A Place of Their Own

teen camp girls singing

Sunday morning got off to a peaceful start with the sun shining, campers smiling, and donuts at breakfast. After flag raising, our chapel theme today was Individuality, and was led by our Senior line. Speakers were asked “what does individuality mean to you?,” and several cabins led songs along the same theme. It was apt to have the teenage seniors lead this chapel since they have had the most experience learning to be themselves at camp.

One speaker explained that, to her, you need to be comfortable enough first before expressing yourself. This idea of comfort stuck with me, because it illustrates the feeling that is needed in order for you to share who you are. You can be comfortable in your own skin, but perhaps not comfortable in your surrounding environment. Both levels of comfort are essential in order to express your individuality, and at camp we strive to cultivate an accepting, loving environment in which girls can freely be themselves.

three teen girls in camp uniforms

Outside of camp, we are all faced with pressures to act, dress, speak, or be a certain way. Expectations from school, peers, family, or society as a whole can weaken our desire to truly express ourselves. Whether this pressure comes from an internal or external source, it influences our actions and thoughts all the same. At Rockbrook, we try to minimize these pressures. Part of our mission “is to provide a haven for girls, a place of their own.” We aim to provide a place where girls can practice being their own person—a space to be your most genuine self.

This afternoon, campers had a chance to practice just this at our Miss RBC talent show! Each cabin gets an opportunity to get on the stage in the gym and share a special talent. Some cabins create songs, dances, or even a non-talent talent show skit! Every act is unique, silly, and creative, showcasing the diversity of imaginations amongst the campers. The variety of costumes (avocados and tutus), goofy answers to questions (“dirt” as a new Dolly’s ice cream flavor), and the laughs from the audience (good-natured and frequent) were proof that Rockbrook is a place for girls to be their most unabashed, genuine selves.

scarecrow dressed child

Forgiving Each Other Daily

friendships and community at summer camp

If you ask most people why they come to camp, the friendships and community will probably be high on the list. Rockbrook’s entire focus is on relationships; it’s the foundation of everything else. Even teen camp girls talk about how their friendships at camp are different than other friends: they get closer more quickly. There are many reasons for this: the ability to be oneself without the same judgment that they experience at home, the prevalence of real conversations that are uninhibited by technology, the idyllic setting and the slower pace of life at camp are all apart of it. Yet there is also a part of it that we do not talk about as often, but I think it may be one of the most important lessons we learn at camp: the ability to have differences and disagreements, and to learn how to compromise and forgive one another.

Living together is mostly fun: we experience the connection that comes with being part of something bigger than ourselves, to get to know others from different backgrounds, to experience laughing so hard our stomachs hurt when someone reflects on their “high, low, funny.” Yet living together can also be uniquely challenging, and I don’t think we really would want it any other way. We are asked to consider the group’s needs before our own, to refill the basket of bread if we were the last ones to get a piece, to go along with a skit idea even if it wasn’t our first choice, to do chores for the good of the cabin. We learn how to work together in order to achieve a common goal.

According to Tuckman’s stages of group development, these sacrifices are less challenging in the beginning of a group’s time together, what he terms the “forming” stage. This is where everyone is still getting to know the others, and everyone is careful of everything. Making the small sacrifices is easy for the first few days; then, it gets more challenging, what Tuckman calls the “storming” phase. This is when we know each other well enough to express our individual needs, to talk about what we could do better. Frequently, people shy away from the storming phase, but it’s actually a great sign in group development. Storming means that we trust each other with our personal needs, can loosen up and feel more at home, and in having more challenging conversations, we are able to move into deeper levels of friendship. Then, we get into norming, which is the stage when we move past the storms and learn to live with each other in this closer, deeper space.

summer camp girls ready for a skit

Of course, during storming, conflict can arise. We will all face conflict so many times in our lives, but what makes camp special is the way it prepares campers to resolve conflict in a safe environment with lots of support. A common time for conflict to arise during storming is while planning skits, or while planning an event like today’s Miss RBC. Miss RBC is an event that is a spoof on a beauty pageant, where all cabins perform a “talent” (usually a song or a skit) for the rest of the camp. Then, at the end, the representative from the cabin who won is crowned “Miss RBC.” The event is so joyful to watch, with cabinmates proud of each other for their finished product. Yet until then, it is challenging to come up with a concept, get the entire cabin to agree on it, and practice until it is where you want it to be. Everyone wants their idea to be heard and understood, and wants to have just the perfect role. When this doesn’t happen, sometimes conflict arises. We continue to ask campers to plan skits and Miss RBC, though, partly because it presents them with a challenge. In tackling that challenge and reaching a final product, campers learn a multitude of intangible lessons about the challenges and possibilities that come from working together.

