Robbie Francis from Go Swan Filmworks returned to camp for another day filming this week, and with more of his brilliant editing, produced this fun 2-minute video for us.
Take a look and you’ll see what I mean— these girls love camp.
One twilight, late in July of 1999, I sat on the Rockbrook hill with my counselor, watching the sun sink down behind the mountains.
Well, she was watching the sun. I was too preoccupied with the stream of words pouring uninterrupted from my mouth to give much thought to the scenery.
I had been writing a new story for the past few weeks, and my counselor had made the classic mistake of asking me what it was about. Forty-five minutes later, she was still nodding along, as I explained the great tragedy of the main character’s mother not understanding that taking time to do her homework would distract her from her duties as a spy (what my stories lacked in originality, they more than made up for in melodrama). My counselor asked all the right questions, laughed and gasped in all the right places, and, in all, served as the perfect sounding board for my eight-year-old yarn-spinning. I was delighted.
Today, I remember very little else about the story in question (thank goodness), and even the once-familiar face of my counselor has faded into a half-remembered smile from an old cabin photo. But what I do remember with perfect clarity were the sensations I felt that evening on the hill.
The astonishment at being asked about my story out of the blue.
The shyness with which I began–sure that she only wanted to hear the barest details.
The glee with which I greeted her many follow-up questions.
And, more than anything, the growing realization that she was going to let me keep talking. There was no polite smile, and change of subject as the details of my story got more and more intricate. There was no attempt to steer the conversation to a topic more interesting to her. There was no indication at all that my counselor would rather be anywhere else than right there on the hill, listening to a play-by-play of my story.
My whole life to that point, I had been trained on how best to be a kid in the grown-ups’ world. How to listen to what the grown-ups tell me. How to eat the food the grown-ups put in front of me without complaint. How to entertain myself or play with other kids rather than pester the grown-ups with constant requests for games or entertainment. How to recognize when the grown-ups are discussing something important, and wait my turn. How to be patient, quiet, seen and not heard. How, in short, to be a polite, well-behaved child. And these lessons weren’t a bad thing–they prepared me for the day when I would have to become a well-mannered adult.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that some of these lessons sank in better than others. I was, and still am, rarely seen without also being heard. But I was also always aware of how far I was trespassing beyond the bounds of good manners for a child. Whenever I talked to a grown-up, I would be waiting for the moment when I’d be told that my time was up, so that the grown-up could turn back to whatever grown-up matters there were to occupy their time.
And yet, there I was on the hill, treading far past the dictates of good manners, as I spent ten minutes describing the main character’s relationship with her best friend (and mortal enemy), and my counselor made no move to stop me.
It was during that wonderful hour on the hill, several days into my first session at camp, that I first began to understand the central truth of camp: this is not the grown-up world. It is proudly, defiantly, magnificently not the grown-up world. I was not a guest in this new camp world, there to have Very Important Life Lessons served up for me by the nearest available adult. I was an active participant in this community, able to make my own choices, talk until I was blue in the face, make my own mistakes, and craft my own camp experiences. And every adult in sight was there to make sure I had the time of my life while doing it.
These days, I have the rarer opportunity of being a grown-up at camp. I get to be the guest in kid-world. Whenever I get lost in the logistics of camp–those lists of names, activities, and out-of-camp trips that pass through my hands every day–I can be snapped out of it at any moment by an invitation to a dance party in a lodge, or to the newly opened spa in Junior 3. I can be asked to braid one girl’s hair on the steps of the dining hall, and find myself braiding six others in quick succession afterwards, because why on Earth should I say no?
I get to watch as campers spend the first few days of camp coming into their own, and taking ownership of this new world. I get to see the looks of dawning possibility when they first choose their own schedule for the next three days. I get to see them try the food on the dinner table and, if they decide it isn’t for them, head off to the salad bar to find something more to their liking. I get to see them come alive in kid-world, and realize that, unless their safety or someone else’s is at risk, we won’t hold them back from pushing their limits and experiencing new things.
But my favorite moment to watch will always be those one-on-ones between camper and counselor. When I get to see the moment that the child realizes that her ideas, opinions, and interests are sincerely appreciated by an adult she respects–an adult who will listen without promoting their own ideas as being better informed or more interesting.
That’s the moment when they realize they’ve entered kid-world, and it’s going to be better than they even imagined.
