The American Camp Association, the national accrediting organization for summer camps in the United States and American camp professionals is celebrating its 100 year anniversary. It was back in 1910 that it was founded under the original name of the “Camp Directors Association of America.”
As part of their celebration, the ACA has published a nice collection of historical photos, documents and interviews. It traces the history of organized camping to a particular event in 1861. Here’s how the timeline starts:
The Gunnery Camp is considered the first organized American camp. Frederick W. Gunn and his wife Abigail operated a home school for boys in Washington, Connecticut. In 1861, they took the whole school on a two-week trip. The class hiked to their destination and then set up camp. The students spent their time boating, fishing, and trapping. The trip was so successful, the Gunns continued the tradition for twelve years.
It’s nice to see summer camps so well represented, and interesting to think that Rockbrook’s founding in 1921 came so soon after the ACA. By the way, if you want to learn more about the history of summer camps, there are some great resources out there.
You’ve probably heard that “balance” is one of the most important skills to have for rock climbing. It’s true; a lot of the technique involves balancing on your feet, and usually one foot, as you move up the rock.
But it’s not only that simple. It’s also important to learn how to hold yourself still, to use your muscles to shift your weight from one foot to the other slowly and smoothly. Generally, as you climb, you’ll keep your torso stationary and move a hand or foot up to the next hold. This is sometimes called the rule of “3-point contact” and refers to the practice of only moving one foot or hand at a time while your other limbs stay on the rock.
For example, you might keep both feet on the rock, hold on with one hand, and shift your weight to the left or right to reach a new handhold. Likewise, you might hold on with both hands, keep one foot set, and lift your other foot up to a new hold. The trick is to stay smooth, keep your body still, and shift your center of gravity from left to right and up. It’s this deliberate and precise moving that we meaning by “balancing.”
If you could reform the common education of teenagers, change something about how teenagers today learn, or what they learn, what would you do? Looking around, what do you think teenagers need to understand? How do they need to change if they are to become happy, well-grounded, satisfied adults? Is there a skill, a personal value, some rule of thumb that you wish all teenagers today would adopt? Is there one crucial thing that today’s teens are missing, and as a result has placed them on a path toward trouble later in life?
You get the picture; the assumption here is that our young people are already having trouble, and aren’t measuring up to the ideal outcomes our education system, culture, and families define. It might be declining test scores, weak academic competencies (compared with children in other countries), unhealthy eating and exercise habits, poor social skills (e.g., difficulty making friends, disrespecting others), decreased creativity, or a general failure to overcome unexpected challenges. Any of these, or several, might be identified as the core problem facing our teenagers these days.
So what can we do to help? If your teen is slipping in any of these ways, how can you improve the situation, make a difference in some way? One proposal suggested, and increasingly so it seems, is to lengthen the school year. It’s claimed that organized classroom education provides the best chance to “reach” the youth and “make a difference in their lives.” As we’ve mentioned before, this is a weak, incomplete solution at best, one that fails to understand the complexities of youth development and the many dimensions it demands. It might be easy to understand and simple to measure, but extending the school calendar is not going to help our teenagers navigate their lives better. If your teen can’t make choices for herself, extra math homework isn’t going to help.
Again, what is there to do? How can we complement our current education system, augment what we already do in the classroom with learning that addresses the complete human being? What experiential gaps should we fill, opportunities should we create, models should we provide? What setting would best support these ordinarily neglected aspects of growing up?
One answer, we, and so many other youth development professionals, advocate is the benefits provided by summer camps. Camps are organized settings that encourage young people to reach beyond what they know, interact with others positively, take responsibility for their own decisions, physically engage the natural world, build self-esteem, and experience meaningful success. Summer camps are incredibly effective educational institutions, that camp parents will tell you, make a huge difference in the health and well-being of their children. Summer camps are just very good at helping children grow in these very important ways.
Yes, we should extend the education of our teenagers and children, not by lengthening the school year, but by providing greater experiential opportunities like those found at summer camps. Send your teenager to camp. That’s what you can do.
What makes the best girls summer camp? It’s funny, but you see that claim now and then. “We’re the best girls camp ever!” or “Welcome to the best girls camp in North Carolina.” Most of this can be considered akin to team spirit, the folks from a camp expressing how much they love their particular camp, how proud they are of it, and how they know their camp really is excellent.
Of course, in reality, you can’t say objectively which girls camp is the best. Here in western North Carolina, there are so many great girls camps, each with dedicated and experienced directors, outstanding counselors, beautiful facilities and diverse fun activities. These camps also have very strong supporters, families who have found the camp perfect for their children. You will certainly find happy enthusiastic campers at all of these camps.
