Are you still looking for Halloween costume ideas? Well, camp is one of the best sources of costume inspiration because as you know, we love dressing up at Rockbrook! Costumes make all of our theme special events come alive, but they are also something that makes every day, certainly every meal, and almost every moment just that extra bit special.
At camp, we foster a deep love for silliness and self-expression. You can see that in tutus, sparkly fairy hair, colorful face paint, and glitter (so much glitter!). This spirit of creativity and free flowing whimsy leads to some really great spur of the moment costumes at camp!
Our camp banquets are a chance for 9th grade campers to really stretch their creative muscles! If you have some cardboard and paint laying around the house then you could make these amazing Pac-Mac and ghost costumes. This would be a simple and easy DIY costume for just one person or for a whole group of friends. Another amazing banquet inspiration is from “That 70’s Banquet.” I’m sure every camper has at least one tie-dye shirt in her closet. Grab that, some jeans (the more flare at the bottom the better) and make yourself a flower crown. You’ve got an instant 1970’s colorful classic.
Up for just a little shopping? Take a cue from some of our camp themes this summer! A great scientist (mad or otherwise) is simply a white coat, plastic gloves, and a pair of goggles away! Add a beaker and white wig for extra detail.
Camp is a place where you can express yourself and know that the community will support you and celebrate you for exactly who you are. Sometimes that’s a peacock on the hill, or a mermaid at archery or just lots of smiles and shine and silly faces and glitter (oh, so much glitter!).
However that creative spark manifests in our campers, we want to encourage it. Silliness is brave. Rockbrook is full of brave, bold, silly and special girls!
“There’s power in looking silly and not caring that you do.” —Amy Poehler
Today we welcomed another group of eager, excited girls to Rockbrook as we opened the August Mini session. There’s something really special about driving into Rockbrook, early in the morning at the start of a camp session. It’s a reveal of sorts. The gravel driveway slowly winds up the hill from the main road, and then suddenly there’s cool stuff to see: the archery field to the left, the lake to the right with the green and blue water slide on the far end, stacks of colorful kayaks and canoes, and at the crest the hill, a mob of cheering enthusiastic counselors. It feels like you’ve entered another world, and in many ways you have. So many things are inviting and intriguing right away, but it’s obvious also that the people here are good folks. The returning campers already know it, but the energy of camp— friendly, supportive, adventurous, with a huge helping of goofy —is definitely special. These campers have been waiting all year (and all summer) to experience this energetic fun, so finally we can all start. Finally!
While these new girls were arriving, the full session campers began their day like other Sunday mornings with a late breakfast (egg and sausage burritos, yogurts, cereals, and freshly delivered Krispy Kreme doughnuts), our traditional flag raising ceremony (led by the 10-grade campers), and chapel program (this time discussing the theme of “Gratitude”). Afterwards, these girls also had a “choice period,” an opportunity to sign up for a hiking trip to Castle Rock or Rockbrook Falls, a flower picking expedition in the garden, or time in the jewelry-making activity area.
The first event involving the whole camp was an “assembly on the hill,” as we call it. This gathering under the walnut tree on the hill is a chance for everyone to sing a few songs, watch a skit or two, meet the various directors at camp, and hear announcements. The Hi-Ups led everyone in learning a canoeing song, complete with hand motions. The Line Heads awarded, “bend-a-back,” camp spirit, and manners beads, and also announced which cabins would be recognized for having the highest overall inspection scores (winning the “mop award”). For the benefit of the new campers primarily, Sarah also reminded everyone of the boundaries of camp and how our lightning warning system works. Rick’s amazing homemade mac-n-cheese for lunch fueled us up for the swimming demonstrations, quick camp tours, and cabin meetings that came afterwards in the early afternoon.
The main event of the day was an all-camp festival that tapped into different science-related activities, experiments, challenges and games. We held the event right in the center of camp with the different activity stations positioned about, and counselors and Hi-Ups staffing each spot. One challenge was to make a working parachute from a large coffee filter. Another was to build different organic molecules using toothpicks and tiny marshmallows. At a different station, the girls were challenged to build a boat (or anything that floats) using aluminum foil and popsicle sticks. Another group made green sticky “Oobleck” with corn starch and white glue.
A particularly fun challenge was to use only rubber bands to crack open a watermelon. The girls would stretch rubber bands, one by one, around the middle of the melon, gradually adding more pressure. As a couple of cracks began to form after approximately 200 bands wrapped the melon, the group of girls huddled around screamed with delight when the melon suddenly exploded into bits leaving a sticky ball of rubber bands behind.
Of course, a “mad science” event would be incomplete without eccentric costumes— wild teased hair (or wigs!), lab coats, safety goggles, beakers and lab notebooks. Snacks and music helped keep the mood festive while the girls zipped among the activity options. The event was a nice opportunity to play outside together, be a little silly, and perhaps learn a little science along the way.
