One of the best things about opening up camp for a new session, as we did today, is the extraordinary burst of energy it includes. Take the enthusiasm from the counselors, the pent up excitement from the campers, in fact everyone’s eagerness (and yes a few jitters) to get started, pack it all into a short amount of time, and you have something phenomenal. Today, it felt even better as the absolutely perfect, cool and sunny weather cheered everyone even more. With most of the campers dressed in their blue RBC t-shirt, wood chip name tag proudly strung around their necks, the celebration of camp started almost immediately. It was an excellent morning to open the second session of Rockbrook.
After lunch, which featured Rick’s homemade (“fancy,” as one camper enthusiastically put it) macaroni and cheese, all the campers changed into their swimsuits and set off together with their bunk mates, towels in hand, to the waterfront to learn about the important safety rules associated with our lake and to perform their “swim demonstrations.” Chelsea, our waterfront director, introduced each group to lake, how to use the buddy tag system for example, and explained what it takes to complete the “swim demo” successfully (swimming out about 50 feet, back another 50 feet using a backstroke, and treading water for 60 seconds). If a girl can demonstrate these swimming skills confidently, she can then participate in any of the aquatics activities at camp (canoeing, rafting, kayaking, swimming in the deep end of the lake). If someone struggles, we limit her use of the lake to the shallow end and ask that she wear a life jacket until she retakes the swim demo and does well.
It’s been a long tradition at Rockbrook for the campers to select their own activity schedule after arriving at camp. This is different from other camps that ask families (parents and children together) to complete a pre-camp form listing available options. Over the years we’ve found there are real benefits to our system. First of all, by trusting the girls to make their own personalized schedule, by giving them that independence, they take on a subtle form of responsibility. They realize that, like all adult decision making, the freedom to choose means neglecting something else in the very moment of selecting something. Decisions are consequential; “You can’t do everything.” So twice a week here at camp, the girls carefully weigh their options and consider, for example, Tennis vs. Climbing, Yoga vs. Needlecraft, Dance vs. Pottery, Archery vs. Horseback Riding, and so forth.
Late this afternoon, we began helping the girls make their activity selection decisions by orienting them to the options. This was a fun blending of activity skits and a camp tour where groups of campers rotated throughout the camp stopping at all of the activity areas to learn what happens there, to meet the staff members, perhaps see a skit, examples of the crafts made, or a demonstration of the activity itself. For example, Janette and Mary Kate, the activity instructors for “WHOA,” which, as you can see here, stands for Wilderness, Hiking, Outdoor Adventure, presented a skit where they played the “Bellas” from Pitch Perfect going on a camping trip. They enacted pitching a “perfect” tent (crazy creek chair), built a campfire, and proved their “grit” with s’more’s in their “fire pit” —all a cappella. Armed with all these details about what each activity at Rockbrook has to offer, the girls were set to choose their first set of activities after dinner. Tomorrow, we’ll hit the ground running, ready to swim, ride, climb, shoot, sing and create. We’re ready!