At home, when we are faced with a conflict, we may go hide in our rooms or get away from the situation. At camp, we have to address it, and though this is challenging, it also teaches us that conflict is okay and empowers us to learn how to resolve it and compromise. Here is a place where, if conflict becomes overwhelming, girls will go find their counselor, and their counselor will model a calm and fair way of resolving it. It’s a place where we learn how to deal with some of these conflicts ourselves. And it’s a place where we learn how to be forgiving.

I once had a professor who told our class, “I truly believe that we are forgiving each other daily,” and I think this applies so aptly to camp life. We all have to make compromises every day when we are all living together, like waiting for the girl who is running late to archery or letting a cabinmate have the lead role in the skit. Yet we are in a place that reminds us that, even when it’s hard, we should always look for the best in others. So we learn to forgive, to be friends even after we have been frustrated with someone, to put into perspective what is a big deal, and what we do not need to spend our energy on. We learn that we are worthy of being loved even when we make a mistake or hurt someone else’s feelings. It is through conflict and forgiving each other that our friendships deepen and grow in our ability to solve problems, and keep patience and perspective.

skit performance of girls cooperating

Every night before bed, girls say the Rockbrook Prayer, reciting in part, “Forgive us if we are unkind and help us to forgive those who are unkind to us.” In this quietly profound hope that we say together, we end our day with a fresh slate, a new beginning for the next day. We take responsibility for the humanness in us and accept the humanness in others. This is such an important part of growing up and being a good person, and living together in community enables us to practice conflict resolution and compromise a lot, to figure out how to graciously respond when we are frustrated with each other, or when we don’t get exactly what we want. That’s what it means to be part of something larger than ourselves, and we are so lucky to have a place like Rockbrook that allows us to care so much about our community that we are willing to forgive and compromise with them.

Don’t You Ever Worry About a Thing

Sometimes at camp, I ask my girls what their schedule is like at home. Their answers amaze me: their days are jam packed with school, sports, and other activities. My campers are in high school and, as high achievers, I am really impressed that they are able to balance everything and still have time for friends and fun. Still, there is a lot on their plate: between basketball, dance, really challenging classes, and other pressures, many say they get stressed.

They view Rockbrook as a break from that, and Rockbrook is uniquely suited to providing a less stressful environment. At camp, I think we take a step back and look at what really matters, and have patience with the rest. It’s a place where a camper doesn’t have to worry about being reprimanded if she is five minutes late to an activity. Instead, she is greeted with a smiling face and excitement. It’s a place where we wear costumes and do crazy dance moves without fear of being judged. It’s a place where ‘perfect’ doesn’t really matter, but being a good friend does. Without the stresses of our outside lives and with a really loving and supportive community, girls feel profoundly comfortable to try new things and get close with people.

Girls in black with red face hand print

Sundays at Rockbrook really exemplify this. We take things a little slower on Sundays. After the girls’ dance last night, everyone was exhausted, so the extra hour of sleep was greeted with joy. We then ate Krispie Kreme donuts for breakfast (a camp tradition!) before going to chapel. The juniors and middlers led chapel this morning, and we all reflected on the theme of “Playfulness.” We sang songs like ‘Zip a Dee Do Dah’ and girls shared their thoughts on playfulness and how they think about it at camp. It was a perfect way to spend the morning before a delicious muffin break and tidying up our cabins.

camp girls holding award

After that, we had Assembly on the Hill. This is a time for the entire camp to come together and honor cabins with the famous ‘Mop Award,’ or a prize for the cleanest cabin. We also honored girls who were outstanding in the categories of Spirit, Manners, and Bend-a-Back, which means going the extra mile for a friend. After, we watched as the counselors had an old-fashioned water balloon toss. The middlers won!

