Guiding Principles

Camp badminton game

One of the questions we ask parents in our post-camp survey is to identify the most important factor that led them to choose Rockbrook as their daughter’s camp. There are more than 28 residential summer camps in this area of North Carolina each with different strengths, program opportunities, and traditions. With all these options, it’s interesting to learn what parents see as distinctive about Rockbrook, and to think about why that distinction matters.

The last few years of results show a trend. The top reason people have selected Rockbrook, according to the survey, is that they received a trusted recommendation about the quality of the camp; a friend or family member loved Rockbrook and highly recommended it. That’s good to know that we have “happy campers” heading home after camp, and that their parents find Rockbrook remarkable enough to tell others about it (though I’ve also heard parents say they wish they could keep RBC a secret!), but that’s somewhat predictable. It’s easy to imagine that parents would select a camp after receiving a “word of mouth” endorsement that reflects the camp’s positive reputation.

The next reason is more surprising. Parents said they selected Rockbrook because they valued the camp philosophy, much more, in fact, than the camp’s program opportunities. So parents aren’t choosing Rockbrook only because we offer amazing outdoor adventure trips, excellent horseback riding instruction, or an array of really cool craft activities (though we clearly do). They aren’t drawn, at least most importantly, to Rockbrook’s vintage camp setting with its log cabins, stone lodges, dense forests with rock outcroppings and waterfalls (though the natural beauty of RBC is very special). It’s not the staff members, the food, or even the directors that make Rockbrook their choice. Overall, it has less to do with the “amenities” of camp than you might expect.

Painting Camp Girl with paint
Weaving camp girls with loom
Ceramics Camp girl with clay

Instead, according to our survey, parents appreciate the ideals and values that guide the Rockbrook community. The “Spirit of Rockbrook” and how it affects their girls is important to them. It can be difficult to describe this philosophy— I’ve tried many times writing this blog —but the feeling of camp, Rockbrook’s culture that emphasizes kindness and generosity, mutual respect, and inclusion, is what makes this place stand out. Here too, I’m glad that our parents seem to be making this subtle distinction. They seem to understand how our camp philosophy matters when comes to insuring that Rockbrook girls gain many of the benefits of a summer camp experience. To their credit, many of our parents appreciate all the excellent outward features of Rockbrook, but value even further many of the principles guiding it along the way. Thank you parents!

Clint Roberts NC musician

Tonight we enjoyed an outdoor concert by Clint Roberts, a local singer, songwriter and musician. Clint writes and plays Americana music both as a solo act and with his band, The Foxfire. Recently, he released an EP entitled “Where the Heart is.” Starting at dinner time and playing into the “Twilight” period, Clint entertained the whole camp with his original compositions as well as several covers of songs by Lyle Lovett, Ryan Adams, and the Tallest Man on Earth. With Clint playing, the girls enjoyed a picnic of grilled hamburgers, potato chips, lemonade and watermelon with key lime pie for dessert. Sitting in their crazy creek chairs while they ate and listened, the girls had a great time chatting quietly, working on friendship bracelets, or just lounging with their friends in the evening shade. The whole event was delightfully relaxing… a memorable, special event together at camp.

Happy Teen Camp Girls

Rockbrook in New Orleans

Inside New Orleans Camps Magazine


Have you seen the latest issue of Inside New Orleans? It’s a bi-monthly magazine published about the arts, events, interests, and people of New Orleans and its surrounding areas. Each issue is full of regular columns about fashion, music, exhibitions, and food, as well as featured articles on unique aspects of the city and culture of New Orleans, LA.

The current issue (February-March 2015), for example, has a painting by Gretchen Armbruster on its cover— a fantastic New Orleans Artist — articles about the Metairie Cemetery and the costumes of the Louisiana State Museum, but also a piece about summer camps for kids. Overall the article describes the difference between day camps, specialty camps, and sleepaway camps, mentioning several examples and promoting many of the benefits kids gain from camp.

It was fantastic to see that the author highlights Rockbrook as an example of an overnight camp, describing it as the “ideal place to explore what it means to live a ‘wholehearted’ life rich with true connections.” Wow! That’s such a nice complement! It’s something that sounds very familiar, and right in line with the philosophy and feel of Rockbrook. Thanks Inside New Orleans!