If you’ve been following our weather the last few days, you might be asking, “What happens when it rains at Rockbrook?” Well, what it feels like becomes more mysterious and enchanting, as the forest comes alive. With everything shiny and wet, the creeks louder and more powerful, all the greens around us deepen. The mist in the air adds touches of grey to each treetop and distant view of the mountains off the Junior line hill. It’s really beautiful.
What we do at camp depends a bit upon how much it’s raining. After all, a steady downpour is different than a light rain or drizzle. It also matters if there is lightning, which of course becomes a safety concern. The temperature can be important… warmer is better. And there can be real limitations for certain activities, like rock climbing, for example, that requires dry rock for enough friction to climb.
You might be surprised, though, how much camp life continues right through the sort of rain we had today. It was plenty warm, with patchy, light, only occasionally heavy, rain and no lightning at all. This meant we could still take advantage of the Rockbrook lake, swimming, kayaking and canoeing. Chrissy organized a fun relay race where the girls swam with tubes, passing (and wearing) a t-shirt back and forth. The canoes and kayaks also played games on the far side of the lake, paddling to reach a series of hula hoops strategically placed about. The WHOA class (Wilderness, Hiking, Outdoor Adventure) tromped around camp learning to navigate by compass. The zip line was humming all morning, and the tetherball courts kept swinging too.
Indoors, we were just as busy. The climbing staff moved their activity to our climbing wall. Located in one corner of the gym, it offers a great variety of climbing challenges including an overhanging section, a corner hand crack, and another “hand jam” crack to try. Also in the gym, there was a mean game of dodgeball, made extra fun by giving each squishy ball different “powers.” The gymnastics girls worked on the high bar and balance beams, and just a little further down in the woods at the riflery range, which has a covered shooting platform, the girls were shooting- slightly damp targets being no problem at all. The Hillside Lodge again became a yoga studio, with its purple mats neatly arranged, just as the Lakeview Lodge and its wall of mirrors served as the perfect space for girls to dance. Of course all of the arts and crafts activities carried on as usual too, with beaded bracelets, sewn tapestries, woven belts and baskets, clay mugs, and elaborate multi-media drawings receiving their finishing touches.
After rest hour today the girls were thrilled to learn about the “Biltmore Train” coming to camp. This is another long tradition at Rockbrook that’s essentially an all-you-can-eat ice cream affair. It’s name recalls the Biltmore Dairy’s ice cream truck and its regular camp visits. The Biltmore Dairy has long been closed (replaced with something having a little more draw for the tourists visiting the Biltmore House- a winery), but we still celebrate the occasion with just as much ice cream, stacks of cones, and excited campers going back for scoop after scoop. Too decadent, but absolutely exciting for the girls.
The afternoon today was filled with “Cabin Day” activities. These are offerings, ordinarily scheduled for Wednesday afternoons, when whole cabin groups stick together. The counselors usually surprise their cabins with something fun and different, like today when one group decorated their flip flops and raced them, floating, down the creek. Another tied colorful thread as hair wraps. Others decorated t-shirts and one painted a wooden plaque with the their names to hang in their cabin. The CA campers, who have lifeguards as their counselors, played around at the lake together. The entire Middler line, 89 people in all, took a trip into the National Forest for a picnic and ride down sliding rock. The weather cooperated perfectly, clearing up just as we arrived at our destination in the forest. Despite the air still being only in the 70s, most of us took a ride down the classic, all-natural water slide. And to really push things over the top, we all pulled in at Dolly’s Dairy Bar for another ice cream cone. The camp combination flavors, like “Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion,” are such a huge hit, we want everybody to have a chance to try one. Ice cream two times in one day for these Middlers: now that’s summer!
Around here at Rockbrook, we’re big fans of discussing why summer camp is so great for kids. There’s no doubt that spending time at camp is super fun and kids love it, but it’s also important for their personal, physical and social development. In so many ways, camp is something our modern kids need more than ever because it provides relief from unhealthy habits. It serves, as we’ve said before, as a “haven” for children. Take a look at some of our recent articles on the benefits of camp.
Over on the Web site What’s Up for Kids, Kathy Alessandra just posted an article entitled, “Five Reasons Your Child Needs Camp.” Reporting information from the American Camp Association and several well-respected studies, the article is a nice reminder of some very significant ways kids benefit from camp.