We have a good amount of down time on Sundays, and everyone appreciates the chance to have a break and hang out for a little bit of time. Bop It has been big in my cabin this session, along with Trivial Pursuit and playing drums. During a stretch of time today, my cabin of fifteen-year-old girls spent time playing together in the creek. Every cabin has something that brings their cabin together, and it is nice to have a little bit of ease in the schedule so we have time to hang out with no rush of going somewhere else.

This afternoon, we had an extra long rest hour (such an important part of the day!) and then it was time for Miss RBC. Miss RBC is basically a talent show where each cabin puts on a skit for the rest of camp. Girls get very creative—the CA’s played drums and interpretively danced/sang to Eye of the Tiger. Senior 4 rewrote the lyrics to ‘Hush Little Baby,’ singing, “You’re going to follow the cardinal bird.” Middler 4 ended up winning—they did a time traveling skit that went through the decades starting in the twenties. They sang songs and did dances from each decade—it was incredibly impressive! Everyone in the audience was wide-eyed and clapped wildly after the performance!

camp skit performance
award winning camper

For Miss RBC, we don’t use outside music or flashy lights. We just need the stage of the gym and a lot of imagination. I think there is something beautiful in the way we are completely captivated and entertained even without all of the distractions we usually would have at home. It is such a simple event to put on, but everyone enjoys performing and celebrating others’ talents.

After dinner, we had a barn party as the twilight activity! Girls could choose to walk down to the barn, play with the horses, eat a Popsicle, and watch the drill team perform! The drill team is comprised of girls who love riding, and they were able to synchronize their moves—it was quite a performance! Afterwards, the drill team members got Dolly’s, an extra special treat!

After a wonderful day of relaxation, it was time for movie night! Girls look forward to this every Sunday night. They bring down sleeping bags and pillows and curl up next to their good friends and watch great movies. Tonight, it was Zootopia! Every age group loves this movie, and many had not seen it before!

Tomorrow, we will return to a normal schedule, which is great because we get to continue doing so many activities! Still, today was a needed day of relaxation. Camp is winding down. Next Thursday, we will be back in our normal lives, back with all of the worries, joy, and support that come with that. What we have learned at camp, though, does not need to stay at camp. Rockbrook teaches us to slow down and reconsider what is important and what is not. We stop worrying about how we are perceived, and we realize that perfection is not the expectation. The biggest lesson I hope we take with us when we leave these mountains is simply: I Am Enough.

Where Everyone Has a Place

Ever since Harry Potter Day, I have been thinking a lot about personality. In the context of Harry Potter, it comes down to which house would I be in? The brave and chivalrous Gryffindor? The friendly and loyal Hufflepuff? The intellectual, witty Ravenclaw? The ambitious, cunning Slytherin? Of course, personality is not so neatly cut between these categories (and that is never how it was originally intended in the series). Still, the diversity of personalities at camp is possibly its greatest treasure. Rockbrook, in particular, is a place where girls from many personalities can fit right in and feel at home. Girls are free to be honest and bold, or shy and peaceful; there are times when outgoing and loud girls let their personalities shine, but also times for quiet contemplation. Today’s agenda displayed how Rockbrook is able to play to all kinds of interests and personalities, and how everyone can find a part of the day that fulfills their needs.

Everyone was looking forward to today, a day that allowed us to sleep in and get some needed rest as we prepared for our final week at camp. We awoke at nine and then went to breakfast in our pajamas. Krispie Kreme donuts were placed on our tables, a favorite Sunday tradition, and then we went back to cabins to get in whities and get ready for chapel.

camp girls guitar singing

We stood in a horseshoe shape and raised the flag before quietly reflecting on the walk to chapel. Chapel is one of my favorite spaces and times at camp. So often, camp is loud: singing in the dining hall, cheering on friends on the hill. During chapel, though, we find a peaceful place to reflect on an important theme of camp. Today’s theme was bliss, or the light continuous feeling of happiness. The senior line led chapel this morning, so two girls played guitar as girls filed in. Then, they led song such as ‘Let’s Go Fly a Kite’ (complete with kites as props), ‘Unwritten,’ and ‘Wildflowers.’ The girls spoke about what bliss meant to them and how it related to life at camp.

