Amazing Things Happening

Special events happen just about everyday at Rockbrook. Often announced as a surprise, they could be special craft workshops like a woodworking demonstration. They could be a costume theme for a meal, like tonight when the girls dressed like their favorite celebrity. Of course, there are always special outdoor adventure trips announced in the dining hall each day— canoeing on the French Broad River, rock climbing on Looking Glass Rock, or an overnight backpacking trip into the Pisgah National Forest. During the period of free time after dinner that we call “Twilight,” we often announce surprise events, for example a drum circle, or when the girls could build “fairy boxes” down at the camp garden, or head to the gym for 45 minutes of Zumba.

Camp Tower climbing blindfolded
Dance Camp Class
Kid pottery tile making
Painting Class summer camp
Fire Roasting Marshmallows

Meanwhile, everyday there’s amazing things happening in all of the in-camp activity areas. For example, the Alpine tower provides our girls with fantastic climbing challenges. With more than 30 different ways to climb up (all 50 feet to the top), it takes quite a while to “do it all.” Plus, some girls are now climbing the tower blindfolded… just for the fun and the added challenge. Some of the routes up are already really difficult with swinging obstacles and overhanging sections. So, it’s incredible to watch some of the girls successfully climb without being able to see! Swinging on your belay rope (sometimes upside down) while being lowered down is a nice thrill that comes after each climb.

The Lakeview Lodge (one of the three stone activity lodges at camp) also serves as our dance studio. Each of the four dance classes happening this week has been a mix of learning individual dance moves of various styles and working on choreography, synchronizing individual moves into a complete dance routine. There will be an opportunity to perform their routines at the end of the session during the intermission of the camp musical.

The ceramics classes have been really showing off this week too. The girls have been decorating tiles and plaques (rolled out slabs of clay) with texture impressions, small clay coils, and carvings. They’ve made small animal sculptures, cupcake and mushroom boxes, as well as wheel-thrown vessels like cups and bowls. Later next week, the girls will begin glazing their creations so they can be fired in the kilns in time to have fully finished pieces to take home. Bright and colorful, it will be exciting to see the final results.

The painting and drawing classes have been concentrating on watercolor paints, and experimenting with color theory as the girls blend their paint. They’ve been using different brush types as well, creating interesting effects for their pictures.

Fire building is one of the skills the girls are learning in the WHOA activity this week.  If you’ve ever tried to build a fire, the wood you use matters a lot. The girls know how to select dry wood, but also how to gauge that by listening for a distinctive snap when a twig breaks. Some have been able to achieve a “one-match” fire without using any paper…. a real accomplishment. Of course, the possibility of roasting marshmallows and making s’mores can be a powerful motivator, as well!

Outdoor adventure, sports, and creative arts are daily experiences at camp, and this has been a full and rewarding week of each. As your girls sample these options, learning from the challenges they represent, they’re not just enjoying themselves. They’re also growing a bit, becoming more confident and accomplished, developing skills and perhaps surprising talents.  All this and more, in the name of fun. It’s very neat to see.

Summer Camp kids

To the Top!

Summer Camp Rock Climbing

Squeezing your feet into tiny, rubber soled shoes, wearing a climbing harness and helmet, and being tied to a bright pink rope that stretches up 100 feet over a rock above you, can be a little intimidating. If the rock is steep, like the climb called “B-52” on the south side of Looking Glass Rock, climbing it might even seem impossible. But that’s exactly what a small group of Rockbrook girls did this morning thanks to Rita and Nicole who led their trip. With a lunch of burritos packed, along with all the necessary climbing gear, the girls left Rockbrook around 8am, hiked up the mile-long trail, and arrived at the base of the rock, a little sweaty already, set to climb. The first pitch of B-52 is rated 5.8 and is not a simple climb. It takes courage, strength, and determination to take each step up, balancing on the eyebrow shaped edges of rock. You have to really trust that your feet won’t slip because handholds are scarce on this route. Every move feels a little risky— despite knowing you’re on a top belay —so in the face of that (perceived) risk, you have to be brave to make progress up the rock. These Rockbrook girls showed exactly that kind of strength and bravery because they all topped out the route! We might say they left their comfort zones at home!