Tomorrow, we’ll have all the activities filled with enthusiastic campers, ready to give everything a try. It will be a full day of action. Stay tuned!
When Rockbrook was awarded one of the few permits to raft the Nantahala River back in the early 1980s (still the only girls camp recognized for this), we had no idea that it would become such an important part of our adventure program. Every year since, we’ve guided our Middlers and Seniors down the river, with I’d say about 90% choosing to go. For many girls, rafting is one of the highlights of their session, and their main adventure activity, with the possible exception being day hiking trips or zip lining.
Having this permit for guiding rafting trips on the Nantahala means keeping our own fleet of boats (cool Avon and NRS whitewater rafts), and having paddles, helmets, and PFDs for everyone. We hire and train our own guides (they are on our adventure staff back at camp) and are inspected by the US Forest Service annually. All of this allows us to run trips as we like, and have the confidence that we have great folks in the boats with our campers for the trips to go smoothly.
Today was another of those great rafting days. We took two trips down the river with two different groups of girls: the first rafting before lunch and the second after our picnic of sandwiches, fruit and chips. The girls had a blast bouncing over the rapids, splashing around, singing during the more calm sections, “riding the bull” (which means sitting on the front of the boat like a hood ornament), and occasionally falling in. The Nantahala water is shockingly, steal-your-breath, cold, so when someone falls in, the whole boat screams and springs into action. The goal is to get the swimmer back in the boat ASAP, so once in reach, the other campers help pull the wide-eyed swimmer back in by her PFD. It’s a coordinated effort that inevitably ends with several girls sprawled in the bottom of the raft laughing hysterically. It really was a fun day on the river, as the weather cooperated (we luckily dodged most of the rain in the area) and we easily made it back to camp in time for dinner.
Somehow, despite the desire to keep it a secret, only half of the girls seemed surprised when it was announced that we would be having a dance tonight with Camp Carolina. We often schedule a dance at some point during each session, but we try to surprise the girls with when it will happen because it minimizes the time spent getting ready. The line for the shower can only be so long! Over the years, what it means to “get ready” for a dance has evolved away from a “nice outfit” and become more about a crazy costume. Dances are less about brushed hair and more about braids, less about make up and more about glitter. Hawaiian shirts have replaced blouses, and pajama pants and shorts are preferred over skirts.
This is practical too when you consider the dancing, which is mostly a simple move of jumping up and down with one hand raised high. Clustered together, the crowd jumps in unison perfectly matching the straight beat of the music. The playlist tonight was a series of familiar, danceable pop songs from recent years— “Party in the USA,” “Can’t Stop The Feeling,” and “Wobble,” for example. A few classics also made it: “Africa” by Toto, “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield, and “Mamma Mia” by ABBA, to name a few of the sing-a-long examples.
For about an hour and half, both dances (the younger children at Rockbrook and the older at Camp Carolina) were bouncing, laughing and singing along to the music. A little sweaty and surprised by how fast the time flew by, it took a good half an hour for the excitement of the evening to fade after the girls returned to camp and began getting ready for bed. A fun, full camp day to remember.
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).
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.
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!
About once a week we head over to the Nantahala River for whitewater rafting, like today, when two groups of Middlers and Seniors made the 2-hour run down the river. Being the only girls summer camp that has a permit to run these trips (The US Forest Service issued us the permit back in the early 1980s), we decided long ago to make rafting a big part of our adventure program. We don’t charge extra for the trips and we let everyone who’s old enough (Middlers and Seniors, in our case) sign up to go if they like. All of this has made rafting very popular with Rockbrook girls, with about 90% of them choosing to raft every summer. For many, it’s their favorite adventure trip out of camp. Rockbrook really is “that rafting camp,” as one person put it.
Last night we also gave the girls the option to spend the night at our outpost camp before their rafting trip. Over in Macon County and adjoining the Nantahala National Forest, Rockbrook acquired and improved this unique piece of property with camping shelters (simple screened, structures), a small bath house, and a dining hall where we can have our meals. It’s a great place, “out in the middle of nowhere,” literally “at the end of the road,” where we can enjoy camping only 15 minutes from the river. It’s a beautiful place too. We had a wonderful time together last night singing songs around the campfire, making s’mores, and listening to the nighttime calls of a nearby whippoorwill. I was impressed by how relaxed and happy all the girls were as they spent their time together on the overnight, particularly because the group was made up of a few teenagers as well as young girls who had just finished 5th grade. There wasn’t one person trying to be cool, or exclusive. Instead, they all happily hung out together, slept in the same shelter together, sang songs and laughed at each others jokes. This showed me that these girls really trust each other, and that despite their age differences, really like each other too. It was a remarkable expression of “Rockbrook Spirit” that would make you proud to witness.