After chapel, we cleaned cabins and tried to get our belongings organized. Sunday provides a perfect opportunity to reset for the week ahead. Then, we gathered on the hill for another Sunday tradition, Assembly on the Hill. This is a time that is loud where girls and cabins get recognized for their efforts throughout the week. All of the lines sing their line song loudly and then line heads present cabins and individuals with awards. The Mop Award is for the cabin that has the most points from inspection, and the Spirit Award, Manners Award, and Bend-a-Back Award go to individual campers who have been examples of spirit, etiquette, and going above and beyond for others. It is a challenging decision because there are so many reasons every camper could earn each award! Then, all of the mermaids and bull’s-eye club members were honored. Assembly on the Hill is a great time to show your cabin pride and so many girls cheered loudly for their friends as they were honored!

This afternoon, we had Miss RBC. This is a time-honored Rockbrook tradition where cabins gather together to present a short skit, song, or dance in front of the rest of camp. This year, we have asked campers not to use background music (they couldn’t use an iPod) so they had to be more creative and come up with their own music. Their talents were amazing—some cabins performed skits about life in the dining hall; some cabins danced and stomped; some made Rockbrook versions of songs (“We started as Pen Pals, and now we’re besties” was substituted for “So here’s my number, now call me maybe”). This was an event where every girl could get involved. Girls have a lot of practice planning performances because they plan skits most nights during evening program. In our cabin, many girls love dancing, so they were able to patiently teach everyone a dance that everyone agreed on in record time! The performances were met with enthusiastic response for every cabin, and we were all thoroughly entertained while listening to a representative from each cabin answer fun questions like “If you had a pool of Jello, what kind would you jump in and why?”

fun camp girls as friends

For twilight tonight, we had a very special event: a string trio and quartet from the Brevard Music Center came to Rockbrook and gave us a performance as we ate dessert! One of the musicians talked about the different periods in musical history (baroque, classical, and romantic), and they played examples of each. Girls had the opportunity to ask about the instruments and the experiences of each musician. Sitting there listening to beautiful music after an action-packed and energy-filled day could not have been a better end to the day. Many girls loved the opportunity to listen to fine music and get lost in their own thoughts as inspired by what was being played. It was a calmer, more contemplative (yet still interactive) way to spend the evening, and it made me appreciate how everyone could take something beautiful away from this day.

classical music at summer camp

We lived a lovely day today. Chapel and the string ensemble gave us time to be contemplative and reflect on all of the action we have lived. Miss RBC and Assembly on the Hill gave us times to be loud and enthusiastic, basking in the spirit of camp. In the coming, final days, we will find other activities that meet our needs. Activities like curosty, needlecraft, and yoga give us a calm space to center ourselves whereas sports and games, swimming, and climbing give us more opportunities to live out loud. At Rockbrook, some girls like to have conversations in small groups whereas others love big groups and being the life of the party. Some girls love crowds and spirit, and others love the calm peace of nature. Most girls love both, which is great, because Rockbrook is able to provide an atmosphere that suits every type of girl and that celebrates every type of personality.

Lollipop Moments

by Chrissy Swartz, Waterfront Director

RBC started off our lazy Sunday with a full extra hour of sleep and a special treat of Krispy Kreme donuts for breakfast. The girls came to the dining hall in their pajamas, and then returned to their lines after breakfast to tidy up both their cabins and themselves in preparation for Cabin Inspection and Chapel. Chapel at Rockbrook is always a meaningful experience full of sharing communal values in a supportive, safe place.

Camp Chapel

Today’s theme, goodwill, promoted feelings of kindness and awareness towards others, in addition to being the namesake of one of our oldest buildings on the property—the home to our camp library and the activity K.I.T. (Keep In Touch).

Girls from every age group volunteered to share stories and sentimental objects that they believed symbolized goodwill. Many of the stories focused on the idea that a small act of kindness towards someone else can start a domino effect of good deeds. No matter how small an act of goodwilll is, its impact can be monumental.

One counselor shared a story she remembered from a TED Talk, an organization devoted to the spread of ideas in Technology, Entertainment and Design. The video of the talk is below, filmed September 2010 at TEDxToronto. I highly encourage you to watch the short video for the full story. However, I have also included the meat of the transcript below that I felt connected well to our chapel theme. This is the story of lollipop moments.