Dot Painting Project

On the back porch of the Hobby Nook cabin, the Painting and Drawing activity meets. The porch has several long tables and benches, good lighting, and all the supplies to experiment with different painting and drawing media. It also is surrounded by old-growth rhododendron bushes that provide good shade, and on most days there’s a light breeze blowing through making the porch a delightful place to work. Recently the painting instructors, Tessa and Jess, have been helping the girls learn how to blend colors by using a dot-painting technique. This requires mixing paints on a palate before applying it to the canvas, or in this case, on a small square of card stock. The girls blend the paint using a wooden brush, then dip the other end of it in the paint to apply it. It’s a deliberate process of repeated blending and application to achieve different degrees of shading and slight color variation.  And the results are awesome! I’ve seen some really cool examples of the camper’s work: a boat splashing through the waves, a detailed vase of flowers, and a closeup of an eye… all really well done.

Summer camp water slide girl

You may have noticed that recently there are quite a number of photos in our online gallery of girls hurtling out the bottom of our lake’s water slide, affectionately known as “Big Samanatha.” The lifeguards open the slide during the two free swim periods, one before lunch and the other before dinner. Perhaps because it’s been so dry and warm lately, but also because it’s simply a lot of fun, the free swim periods have been very well attended (coming down to the lake is optional during those blocks of free time before lunch and dinner), and hence the slide has been getting a nice workout. After walking along the boardwalk and climbing the tower to the start of the slide, it can take some nerve to launch yourself because at the top, you are about 50 feet in the air as you stare down the 150-foot slick vinyl. It’s a surprisingly quick ride down, and a pretty big splash waiting at the bottom. For most girls, that means holding your nose and letting out a quick scream before hitting the water. It’s a fun ride, and after a short swim, an easy walk back around for another slide.

One last thing… A friend passed along an article that I thought you also might appreciate. Written by Margie Warrell, it makes the case for teaching girls to be brave, and goes further to suggest six things we can do to encourage that quality. Here is the article. Like we know well here at Rockbrook, there is much to be gained from being Kind, Silly and Brave.

Girls summer camp kids

Being Outside

Parents reunite with camp girl
Camper hugs girl to say goodbye from camp

This is one of the toughest days of the whole summer. It’s the morning when we have to say goodbye to the campers enrolled in the First July Mini Session, while the Full Session girls stay at camp for another 2 weeks. It’s tough because we’ve grown so close, the girls seeing each other everyday, signing up for activities together, watching each other’s skits in Evening Program, and simply loving camp life like a big family. In these short two weeks the tiniest 6-year-old juniors have gotten to know the tallest 16-year-old Hi-Ups. We’ll miss these friends and wish they could stay and play. It’s a strange feeling to say goodbye and stay behind. It just doesn’t seem fair because it feels like everyone should be staying. At the same time, this is a happy day for the Mini Session girls’ “real” families because they can finally be reunited after being away. It was so sweet to see the joyful tears as moms and dads embraced their daughters. In some cases, the family dog seemed just as excited as the camper to see each other!

Camp girls rock climbing multi-pitch route

Earlier this morning, perhaps an hour before everyone else arrived for breakfast, a group of girls, led by Andy and Rita, left for a day-long rock climbing trip to a cliff called “Stone Depot” located near Cedar Rock in the Pisgah Forest. They left early because the hike in takes about 40 minutes, and also because they wanted the best odds for missing an afternoon thunderstorm we expected. This was particularly important because this group was planning a “multi-pitch” route. This means climbing the entire party up partway, and then continuing like that in stages, one “pitch” at a time, from ledge to ledge. It’s an advanced technique that takes the climbers much higher up the rock, and naturally for an even more spectacular view of the surrounding mountains. Multi-pitch climbing can take much more time also, especially with a group of people climbing, making it even more important to get an early start. Fortunately, the weather cooperated beautifully and the girls came bounding back to camp with stories of an awesome day being outside on the rock. “You should have seen the view!”

Painting Class Girl at Summer Camp

There are many opportunities to be “crafty” at Rockbrook, from making duct tape purses to decorating headbands with deflated balloons and so on, but the campers can also can improve their more “artistic” talents as well. Here is a good example, our painting and drawing class where the girls work with pencils, pens and charcoal on paper, or perhaps water colors or tempera paints. Today the group met for a water color class outside under the shade of a white oak tree. They first used pencils lightly outlining forms in their composition and then mixed paints with water to make different shades. Part of the fun when painting with water colors is the different washing, blending, and brush techniques that can be combined.  At camp, there’s the added fun of painting outside. The rich organic environment of Rockbrook can provide an almost endless array of subjects to paint. Combine that with the feeling of being outside— the breeze! —and both the process (the painting) and the end result (also, the painting!) will be so much better.

