check out the photos above (Click them to view a larger version) and you can see a little of the fun (Others are online in the photo gallery). One girl told me, “I’m definitely signing up for this again!” A fantastic success for the first kayak camp of the summer!

Camp Kid on Microphone Wheel Spin Fun Camp Pie Camp Counselor

A great moment happened today when Sophia won a chance to spin the wheel in the dining hall. When it was clear she was the winner, Chase asked her where she hoped her spin would land. What prize was she hoping to win? Without hesitating, Sophia yelled “Pie Your Counselor” into the microphone. It’s always very exciting to spin the wheel, but when it lands on what the girl spinning hopes for, it’s so marvelous the whole dining hall erupts. And as you can see in the photo above, “Pie Your Counselor” is exactly what Sophia got! The kitchen helped out right away, whipping up two chocolate pudding pies for the occasion, so right after lunch a crowd gathered on the hill to watch the mess unfold. Everyone laughed and cheered as the counselors proved they could take a pie in the face.  It’s not often you have two willing victims for this kind of pie massacre, so we all had a great time watching.

After Pie in Face

Tonight we also had our first dance of the summer with Camp Carolina. We again held two dances, one at each camp with the older girls traveling over to dance in the CCB dining hall, and their younger boys coming to Rockbrook to dance in our gym. You might think these dances with boys are awkward since they contrast so completely with the all-girl world of Rockbrook. In reality though, we do what we can to keep everything lighthearted and silly. The counselors dress up in crazy costumes, and are quick to encourage group dances rather than pairs. Sure, the older girls spend a good deal of time on shall we say “hair care,” but for them too, what’s fun is the loud music, wild lighting, bouncy dancing and overall exuberant tone. Of course, being their with so many friends is what really makes these dances great.  But that true for everything at camp!

Girls Summer Camp Dance

Confident and Capable

Girls kayaking camp fun in the rain
Let’s start with an update from the kayakers, particularly the staff and campers who are enjoying a week-long specialty camp devoted to kayaking. Over the last few years, we’ve seen a growing interest in whitewater kayaking among the girls at Rockbrook, so to meet that interest, we now offer two specialty kayaking camp sessions called the “Rockbrook Rapids.” Led by Leland Davis, and our two head kayaking instructors Sarah Arvidson and Stephanie Whiting, these 1-week sessions are essentially small-group kayaking trip camps where the girls can improve their boating skills while enjoying some of the many whitewater rivers in the area. Everyday is a different river trip, with some including overnight camping. Today the girls ran the lower section of the Green River, which is a great place to start out because it provides a series of class II rapids, plenty of moving water to practice eddying and ferrying, and at one point a perfect surfing wave. Despite the light rain that fell most of the day, the girls had a great time on the river. Back at camp for a hot shower and a huge pasta meal, they seemed happy and proud of the day’s accomplishments on the river. If you are an Instagram user, Leland is posting now and then to a specialty account for the Rockbrook Rapids. Follow along! (By the way, here is our main Rockbrook Instagram account.)

(9th grade hiking girlsOur 9th grade girls, who we call “CA campers” or “CAs,” accomplished an important goal today. They selected their banquet theme. Right after breakfast, we loaded up a couple of buses and drove to the Dupont State Forest for a hike, and more importantly, a private place to discuss what the secret surprise theme will be. The girls brainstormed more than 40 different ideas, and after hiking to a beautiful overlook, stopping along the way to narrow down their list, they settled on their theme. They cheered after the final decision, and immediately started offering new ideas about the special food, decorations, music and costumes they would organize for their big party of the session. The girls were so eager to take on the responsibility of planning and implementing this complex project for the whole camp, I can already tell that this is going to be an excellent banquet.

Our 10th grade girls, known at camp as “Hi-Up campers” or just “HUPS,” likewise had a special day— their first “Girls With Ideas” meeting. Getting together with their counselors, this was a discussion session focused on what it means to be a Rockbrook girl and how those character traits can help make our camp community stronger, contribute to the magic of camp for the other, younger campers’ experience, and potentially make the broader, outside-of-camp, world a better place. The Hi-Ups are the oldest true campers at Rockbrook, so we count on their leadership with several camp projects, special events, and important jobs, like clearing dishes from the dining hall, and setting all the tables before each meal. This particular group of HUPS is already showing amazing maturity and enthusiasm for their new roles at camp.