Drew Dudley: Everyday Leadership [transcript]

I went to a little school called Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. And on my last day there, a girl came up to me and said, “I remember the first time I met you.” And she told me a story that had happened four years earlier. She said, “On the day before I started university, I was in the hotel room with my mom and dad, and I was so scared and so convinced that I couldn’t do this, that I wasn’t ready for university, that I just burst into tears. My mom and dad were amazing. They were like, “We know you’re scared, but let’s just go tomorrow, go to the first day, and if at any point you feel as if you can’t do this, that’s fine; tell us, and we’ll take you home. We love you no matter what.'”

She says, “So I went the next day. I was in line for registration, and I looked around and just knew I couldn’t do it; I wasn’t ready. I knew I had to quit. I made that decision and as soon as I made it, an incredible feeling of peace came over me. I turned to my mom and dad to tell them we needed to go home, and at that moment, you came out of the student union building wearing the stupidest hat I’ve ever seen in my life.”

“It was awesome. And you had a big sign promoting Shinerama,”—which is Students Fighting Cystic Fibrosis, a charity I’ve worked with for years—”And you had a bucket full of lollipops. You were handing the lollipops out to people in line, and talking about Shinerama. All of the sudden, you got to me, and you just stopped. And you stared. It was creepy.”

“Then you looked at the guy next to me, smiled, reached into your bucket, pulled out a lollipop, held it out to him and said, ‘You need to give a lollipop to the beautiful woman next to you.'” She said, “I’ve never seen anyone get more embarrassed faster in my life. He turned beet red, he wouldn’t even look at me. He just kind of held the lollipop out like this.”

“I felt so bad for this dude that I took the lollipop. As soon as I did, you got this incredibly severe look on your face, looked at my mom and dad and said, ‘Look at that! Look at that! First day away from home, and already she’s taking candy from a stranger?!'”

She said, “Everybody lost it. Twenty feet in every direction, everyone started to howl. I know this is cheesy, and I don’t know why I’m telling you this, but in that moment when everyone was laughing, I knew I shouldn’t quit. I knew I was where I was supposed to be; I knew I was home. And I haven’t spoken to you once in the four years since that day. But I heard that you were leaving, and I had to come and tell you you’ve been an incredibly important person in my life. I’m going to miss you. Good luck.”

And she walks away, and I’m flattened. She gets six feet away, turns around, smiles and goes, “You should probably know this, too: I’m still dating that guy, four years later.”

A year and a half after I moved to Toronto, I got an invitation to their wedding.

Here’s the kicker: I don’t remember that. I have no recollection of that moment. I’ve searched my memory banks, because that is funny and I should remember doing it and I don’t. That was such an eye-opening, transformative moment for me, to think that maybe the biggest impact I’d ever had on anyone’s life, a moment that had a woman walk up to a stranger four years later and say, “You’ve been an important person in my life,” was a moment that I didn’t even remember.

How many of you guys have a lollipop moment, a moment where someone said or did something that you feel fundamentally made your life better? All right. How many of you have told that person they did it? See, why not? We celebrate birthdays, where all you have to do is not die for 365 days. Yet we let people who have made our lives better walk around without knowing it. Every single one of you has been the catalyst for a lollipop moment. You’ve made someone’s life better by something you said or did. If you think you haven’t, think of all the hands that didn’t go up when I asked. You’re just one of the people who hasn’t been told.

Rockbrook is full of lollipop moments shared among campers and counselors alike. So many of our values at RBC encourage us to share and support and grow alongside each other while at camp. I truly believe every Rockbrook girl has a lollipop moment in mind when she immediately begs to sign up for next summer as she waves goodbye to this year’s cabinmates and counselors. And I also truly believe that we have all inspired those moments in others, whether we are aware of our impact or not.

It was very fitting that our afternoon culminated in another Rockbrook special event, Miss RBC, which asks each cabin to collaborate on a skit of some sort. Remixes of traditional Rockbrook songs, rewrites of chart-topping hits, and some groovy dance moves were only a few of the highlights of the skits. Other girls chose to make their own music with their hands and feet and voices, or with props, including pots and pans.

missRBC

This event always challenges the girls in some way or another. It requires teamwork, communication, and compromise. But in the end, every skit comes together to form something beautiful that includes each and every camper in some way. It’s a celebration of taking a chance, of getting up on stage in crazy costumes to perform in front of a lot of other people, knowing the whole time that you’re not alone, that the girls on either side of you are also wearing a similar goofy costume and singing their hearts out about muffin breaks in harmony with you.