You should go read the article yourself for all the details, but here are the 5 reasons listed.
Of course, there’s a lot to each of these, but perhaps most importantly, this article is another reminder of how rare and valuable a summer camp experience is for our kids. Definitely a great thing!
Does it seem to you like we are living in an increasingly hectic world? Look around and you’ll see families, and more importantly kids, being pulled into a whirlwind of commitments and scheduled activities, all while having less time than ever for quieter, slower things. They’re holding a hectic pace rushing from school to sports practices, from homework to home chores, cutting short time with family, or just the freedom to pursue whatever comes to mind. With rushed meals, complex logistics for “getting things done” and that ragged feeling of not getting quite enough sleep, it’s no wonder kids can so easily be unhappy.
Could it be that by “doing everything we can” to help our kids succeed and achieve, we parents are unintentionally failing to do something else? By charging full speed ahead and taking advantage of every opportunity, what other important things are we missing?
It reminds me of a quote by Tomas Tranströmer (b. 1931), the Swedish poet who won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature. The author of more than 15 collections of poetry, Mr. Tranströmer has been described as “Sweden’s Robert Frost,” a poet who “gives us fresh access to reality… through his condensed, translucent images.” You definitely should look up his work. At any rate, he also wrote,
“You can see beauty if you look quickly to the side.”
Quite keenly, this is a prescription, a welcome reminder that beauty is all around us, that if we stop speeding ahead and take a quick glance to the side, something wonderful is right there waiting to be discovered. It might be as simple as a clump of grass squeezing itself between two bricks, or the decorative trim on an old man’s hat, but more importantly, it could be a person, or a new inspiring experience. It’s pretty clear that as our lives become more hectic, we are missing out on all kinds of subtleties and precious opportunities to expand what we already know. How unfortunate, especially for our kids!
Thankfully, there is summer, a time when kids can slow down and enjoy a meandering pace. And likewise, thank goodness for summer camp, that special place where kids meet wonderful people, and every day encounter fun activities and new experiences. Camp is just brimming with these kinds of positive opportunities to grow. It provides the right balance of structured instruction and free time to pursue casual interests “just for the fun of it.” At Rockbrook, the rewards of “looking quickly to the side” are frequent, rich and immediate.
While the rest of the world grows increasingly hectic, Rockbrook is an exception. And that’s a good thing.
Everyone experiences setbacks now and then, the occasional failed effort or unexpected misfortune. But what happens when you kids trip up or get knocked down? Do they stay down? Sink lower, and let that moment of failure defeat them? Or, do they bounce back, maybe learn from the experience, and gain a new dimension of confidence to face the next challenge? Put differently, how resilient are your kids?
Dr. Michael Ungar, a Social Worker, Family Therapist, and University Research Professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada has thought about this question a lot. He is a co-director of the Resilience Research Centre, an organization coordinating experts from around the world in sociology, psychiatry, education and medicine in a broad project to understand the cross-cultural similarities and differences in how resilience is understood, and to explore ways we can help children and young people be more resilient.
Several times before we’ve discussed how summer camp helps kids grow and how becoming more resilient is one of the clear benefits of camp. Now Dr. Ungar weighs in with a nice Psychology Today article entitled, “Summer Camps Make Kids Resilient.”
I encourage you to go read the article, but I wanted to summarize his main points here as well. Perhaps most importantly, Ungar identifies summer camp as a place where kids learn to do things for themselves without the kind of careful orchestration parents ordinarily provide. It’s a place where, instead, they can try challenging activities and take manageable risks, all while being provided encouragement and positive role models to help them learn to cope with disappointments.
Speaking from his research on resilience, Ungar pinpoints 7 important components of the summer camp experience children need to develop these coping strategies. These are seven things camp provides that help kids when they experience setbacks later in their lives.
There’s so much more to each of these, and I suspect interesting mechanisms that make them effective. What’s important to realize is that all of them are core ingredients of the camp experience here at Rockbrook. The program activities, staff training, and overall camp philosophy here work together to insure that our campers enjoy these beneficial experiences. Of course, we’re having a really great time together as well, just as we strengthen our powers of resilience.