Camp Girl ClimberAfter tenth grade, we offer one last step in leadership training, and it’s for those girls interested in becoming a cabin counselor at Rockbrook: our “Counselors in Training” or “CITs.” These 11th grade girls (We only accept six per session) live in the cabins with the younger campers, and as their name suggests, take on the duties of a counselor managing cabin life. They teach a camp activity for part of the day, and also take on the task of running the kitchen dish washing machine after every meal. You can imagine, depending on the meal, this can be a monumental endeavor easily taking a couple of hours. So these girls are hard workers! It’s a paid position designed to be ideal training for returning as a full counselor.

For our 9th, 10th and 11th graders, this coaching and progression of camp responsibilities, adds up to concrete leadership training. Working together as a cooperative group, focusing on important tasks, accepting responsibilities with real consequences for the broader camp community, these teenage girls are growing more confident and capable while developing real-life leadership skills.  …Another example of how “camp is a place for girls to grow.”

With good sunny weather most of the day, and only a slight late afternoon shower, this has been an excellent first day of activities. The girls have scattered across the camp excited to try everything— adventure, crafts, sports, and horseback riding. It’s been a great start to what already feels like a fantastic session!

Fun is for the Making

Girls learning to roll a kayak at the lakeOne of the technical skills we teach to the girls who select kayaking as one of their activities is the “Eskimo Roll.” This is a self rescue technique used to return your kayak right side up after flipping over. An experienced kayaker makes rolling look effortless, but in fact it takes great timing to coordinate several actions… tucking forward, setting and sweeping the paddle, snapping the hips, and positioning the head. And most of this is done upside down and underwater! Leland and Andria, our expert kayaking instructors, have been teaching roll clinics at the lake and report many girls are “getting their rolls.” A few have even successfully performed something much more difficult— a “Hand Roll.” You might be thinking sushi, but in kayaking this is rolling up a kayak without a paddle, using just your hands. Some kayakers try for years before successfully hand rolling. We’ve got 13-year old girls doing it! As the girls head out on kayaking trips, they are putting to use all this and other whitewater skills… reading the river, eddying, ferrying, peeling out, and navigating ledges and drops. It’s neat to see.

Camp class to make a tie-dye t-shirtThis week has been a big one in the “Hodge Podge” craft activity because the girls have been tie dying. Set outside near the upper pottery studio, the instructors have tables, newspaper, bottles of liquid dye (plenty of colors!) and lots of rubber bands ready for the tying. This is particularly fun for the girls because they can not only dye a t-shirt, but also any other cotton item they already own.  So look out parents! You might find a rainbow spiral pair of underwear in your daughter’s trunk when she gets home, or a bright orange “target designed” hat, or as I saw one girl designing, a newly striped pair of Converse tennis shoes! All of these items first soak in a mild solution of water and urea (which helps keep the cloth damp while the dye sets) before being twisted, folded, and then bound up tightly with the rubber bands. The resulting pattern is the result of both the different colors of dye applied and the alternating areas of dyed and un-dyed (the “resists” created by the rubber bands) cloth. One quick tip when these items arrive home… They will still need quite a bit of rinsing, and I would suggest washing them separately at first before it will be safe to launder them with other clothes.

camp girl aiming a rifleDecorated Riflery TargetThe ostensible goal for Archery and Riflery is, of course, hitting the center of the target and, using multiple shots, scoring points based on how close to the center each shot lands. We recognize this almost daily, in fact, during the lunch announcements when the instructors announce which girls have joined the “Bullseye Club.” Careful aim along with improving strength and technique allow the girls to better both the accuracy and precision of their shots. There is some keen interest in improving also since in a couple of weeks we will be challenging the boys of Camp Carolina to a scored tournament. But if you visit both Archery and Riflery, you won’t find girls just shooting for a score. Instead you’ll see balloons filled with paint, posters and markers, and even pieces of fruit. Now the targets are much more interesting, and the resulting splatter more colorful and yes, more glittery. Success and a good deal of the fun can now mean popping the balloon, piercing the apple, or destroying the banana.

learning to canoe at summer campLike so many other things at Rockbrook, what we do is driven by a spirit of creativity guided by a simple goal of having fun.  Why shoot a banana? Just for the fun of it.  Like all examples of free play, the primary goal is the play itself and not something external to the moment. That’s why we’ll play slow motion volleyball using a balloon for the ball, or we’ll wear costumes all day long (like for twin day), or we’ll stop lunch to dance and sing to a fun pop song. Without sacrificing the serious subject of safety— shooters always wear eye protection, for example —we encourage all of our activity instructors to restyle what they do occasionally, to add an unexpected element or substitute one aspect with another. That’s why Rockbrook girls might climb the Alpine Tower blindfolded, or add a pebble to their lanyard, tie dye their shoes, or paint with a leaf instead of a “proper brush.”