Speaking of being outside, I wanted finally to pass along another article that caught our eye (thanks Leland!). It’s by Angela Hanscom and is entitled, “Why so many kids can’t sit still in school today.” The short article (link) uses mostly anecdotal evidence to link the increase in ADHD diagnoses to the decline of kids’ physical activity outdoors. It’s an intriguing theory, one that may help explain at least one of the reasons camp is so great for kids. It might be another reason to “Play more, Sit less.”

Outdoor Lake Canoeing

A Sense of Wonder

Girl Drawing Class

It’s easy to see how there’s excitement around every corner here at Rockbrook. During the activity periods the girls are happily busy, fully engaged in crafts, sports, and adventure. They’re folding and tying white t-shirts preparing them for colorful dyes, and guiding rackets to tune their tennis serves. They are exercising their bodies and their imaginations riding horses and performing short improvisational skits. Each scheduled activity offers ways to play, to learn and to have fun with friends.

In addition though, there’s an added ingredient at Rockbrook that makes this more than just entertainment or a fleeting diversion, and it has to do with the sense of wonder that blossoms so easily and often throughout our day. These are moments when we are suddenly confronted by delicate natural beauty, like a spider web freshly weighted by drops of dew, or the zing of putting your feet in a chilly stream, or the sharp call at dusk of a Pileated woodpecker, for example. Simply being outside in this beautiful place is wonder-ful. It inspires Rockbrook girls to open themselves to new and fascinating experiences. And when combined with the caring encouragement of their friends and counselors, camp fosters courage and fascination rather than hesitation when encountering the unfamiliar. It teaches girls that the world is an amazing place ready to be explored, that curiosity will enrich their lives with delightful people, places and things. We hope that our time together in “the heart of a wooded mountain” at Rockbrook can be a lasting resource for our girls, a deep lesson about the joys of discovering the wonder of the world.

Camp Yoga group pose
girls cooling their feet while doing yoga

Here are a couple of photos taken of our Yoga classes taught by Mary Alice. They ordinarily meet in the stone “Hillside Lodge,” but can be held anywhere in camp where those purple mats can go… like here, for example, when the group decided cooling their feet by the creek would be relaxing. With a little quiet instrumental music in the background, Mary Alice guides the campers through a series of Hatha Yoga postures and controlled breathing. For many of the girls, these classes provide welcome moments of mindfulness and focused attention far removed from the ordinarily high-speed pace of camp life. In this way, they too can foster a sense of wonder for the girls.

Camp kids whitewater rafting trip
Camp Kids smiling in whitewater raft

Throughout the day we took about a third of the camp, almost all of the Middlers and Seniors who had not yet gone this session, whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River over in Swain County. This is quite a logistical challenge when it includes 76 campers, 6 staff members, 7 whitewater guides, 6 bus drivers, 1 Rockbrook director, lunch for 100 people, and all the whitewater equipment for the trip itself. But we have plenty of experience making it happen, and all in-house without hiring a third-party company to handle it. The trip itself is a combination of electrifying rapids, like the “Quarry Rapid” that has several large waves in a row, and calm sections where there’s time to chat with everyone in the raft, maybe start a splash war between boats or the girls can test their nerve with a quick leap into the (very!) cold water. It was a gloriously hot day, perfect for rafting, and the girls had a ball laughing and screaming all the way down the river.

This last photo is another great example of how Rockbrook is helping to foster a sense of wonder for your girls. For generations, girls have been struck by the natural splendor of Rockbrook, even describing it in one of our traditional songs as a “Fairyland of Beauty.” Spending time here in this ancient forest, among powerful trees and other bristling plants and critters, it feels magical, almost like everything is the work of tiny, winged fairies. Tonight after dinner, Pam our talented gardener, hosted a “Wings and Bling” garden party for any girls interested in making a fairy house, or a potted arrangement of flowers. Using bark, moss, flowers, polished stones, bits of cloth, Mardi Gras beads (from tonight’s fun “birthday night” dinner), and anything else the girls felt inspired to include, the group made a entire Fairy village. Such imagination and creativity! Later, two campers, with complete sincerity, suggested that the Fairies would enjoy a bedtime cookie and we should leave a bit for them in their village. All, so so wonderful.

Garden Fairy Village