5 Ways Camp Helps Children Grow

Summer Camp Foster Youth DevelopmentSummer camp professionals around the country, largely encouraged by the American Camp Association, have begun to refer to camps as “Youth Development Organizations.”

Being at summer camp, we all agree it seems, is more than just “fun and games.” It’s beneficial for children in unique and lasting ways. Summer camps are dedicated to helping children grow, certainly also to have a good time, but perhaps most importantly, to gain valuable skills and foster personal development.

But what are the ways children grow while at camp? We’ve often said Rockbrook is “a place for girls to grow,” but what kind of growth can we expect?

Here are 5 powerful ways a summer camp experience fosters youth development and growth for children:

1. Social growth: Going to a sleepaway summer camp means joining a close community of people living and playing together 24/7. It builds inter-personal skills like sincere communication, conflict resolution, a willingness to share, and an enthusiasm for working as a team. Perhaps more importantly, the highly social nature of camp really encourages children to make friends easily. It’s a fun, down-to-earth, friendly environment that naturally draws children together.

2. Character growth: Summer camp, simply because it’s living away from home, is an ideal opportunity for children to become more independent. As they make decisions for themselves, for example when selecting their activity schedule, children learn to embrace the freedom (opportunities) and responsibility (consequences) their choices entail. With its non-competitive activities and with the care and support of the camp counselors and staff, camp provides children fantastic opportunities to succeed. It’s a real boost to campers’ self-confidence and self-esteem when every day includes accomplishment. Of course, it can also include setbacks and disappointments, but summer camp is always supportive and encouraging. It inspires resilience by providing role models of courage and determination.

3. Humane growth: An overnight camp like Rockbrook is also a great place for children to strengthen and develop greater humane values. Starting with a general warmth and sensitivity toward others, camp fosters cooperation and respect. Camp is also a place to meet children from different countries with perhaps unfamiliar cultural assumptions and religious traditions. It provides real world reminders, despite these differences, of our common humanity.

4. Practical growth: Residential summer camps provide an incredible variety of activities for children. They combine quality instruction, equipment and facilities specially designed to challenge kids’ sports abilities (like tennis and horseback riding), nurture their artistic and creative talents (painting, ceramics, and dance for example), and build their outdoor adventure abilities— all practical, real world, life-long skills.

5. Physical growth: Camp is chock full of action! Whether it be swimming, jumping, climbing, dancing, riding or running, Rockbrook keeps girls in motion. It introduces them to all kinds of ways to develop physical skills. With all the great food (made from scratch!), outdoor living, and big active fun, camp has important health benefits for children.

Everyone knows Rockbrook is super fun, but in these five ways, it’s powerfully formative as well.

teen girl grows climbing

Being Camp

joy of summer living campRockbrook’s program philosophy has long revolved around several core concepts, each of which is intended to help girls grow more independent, confident, and capable while at camp. These include providing a caring community of people offering genuine encouragement, exciting challenges, and new experiences, but also opportunities for creativity and cooperation rather than competition. As you walk around camp and see the girls in action, it’s easy to notice them create— new arts, new skills, new relationships— and not compete. Certainly the campers don’t think of their camp experience in these terms, but I think emphasizing creativity over competition, encouragement over critique, helps everyone at camp enjoy themselves more and feel good each day.

camper departs summer camp wavingToday was the day we had to say goodbye to our friends in the first July Mini session. Sadly, their session has ended even as the main session girls have two more weeks to go. All of us will miss those girls. Even in just two short weeks, we’ve done so much together, made so many memories, it’s hard to say farewell. The good news is that most will be back next summer, and will have another chance to see each other, enjoy camp, and recharge at Rockbrook. For the entire staff, it’s always a pleasure to be with the girls at RBC. The sessions are action-packed and full of excitement, but more important to us is getting to know the campers and being with them as they grow closer to each other and begin to feel a part of Rockbrook. It’s really their camp, and they know it in such a short time!

Camp Drama class driving improvisationWhen you see the smiles, and can almost hear the laughter in the daily photos, it’s not just because the girls are being entertained at camp. They’re not just happy they’ve been rock climbing or thrown a pot on the wheel (though they are that too), or merely interested in a novelty or trend. Their happiness is deeper than that and stems from the positive feelings arising from the people around them and the freedom camp provides to explore who they are. Camp is a true haven, a special place where girls can be themselves and be happy about that. Being surrounded by friends, it’s easy to smile!