There is another adventure activity popular with the girls at camp— we run it almost everyday —and it’s unique because of Rockbrook’s topography: our zip line course. Instead of zips and bridges going from platform to platform suspended in trees like most zipline “canopy tours,” our 3 ziplines (2 of which are new this summer) and 3 bridges (2 new ones here too) are suspended between gigantic boulders. The cables are bolted directly into solid rock making them extraordinarily strong anchor points for each span. The first zip is especially cool; it begins high to the right of “Stick Biscuit Falls,” the 50-ft waterfall directly above the camp, and slowly passes you across the front the falls, about 80 feet in the air, as you slide along the cable to a rock face on the far side. The next 150-ft zip begins at another boulder and sends riders over a gulley below, filled with rhododendron and mountain laurel. From there the riders make their way across the 3 swinging bridges: a beam, cable, and platform bridge. The final zip is a screaming 450-ft ride all the way back to camp. It takes a group of eight campers about an hour to complete every thrill of the course.
Speaking of our zipline course, two groups of senior campers took their ziplining to a new level after dinner. They went at night! It’s true; staying up late, we used headlamps attached to our helmets, other flashlights and glow sticks to illuminate our way. Part night hike, part group dynamics initiative, and part edgy idea, the girls had a blast zipping through the dark, launching themselves into the night with just their headlamp for orientation. As we moved from point to point, the girls had a good sense that this was a little over the top, making it even more fun than they expected. A couple of them said to me, “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever done.” A small creative twist turned something already pretty cool, into the “coolest thing ever!”
The same thing happened this morning when the girls discovered that the Rockbrook baker had added some edge to today’s muffin flavor: “chocolate chip cookie dough.” You might be wondering how to make a “dough” muffin? You first bake a chocolate chip muffin, but then serve it with a blob of cookie dough on top. An outrageous topping, I know, but also, oh so good. They really were something else. I heard from several girls, in fact, that this was their new favorite muffin flavor.
We’re off to a fantastic start of the session. With this many really wonderful girls at camp, it’s no surprise.
There’s no doubt that camp is a remarkable experience for girls. You can see it everyday here at Rockbrook, see it as you browse through the online photo gallery, and hear about it if you ask the campers and counselors how it feels to be here. Of course, camp means having sensational fun, a “really great time,” but as we’ve said many times before, it’s more than that. Coming to Rockbrook means forming relationships, joining a community with a distinctive culture and language, and perhaps most importantly, learning important things about yourself that can make a difference to you later in life.
Lately, I’ve been thinking more about how camp is a “place for girls to grow,” about the ways that girls benefit from their time at Rockbrook. There are many, but let me focus on three of the more important ones: being kind, silly and brave.
I think Rockbrook teaches girls to be kind. There are lots of reasons for this, but most of them spring from the close relationships we have with each other as a community. Being all girls may have something to do with it, as does the fact that we do everything, all day and night, together (There’s a kinship for all of us here), but the spirit of Rockbrook is rooted in being sensitive to the needs of others, in caring and generosity. The closeness of camp life, realizing that we are all together and that we all belong, fuels our sympathy and compassion for each other. It makes us kind. This explains why it’s the other campers who are first to jump right in and help comfort someone homesick in their cabin. Kindness is at work when hundreds of friendship bracelets are exchanged every session at Rockbrook. It’s true affection for each other that sets the tone in every conversation around camp, while weaving baskets, feet in the creek, and twisting tie dye t-shirts, for example. Camp simply encourages heartfelt relationships. As we all relax and open up our true selves, we grow closer to each other, and kindness blossoms naturally. It’s darn right magical!
Rockbrook reminds girls that being a little silly is a good thing. There are times, of course, when we all have to be serious, but in many situations there’s room for lighthearted humor, a dash of exuberance, and more than one color. At camp, things are more silly than not, as we easily burst into song, ordinarily add costumes to whatever we find ourselves doing, and are quick to laugh throughout the day. Life at this kind of girls camp feels good, and is more fun, partly because we’ve found a balance between serious tasks, like keeping our cabins clean and taking care of our health, for example, and the joy to be found by appreciating the silly side of our personalities. Camp teaches us that there can be a playful dimension to most things. We dance when setting the dining hall tables. We can sing… gosh, anytime! Waiting in line for muffin break, we can braid our friend’s hair, adding a flower we just picked. We can dress like twins with a bunk mate, just for the fun of it. For girls at camp, it’s pretty easy to smile all day long and to make everything whimsical. In addition, developing this habit of cheerfulness nurtures the girls’ creativity. Learning that it’s OK, even preferable, to include some of their silly side when completing a task is like being given permission to mix things up a bit, to get creative while being productive. That’s why you see Rockbrook girls happily helping around camp, adding decorations to just about everything, and enjoying the most routine tasks. Being silly means being creative, and when done together, that makes something fun, no matter what.