When kids come to Rockbrook for camp, they know there’s going to be outdoor adventure happening, things like backpacking, kayaking and whitewater rafting, but they are sometimes surprised about all the rock climbing available. That’s mostly because there is simply so much rock to climb right here on the camp property, not to mention some of the famous rock climbing areas nearby in the Pisgah National Forest. But it’s also because learning to climb is so popular! No matter how old you are —yes, even the youngest kids— you can climb a real rock just about every day at Rockbrook.
Here’s how it works. Usually at breakfast or at dinner the night before, the rock climbing staff will announce a trip they have planned. Like for all of our adventure trips, the campers can then decide if they want to go. They make their own decision weather to go. It means giving up their regularly scheduled activities, and that can be a hard choice if you really love horseback riding or archery for example, but it also means enjoying the thrill of getting up on the rock. It helps to have experienced the fun of rock climbing to realize these trips are worth signing up for, but even after just one outing, campers learn how much of a treat they are. Some of these trips are short hikes up to a couple of the routes on Castle Rock, while others will be all-day adventures to one of the climbing areas on Looking Glass Rock.
The Rockbrook Camp rock climbing program is a big part of the adventure activities around here. Hey, let’s go climbing!
“Sending kids to camp allows children to grow and learn good citizenship, social integration, personal development and social development, exploring his or her capabilities and being in a safe environment where they can grow, gain independence and take risks.”—Troy Glover, the director of the University of Waterloo’s Healthy Communities Research Network
It’s pretty easy for those who have attended camp to speak enthusiastically about how much it’s meant to them. Campers themselves are full of glowing stories about their summer camp experiences, but even adult camp alumni, many years later, can trace aspects of their personal success back to their time at camp.
For others, though, how camp provides these important benefits, and what types of benefits to expect from a summer camp experience, are not apparent. It was this fact —the general public’s unawareness of what makes camp great for children— that prompted a team of Canadian researchers to study and evaluate the impact of a camp experience.
Working with camp directors, staff, campers and camp alumni, the researchers conducted surveys and compiled observations focused on what a summer camp provides and how that affects children over their time at camp. Read about the study, its background and findings, on this Web site.
The research aimed to demonstrate and understand the initial, intermediate, and long-term value of the summer camp experience, and found several significant outcomes. Most importantly, the study was able to pinpoint what “children first learn at camp, what they do with that learned material and what impact it then has on who they become.” The researchers were able to identify 5 main areas of this growth.
There is, of course, quite a bit to explain about each of these areas, so I encourage you to read more about the study’s findings on their site. Also, there is a nice article about the study, complete with great quotes from camp directors, campers and staff members, published in Vaughan Today.
This is exciting stuff! We’ve often discussed the benefits of camp for children, so it’s nice to see this kind of organized, methodical verification. Now spread the word! Let’s help others understand how uniquely “camp is a place for kids to grow.”
How many Facebook “friends” do you have? And how many of them are also your “real” friends? Of those, how many do you actually see or talk to regularly? It’s a strange modern American phenomenon that paradoxically, we have loads of these kind of casual contacts, acquaintances and loose relationships, but also often feel profoundly on our own. As we spend more of our time plugged into the virtual world of the Internet (a rather solitary activity, after all), as we are encouraged to be uniquely independent and value our “freedom,” and as we are increasingly “on the move” to pursue professional, financial or lifestyle “opportunities,” we seem to have been quick to sacrifice real friendships.
Daniel Akst, in his essay “America: Land of Loners?” published last year in the Wilson Quarterly, clearly makes this point. He describes how for so many of us, a fierce dedication to independence and self-sufficiency is robbing from us an important form of human relationship that can’t be replaced by one’s spouse, immediate family members (e.g., children, siblings, etc.), or pets. Combine this with complex demands on everyone’s time— work, school, chores, etc. —and it’s easy to see how it’s become quite difficult to make and maintain close friends.
I suspect, also, that children aren’t entirely immune to this phenomenon. They too, though perhaps less so than adults, struggle with being overly busy, with spending a lot of their time alone or online, and with having fewer opportunities to meet new people and share common rewarding experiences. The ordinary lives of children today are generally less suited to building a strong network of close, true friends. This is worrisome, especially when you consider that the forces behind this trend will only get stronger as our children grow older and take on greater responsibilities.
