Balancing on the Rock

Kid Rock Climbing Summer CampYou’ve probably heard that “balance” is one of the most important skills to have for rock climbing. It’s true; a lot of the technique involves balancing on your feet, and usually one foot, as you move up the rock.

But it’s not only that simple. It’s also important to learn how to hold yourself still, to use your muscles to shift your weight from one foot to the other slowly and smoothly. Generally, as you climb, you’ll keep your torso stationary and move a hand or foot up to the next hold. This is sometimes called the rule of “3-point contact” and refers to the practice of only moving one foot or hand at a time while your other limbs stay on the rock.

For example, you might keep both feet on the rock, hold on with one hand, and shift your weight to the left or right to reach a new handhold.  Likewise, you might hold on with both hands, keep one foot set, and lift your other foot up to a new hold. The trick is to stay smooth, keep your body still, and shift your center of gravity from left to right and up. It’s this deliberate and precise moving that we meaning by “balancing.”

Are you rock climbing this summer?

Kids Grow Better Outside

Kids Grow Better Outside

Spotted this bumper sticker the other day in Asheville, NC. Isn’t it awesome!? It’s put out by the Buncombe county partnership of the Smart Start Program, an “early childhood initiative designed to ensure that young children enter school healthy and ready to succeed.” The sticker shows that, like we have claimed many times before, playing outside is really good for kids.  Here are some of the benefits Buncombe County recognizes.

  • Kids are better able to play with other kids and work problems out with them.
  • Kids benefit from physical activity by experiencing healthier weights.
  • Kids have fewer problems with hyperactivity and are better able to pay attention.
  • Kids experience less stress than other kids their age.
  • Kids score higher on standardized tests.

It’s not too hard to see how “children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out of doors?”  And it’s a simple step to realize how important summer vacation from school, and summer camps like Rockbrook, are for kids.  All children really benefit from time outside, away from school, and certainly at camp.

Are your kids getting outside?

Summer Camp Archery

So let’s say you get to summer camp and you’ve never tried archery. Sure you’ve seen it on TV and you know it means pulling back an arrow in a bow, releasing it while aiming at a target, and hopefully hitting the target in the center. But you’ve never really tried it before.

Summer Camp Archery GirlAt first, it’s kind of funny. After learning the basics about the equipment and how to shoot, you give archery a try and shoot arrows over, under, to the side, and anywhere but on the target. Slowly but surely though, each round lets you make small adjustments. A little coaching gets thrown in, and you are soon scoring points on the target.

Next thing you know, you’re hooked, and you’re selecting archery again for one of your daily camp activities. Archery becomes one of your favorite things to do at summer camp.

That’s cool, but what do you do when you get home from camp? How can you keep shooting, and improve you archer’s skills? Well, there might be a local archery club near you. You could also form an archery club and join the Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) organization.  If you can find an adult supervisor, set up a safe archery range, and gather the proper equipment, you can begin to practice shooting archery all year long.  This might be tough to do by yourself, but if you can get several friends and their parents to get excited about the idea, you can do it!  Your club can then compete in local or regional tournaments, and you might even be able to join the youth world team and compete in other countries representing America.

Archery can be a lifelong sport, and just think, it all started at summer camp.

Tetherball Games Strategies

Tetherball Playing StrategyDo you have this in common with Napoleon Dynamite— being a tetherball champ? Sure you’ve played before at camp, and you know how to play tetherball, but maybe you need a few more strategies to really pump up your game. Here’s a couple of things to practice.

The most important strategy is mastering an extreme angle when serving. By hitting the ball sharply down, it can swing high over your opponent’s head. This is always a good tactic.

It’s also important to use both hands when playing tetherball. You can hit the ball more powerfully, but also add unexpected spins and hits by changing which hand hits the ball. You can surprise and confuse the other player with different fast/slow, open/closed, left/right hand maneuvers.

Equally important to mastering tetherball is being quick on your feet. Moving forward and backward quickly, and knowing when to move sideways. This not only makes it difficult for the other player to decide how to serve or hit the ball, it gives you a better chance to make defensive hits.