The entire point of Miss RBC is to be confident while looking and acting silly, together. That’s pretty much the goal of camp in general, too.

“There’s power in looking silly and not caring that you do.”   –Amy Poehler

Having the confidence to laugh at yourself for wearing three pairs of sunglasses and a pink boa inspires others around you to be confident and goofy. It lets our true and authentic selves shine through. I can think of no better place than Rockbrook where we can explicitly recognize these lollipop moments, and also intentionally create them. We pay it forward at camp; and in return we receive encouragement, love, and friendship.

My parting words this evening, then, are as follows: Peace on earth, goodwill to men, and pink boas for all.

potsandpans

Going Old-School

The Winners!

On Sunday, our campers took part in a longtime Rockbrook tradition: Miss RBC. Judging by its name alone, you might think that Miss RBC is just a regular, run-of-the-mill beauty pageant. You might also wonder, then, why it has any place at a summer camp that doesn’t tend to glorify those things that are glorified in typical beauty pageants.

Not to worry, though—our Miss RBC is a glorification only of the most Rockbrook-y values: silliness, fun, crazy costumes, and teamwork. The “contestants” (one from each cabin) put on their craziest costumes, parade around the gym doing their funniest beauty-pageant walk, and answer questions such as “Would you rather get to school every day riding an elephant, a dragon, or a witch’s broom?” (The answer that was given to this question, incidentally, was “elephant,” though I myself would have chosen the broomstick—the relative discomfort is outweighed by the fact that it can neither step on you, nor set you on fire).

A Cappella
Question-and-Answer

Girls that, at school, might only be praised for their looks or their popularity, are celebrated here for the size of their sombrero, or for the fact that they knew that the only logical response to the question “What is something that should never be vacuumed,” was, “The fur of a medium-sized squirrel.”

Why was that the answer? Who knows. But the response was hilarious, and the whole gym applauded hard and loud for that contestant.

Still, the contestants’ question-and-answer portion is only one part of the Miss RBC process. The part that the campers (and staff) look forward to the most is definitely the talent portion. In the talent portion, entire cabins take the stage to perform something together—sometimes it is a dance, or an original song, or a skit, or anything else that they can think of. In recent years, the campers have tended to focus on elaborate dances, set to their favorite songs, which we play over the loudspeaker.

The Cup Song
CA's Talent

This session, however, we decided to throw a twist into these usual proceedings: no pre-recorded music. That’s right, we went old-school. We were a bit nervous, when we made this announcement, that it might throw the girls off and make for a less exciting talent show; as usual, however, we shouldn’t have doubted that our campers would rise to the occasion.

What unfolded Sunday afternoon, was absolutely the best Miss RBC I’ve ever seen. Cabins wrote and performed songs, sang in a cappella, performed beautiful dances while one cabinmate sang a pop song into the microphone, and one cabin even brought out pots and pans from the kitchen and performed a percussion piece. The talents were imaginative and daring, and all were incredibly impressive. We were so proud to see our campers rise to this new challenge and put on such a great show!

For The Fun Of It

Searching for Tadpoles

“Non-competitive” is a word that gets a lot of use here at camp. It serves as a reminder to campers and staff alike to pursue camp activities for the joy of it—for the thrill of acquiring new skills, and embarking on new adventures—not for the sake of victory.

Rafters in the Mist

We do our best to bring this non-competitive flavor to every facet of camp life.  Every cabin gets their own unique “award” for their skits during Evening Program (“Best Break-Dancing Statue of Liberty,” and “Best Impression of a Watermelon” were some recent favorites of mine), every cabin gets a prize at the end of Counselor Hunt, and every girl even gets their own birthday cake on Birthday Night, so the fall-, winter-, and spring-babies aren’t left out.

It isn’t that we think competition is bad. On the contrary, competition can be exciting, enriching, and even wholesome in the right setting. What we do try to promote at camp, though, that might be different from the messages of schools and sports teams, is replacing the drive to win with the drive to accomplish.

Teamwork in the Lake

We encourage our campers to accomplish as much as possible in their time at camp. We offer reams of friendship-bracelet designs of increasing complexity for them to try their hands at. We coax tentative swimmers into swimming class, so they can work on their strokes with the lifeguards. We stand patiently at the bottom of the Alpine Tower, to talk nervous climbers all the way to the top. That heady sense of awe and disbelief when a camper achieves something she didn’t think she would be capable of is one of the greatest parts of the camp experience, and usually occurs in each girl at least once when she’s here.