Ah, thankfully, there is camp, that magical place were kids get to relax a bit, take a break from the pressures of school and try some new things just for the fun of it. It’s a place to meet new people, share wonderful experiences, and simply do a lot of things together. Camp gets them outside, away from the buzz and flicker of electronic media, and allows children to explore who they are and be their authentic selves. All of this is the ideal setting to develop real friendships, to connect with others in meaningful ways. Camp is where your real friends are. And everyone will tell you, you have to come back to camp every summer… to be with your friends.
Camp is a haven, a place where children can fulfill their need for true friends, and is something we all can use nowadays.
One of the top reasons camp is great for kids is that it’s full of action! With almost 30 different camp activities, sports and adventures each day, everybody is on the move. Girls are zipping around Rockbrook all day long, up and down the hills, in and out of the lake, and from here to there with their friends. Camp is moment after moment of “Hey, Let’s go… (fill in the blank)!”
Even better, most of this action happens outside. So in addition to the simple physical benefits of being active, campers also find themselves being more relaxed, more perceptive, and even more caring. The research supporting the positive effects of outdoor experience for children is strong and convincing.
Now there is a national campaign that recognizes and supports most of this. Launched by First Lady Michelle Obama, this initiative, titled “Let’s Move!“, is dedicated to solving the problem of childhood obesity in America by encouraging common sense strategies and providing important information to improve child nutrition and physical activity. Our kids need to eat healthier food and to be more active if we are to address this growing problem.
Camp can easily be seen as a model for the Let’s Move! initiative. After all, outdoor activity is the name of the game around here at Rockbrook, but also, we proudly serve excellent, nutritious meals, using local produce when we can, avoiding trans-fats, and making most things from scratch. If you haven’t seen our Taste of Rockbrook video, check it out and see what I mean.
As we, and the Let’s Move! initiative, advocate for a more healthy, active, balanced life for children, let’s get our kids outside this summer, and let’s get them to camp!
Adventure - Wilderness and outdoor adventure sports for summer camp girls like hiking backpacking kayaking and rock climbing.
Archery - Archery camp activity for girls at Rockbrook includes instruction in equipment care, shooting technique, and scoring.
Arts - Arts camp activities include ceramics, fiber arts, painting, drawing, leatherwork, needle point, beadwork, jewelry making, and crafts.
Campers - The campers who attend girls summer camp Rockbrook are 6-16 years old and are primarily from the southeastern United States.
Children - Children ages 6-16 attend summer camps at Rockbrook Camp for Girls in Brevard North Carolina.
Counselors - Counselors work teaching activities and serve as mentors for the children at Rockbrook Summer Camp for Girls.
Dance - Dance, including modern tap jazz and ballet, is a fun way for girls to be active at summer camp.
Drama - Drama activities and producing our camp play provide creative performance opportunities for girls at Rockbrook.
Games - Playing games at camp is a big part of the fun girls enjoy everyday while in their activities and during periods of free time.
Girls Camps - The overnight girls camps at Rockbrook are designed for all girls ages six through sixteen, or 1st through 10th grade.
Gymnastics - Gymnastics camp activities, training, fun and sport are popular with many girls at Rockbrook Summer Camp.
Hiking - Hiking and backpacking in the woods are favorite outdoor activities for the many girls at Rockbrook Camp.
History - Information, photographs, and thoughts about the history of Rockbrook Camp
Horseback Riding - Everything about the horseback riding program, horsemanship, and horses at Rockbrook summer camp for girls.
Nature - Daily encounters with Nature and the natural world provide rich opportunities for girls to expand their imagination at summer camp.
News - News updates about the latest happenings, events and surprises at Rockbrook Sleepaway Summer Camp for Girls.
North Carolina - Information about Rockbrook's North Carolina camps, regional and statewide camp facilities and features.
Outdoors - Rockbrook is an outdoors summer camp for girls with outdoor adventure activities offered in nearby wilderness areas, forests and woods.
Riflery - Riflery and marksmanship activities including safety and shooting techniques at Camp Rockbrook for Girls.
Rock Climbing - The rock climbing, bouldering, traditional climbing for girls, kids, children and teens at summer camp Rockbrook.
Summer Camp - Information, thinking and ideas about summer camp drawn using examples from Rockbrook Camp for girls located in the mountains of Brevard, North Carolina.
Swimming - Swimming games, swimming lessons, and diverse water activity fun at girls' summer camp Rockbrook
Tennis - Tennis, tennis instruction, tennis games, tennis fun sport camp activities and info for camp Rockbrook