We think this kind of playful creativity is a wonderful approach for girls to experience, even acquire as they go forward. It’s a skill that easily conquers boredom, can be extraordinarily beneficial when problem solving, but perhaps most importantly, makes the world a joyful place. It proves that fun is for the making, and that we have the power to brighten up what we’re doing and en-joy ourselves along the way.  Everyday, Rockbrook lives and teaches that insight.

One Direction band costumed skitTonight we celebrated our first July Mini session with a banquet dinner party presented by the 9th graders and their counselors. The theme was “Night at the Red Carpet” and included appearances by an impressive list of celebrities, some of whom performed as well. We saw Lorde (Claire) sing, an original performance by Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez (Sam and Matilda), and the girls’ favorite English “boy band,” One Direction (counselors Miranda, Maggie, Paige, Gabi and Jenna). The celebrities were kindly signing autographs all night while they helped serve the dinner of pasta, salad, garlic bread and mozzarella sticks. For dessert, everyone enjoyed a “Red Carpet, Red Velvet Cupcake.” All the campers and counselors came dressed in their blue RBC t-shirts making the spontaneous dances a jumping, swirling crowd of long hair, blue and white, and smiling faces. Fueled by music, candy and the exuberance of this many happy, comfortable girls, the banquet was a great time and a wonderful success.

Great Camp Friends

Reward from the Game Itself

Camp Dodgeball Game for kids

The activity we call “Sports and Games” meets either in our gym or down on our sports field, and lately the girls have been doing so pretty cool stuff. There have been crazy games of dodgeball (e.g., one “International” version where you also defend a hockey goal), quick-paced basketball games, gym hockey, and volleyball. As you can see from this photo, these games are less about winning and more about the fun. They are ordinarily oblivious to the score, and instead focus the laughter of playing. The counselors leading the games still teach basic skills— how to serve a volleyball, for example —but we’re not so concerned about who can serve it the best. In this way, the game itself, rather than an individual triumph, provides the reward. All of this is another expression of our camp philosophy.

Camper's Kayak Trip
Kids kayaking at camp

Today a group of girls went whitewater kayaking on the Green River under the guidance of Leland Davis and Andria Baldovin Davis. Leland and Andria have worked with Rockbrook for three summers now both as raft guides and expert kayaking instructors. They easily have more than 20 years of whitewater boating experience and literally have “written the book” on whitewater kayaking in America. In addition to all the regular kayaking gear, the brightly colored plastic boats, Werner paddles, helmets, spray skirts and PFDs, the crew packed a lunch because this was an all-day trip. The weather cooperated beautifully with warm sunshine to balance the chilly water, and the girls had a fantastic time not only maneuvering through several challenging rapids like “Big Corky” and “Jacob’s Ladder,” but also taking a swim in a gentle part of the river. Everyone returned from their adventure excited and eager to take another kayaking trip later in the session.

Girl plunges down water slide

Back at camp, the sunshine inspired several campers to take a ride down our 150-foot water slide, a.k.a. “Big Samantha.” After walking along the boardwalk on the far side of the lake, and across the bridge over the creek, the girls climb a tower to the start of the slide. Vinyl tarp material, with a water spraying down it, provides the slide, and the lake at the bottom supplies the splash for each rider.  Most girls hold their nose because the the slide propels you out the bottom faster than you might think. A short swim over to the ladders and the girls can head back around for another slide.

After dinner, over in the Hillside Lodge, we gathered the whole camp for special evening program, a reptile and cold-blooded animal show. Daphne from “Cold Blooded Encounters” presented the show which included 14 different animals ranging from small salamanders, to lizards, a scorpion, an eastern box turtle (North Carolina’s official “State reptile”), a tarantula spider, a black King snake, and a 15 pound King Python. She presented each animal one by one, to at times the horrified screams of the campers. Of course, there were plenty of questions, like “Where do those snakes live?” and “Is that one poisonous?” Daphne was great with the girls, letting everyone get a good look at each animal as she walked around describing its unique characteristics and behaviors. At the end of the show, she invited the campers to come up and touch her King snake, proving to them that snakes are not “slimy,” but instead are usually smooth, cool and muscular. It was a fun, illuminating evening.

Cold Blooded Animal Show