It’s also true that Rockbrook helps girls be more brave. Simply deciding to come to camp, to leave the safety and familiarity of home, takes courage. So being here alone— navigating daily decisions (what to do during free time, for example), taking care of ordinary personal needs (remembering to take a shower, for example), and interacting with so many different people, unusual foods, and new activities —requires some degree of bravery. In addition, some of our camp activities themselves require the girls to muster their courage. It’s completely natural to be afraid of stepping off a rock tethered to a high zip line cable, or to approach a new whitewater rapid in a kayak, or even to stand up in front of the whole camp to tell a joke during the lunch announcements. But these Rockbrook girls are choosing to do it— proving they are both capable and brave. A shy quiet girl at home suddenly is first to fly down the water slide at the lake. A girl who might never choose to join a painting class (thinking, “I’m terrible at art”) feels inspired to join her friends and enjoy the process of being creative. With encouragement springing from every direction, girls may discover the confidence to try all sorts of things they might never be brave enough to accomplish otherwise, from the physical challenges of sports, to the personal challenges of getting along with their cabin mates.
The culture of camp inspires and encourages girls to be kind, silly and brave. It provides regular opportunities, wrapped in the guise of “Big Fun,” to develop these aspects of their personality. We hope that as they grow up, and carry the spirit of Rockbrook with them out into the “real world,” your girls will be happier and more successful strengthened in these ways.
If you spent any time watching YouTube in the early Spring of 2013, you probably saw several examples of groups doing the “Harlem Shake.” But, you may not know that the second session girls at Rockbrook made their own version of the video.
You can see the video embedded in this blog post, but here is a photo of the event that is great fun.
Click the photo to expand it, and check out all those amazing costumes! These camp girls know how to have a blast.
One of my favorite memories as a staff member at Rockbrook occurred one day early in Third Session a few years ago. A rainstorm had just cleared out, and I was walking to the Dining Hall, enjoying the reemerging sunshine. I walked past a shady spot by the stream, where a patch of earth had been transformed into a patch of mud. Two Juniors were jumping around in the mud, getting splatters all over their legs and clothes, and laughing uproariously when their feet would slide out from beneath them.
The noise attracted one of their counselors, who had been standing nearby. As she approached, the girls got very still, adjusted their giddy smiles into expressions of contrition, and waited to be reprimanded for making such a mess. The counselor stood quietly for a moment, looking them over, before kneeling, taking a handful of mud and spreading a wide streak of mud on each cheek, like war paint. “Can I play?” she asked.
I continued past the little group to the Dining Hall, leaving behind two awed and delighted campers, and one very, very cool counselor. I saw all three that evening at dinner, scrubbed clean. They were relating their adventures to the rest of their cabin—telling them all about the moment they realized that they were actually allowed to be dirty.
Now, there’s no need to worry, we do encourage frequent showers, parcel out daily chores to keep the cabins tidy, and have all campers and counselors help to clean up the tables after meals in the dining hall. That being said, we also do all that we can to discourage that aversion to getting dirty that seems only to get stronger in girls as they get older. It’s no secret that girls tend to become more focused on their appearance as they get older, and Senior campers have expressed to me their reluctance even to do something as simple as getting their faces painted at home, for fear of looking dumb.
That fear of looking dumb, or silly, or improper, or anything other than perfectly presentable at all times, is a fear that camp manages to quash remarkably quickly considering how powerful it can be out in the “real world.” Within a few days at camp, makeup bags have been zipped up and put away, hair has been thrown up into messy buns, and hands have been stained by tie-dye and red clay.
Last night, we put that change on full display, by putting on a “girls’ dance,” a giant dance party—complete with a DJ, glow sticks, and strobe lights—down at the gym. After dinner, each age group went back to its lodge, where the girls decked themselves out in glow-in-the-dark facepaint, glow stick jewelry, and white clothes.
To get down to the gym, the girls had two options. They could either walk down the lower line of cabins to the gym, and start dancing a little early, OR they could take the messier route. Lining the lakeside road (which also leads to the gym), were counselors, CITs, and Hi Ups, toting water guns and bags of powder paint. Campers of all ages ran down this path, allowing themselves to be soaked first, then covered from head to toe in multicolored paint. Emerging from the other end of this “color run” was an army of human tie-dyes, racing to get to the gym and an evening of music and dancing.
With no slow dances with boys, streaky makeup, or pretty clothes to worry about, the girls danced harder and seemed to have more fun than I’d ever seen at a camp dance before. They streamed out of the gym again at bedtime, taking their milk and cookies with them as they went, giving no thought to their sweaty clothes, streaky painted faces, or tangled hair. The campers that I talked to could only express the fun they’d had, and maybe a bit of pride in the audacity it took for them to get a little messy.