Of course, being a tetherball sports champ takes practice, but that’s what camp is for!

OK, do you have any other tetherball tips, strategies or tactics?

Summer’s for Getting Outdoors!

Kids Outdoor Activity

In the recent debate over how many days kids should stay in school, it’s often claimed that they could learn more by shortening the summer vacation. More days studying math, science, arts and reading would make our kids more educated, it’s claimed. Certainly this is true; the more you study something, the better your competency in that subject. However, what is lost by taking time from summer and devoting it to further study? If we choose more school time, what are we neglecting as a result?

One thing that would clearly suffer, and something that summer camps are known to enhance, is time outside, sustained outdoor activity for kids. It’s during the summer that kids have the time and the permission to play outside. They can return to nature, explore all the amazing details of the environment, and really feel what so many of their ancestors felt outdoors. Being inside at school most of day, and for most of the days each year, there are very few opportunities for kids to enjoy outdoor activity. They suffer from what Richard Louv has now famously dubbed “Nature Deficit Disorder.” The psychological, personal and intellectual consequences of our kids losing touch of nature are now well understood, and are widely condemned. Extending our kid’s school year, and thereby further limiting their time outside in Nature deserves that same condemnation.

This is also an environmental protection issue. If we reduce the ability of our kids to experience and know the outdoors, we make it much less likely they will value and love it. If their Nature Deficit Disorder is made worse by reducing their time outside of school, they won’t feel strongly about the wonders Nature provides, and consequently they will feel less concern for protecting the environment. Not knowing and loving nature from their personal experience, they’ll be less apt to protect it. Here again, time outside (and away from school) makes kids more human. It provides another, equally important, form of education. Denying them opportunities to learn outside, even when in service of traditional academic learning, is a perilous position for us all.

Kayaking for Kids

Kid KayakerWhitewater kayaking is really catching on with the kids at Rockbook, and not just with our Seniors. Our Middlers, kids in the 5th or 6th grade, are also excited about kayaking.

You might think that is a little young to start such a technical sport, but the camp girls are usually quick to catch on to what’s involved. They learn about the equipment and basic techniques in the Rockbrook lake, and when ready, then move to one of the local rivers.

Even on the Rockbrook Camp property, there is a short section of the French Broad river that provides a great teaching rapid. It’s a nice cove of the river perfect for learning to ferry, peel out, and catch an eddy— three important kayaking maneuvers. Next stop? The Green, the Tuckaseegee, and the Nantahala rivers!

A Rock for Sliding and Swimming

Swimming Adventure Water Slide

How many times have you gone down sliding rock? In the Pisgah National Forest, not too far from Rockbrook’s kids camp, there’s a famous natural water slide formed by Looking Glass Creek as it slides down about 60 feet into a pool at the bottom. The US Forest service has improved the area and now provides lifeguards during the busy summer season.

Most sessions at camp, we’ll take our Middlers and Seniors over in the afternoon for some cool mountain fun. It’s swimming. It’s adventure. It’s thrills, and because it’s also a clear mountain creek, it’s chills too. The girls just love it!  On one trip last summer, some of the kids raced backed to the top and slid down 9 times!  Have you tried it?

Camp Tie Dye Crafts Forever

Tie Dyeing Shirt Camp Craft ActivityIt just wouldn’t be camp without a new tie dye t-shirt! In one of our camp craft activities called “Hodge Podge” we learn how to make the coolest shirts by folding, twisting and binding plain white t-shirts with rubber bands (lots!). The goal is to get creative with the patterns you make crinkling the shirt. Maybe a fan shape, a spiral, or a bullseye would work. Then with squirt bottles of different color dyes, you add colors to certain spots for even more variety. It pays to think about which colors are next to each other since the dyes soak in and blend a bit on the shirt. After leaving the shirts overnight, it’s so much fun to unwrap them and see how your design worked out. You can imagine that camp girls gather quite a collection of shirts over the years!

Want more info about tie dyeing as a camp craft activity? Here’s a “how to tie dye” page.