While we encourage accomplishments like these whenever we can, we also do our best to take away the push and pressure to achieve them. We let girls work at their own pace, for example, and allow them to drop activities that don’t interest them after just three days, rather than forcing them to continue, as might happen in a school. We help them to enjoy the process as much as the result, to gain more from the experience than from the prizes at the end.

Dancing to "Grease"
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

More importantly, we also try to strip away the urge to “get there first” that can be so prevalent in the outside world. That is, we take away that need to get to the top before anyone else, and to win at the expense of everyone else, that can so dampen the fun of any activity.

A perfect demonstration of this came in our Miss RBC pageant Sunday afternoon. Each cabin spent last week crafting their very own cabin “talent” for the show, which could have been a dance, a song, a skit, or anything else they could think of. All last week, I saw cabins working during their free times, planning during meals, and scavenging costume bins around camp, all to create the perfect talent for Miss RBC.

Every camper participated, and gave their all, making it a truly spectacular show. There were elaborately choreographed dances to songs from “Mamma Mia,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” and “Beauty and the Beast,” original songs about checking for lice and the joys of camp, and one wonderful skit put on by our youngest campers, acting out one of our favorite camp songs, “I’m a Little Coconut.”

Skipping

The most remarkable thing about the show, though, was the genuine enthusiasm with which each cabin cheered for all the others. Each cabin seemed thrilled simply to be able to put on their own talent for the rest of the camp, and derived just as much enjoyment from watching all the others’. There was no uneasiness when campers saw a cabin that did particularly well, and no jealousy or resentment displayed toward the cabin that ultimately won the pageant. Indeed, that cabin found themselves surrounded by well-wishers as soon as the show was finished. The winning cabin was proud, of course, that they had won, but I heard more of them complimenting the other cabins on their talents than touting their own accomplishment.

Camp, of course, is a unique environment, but I always hope that this is a lesson that our campers take with them into the outside world. That something should be created, a task achieved, or a goal accomplished, simply for the satisfaction of accomplishing it, rather than for the attendant recognition and glory.

A Team Effort

Miss RBC Contestants


This Sunday, the girls of Rockbrook gathered in a peaceful little corner of camp for chapel, a non-religious service that gives our campers and counselors quiet time to reflect on the week, and discuss some of the most important values that we promote here at camp. This week the theme of chapel was “Creativity,” so girls of the Junior and Middler lines stood before their peers to express the importance of creativity in camp life.

Camp girls outdoor ceremony

There was talk of our crafts classes, of course—of the toothbrush-holders made in pottery, the baskets woven in Curosty, the bracelets beaded in jewelry making. There was mention of the play, of the dedication that it takes to create something special for everyone to enjoy. And several girls brought up the nightly creative endeavor, Evening Program, in which every cabin works together to put on a skit.

It was this last sort of creativity, in which the girls work together to create something new, that came to the forefront later that day in the Miss RBC pageant, after the crisp white uniforms of the morning had been replaced with the colorful—if slightly dirty—play clothes of the afternoon.

Far removed from the beauty pageants you might see on TV, the Miss RBC pageant calls for one member of each cabin to dress up in the craziest, most over-the-top costume they can come up with and answer a silly question, such as “What’s your favorite jelly bean flavor, and why?” While it’s always fun to see the costumes that the pageant contestants and their cabin-mates put together (my particular favorite was the senior with toilet paper wrapped over her clothes, and her ponytail threaded through a plastic cup), the real highlight of the show is the talent portion.

Group dance move

All week, each cabin worked together to plan a skit, dance, song, or puppet show to impress the judges. The ideas that they came up with were truly impressive. From juniors adapting a Rockbrook song into a moving (and hilarious) saga about a mermaid and a shark, to Middlers singing their own arrangement of songs a capella, to seniors choreographing elaborate dance routines, the show had it all, and proved to be immensely entertaining for everyone involved.

More exciting still were the looks of pride and accomplishment worn by the campers of each and every cabin as they trooped off stage after performing for the camp. Especially those campers who had been nervous to step onstage beforehand looked thrilled to have accomplished the feat, and to have done it all with their friends and cabin-mates standing right beside them.

RBC contest winning