So is there really a best girls camp? Only to the extent that a camp is right for you. The subtle differences between camps, their particular strengths or emphases, will probably make you feel more at home at one girls camp or another. To put it differently, there are of course differences between camps but they do not distinguish which camp is “best.” That is something that follows from how much you love your camp, and that’s what makes it best.
So yes, for many reasons, generations of girls believe Rockbrook is the best girls summer camp. They believe it because they’ve experienced it and love it as their own.
Are you ready for summer camp Charlotte girls? Judging from everyone’s enthusiasm at last weekend’s camp party at the Beltz’s home in Charlotte, the answer is “Yes!” With the new Rockbrook Camp movie and slideshow from last summer’s sessions all set to go, Sarah and Mandy met so many of our Charlotte NC campers and a bunch of their friends interested in learning more about RBC.
For returning campers and parents, it’s always fun at these parties to see the new camp movie, spot yourself and your friends in the photos, and just to recharge your Rockbrook spirit.
And for new campers, meeting all the people, talking with the families, having the camp directors answer your questions, these parties really are one of the best ways to see why so many girls love Rockbrook.
It’s wonderful to see that Rockbrook is the girls summer camp Charlotte families are buzzing about.
Our friend Carroll Parker dug this photo out of his files and emailed it to us the other day. Carroll grew up around Rockbrook because his father helped Mr. Carrier build the camp back in 1921. This aerial view of the camp shows western North Carolina and all it offered back then— the thick forests, streams, the “ever-bearing raspberries,” the French Broad River horseback riding ring, tennis courts, chicken coop, horse barn, gardens, and an apple orchard.
It’s fascinating to see what western North Carolina and Rockbrook Camp looked like back 1920s and 30s. Stay tuned, we’ll be posting more archival photos soon.
Whitewater kayaking is really catching on with the kids at Rockbook, and not just with our Seniors. Our Middlers, kids in the 5th or 6th grade, are also excited about kayaking.
You might think that is a little young to start such a technical sport, but the camp girls are usually quick to catch on to what’s involved. They learn about the equipment and basic techniques in the Rockbrook lake, and when ready, then move to one of the local rivers.
Even on the Rockbrook Camp property, there is a short section of the French Broad river that provides a great teaching rapid. It’s a nice cove of the river perfect for learning to ferry, peel out, and catch an eddy— three important kayaking maneuvers. Next stop? The Green, the Tuckaseegee, and the Nantahala rivers!
As a summer youth camp, Rockbrook’s mission is to be
“a haven for girls, a place of their own, where they can explore the beauty of nature, try new things, enjoy carefree summer living, and make some of their very best friends.”
And of course, camp is all about the fun, the super silliness of it all, too.
But it’s also more than all that, because camp is also a place where you learn a ton. Camp is definitely educational, and in the very best sense of the word. It teaches you how to be more independent, more creative, braver, and more socially adept. Camp helps you learn new ways to get along with others, to trust the people around you, and to feel good about what you do. It’s really true; youth camps help young people learn about themselves.
When you add the sort of caring spirited people that work at Rockbrook, you begin to understand how summer camps can be one of the most valuable educational experiences around.
Jeff Carter began his Rockbrook career in the 1980s. Over the years he has served camp in more capacities than most staff members. Hired by previous owner Jerry Stone, Jeff planned and led hiking and climbing trips in his first summers at camp.
During this time he pursued many education opportunities including his degree in comparative religions from Davidson College, where he was also an All-American high jumper on the track team. Then he received his masters degree from Harvard followed by his doctorate at the University of Chicago. He spent a year living in Nigeria on a Fulbright Fellowship completing his studies.
After marrying Sarah (at Rockbrook!) and teaching at Davidson College, he returned to Brevard to help Jerry start the Castle Rock Institute (a college humanities program run at camp). During this time, Jeff continued to work behind the scenes at camp leading trips, keeping us technologically up-to-date, and fixing everything!
While Rockbrook is in session, Jeff continues to be our “Jack of all Trades.” Combining his outdoor knowledge with his goofy sense of humor, he is always up to something new. During the off-season, he works on key staff hiring, website maintenance, health and ACA standards, camp improvements, and the list goes on. Also, when Jeff isn’t busy with camp director duties, he enjoys being outdoors: biking, hiking, and climbing. Typically he brings his two daughters, Eva and Lily, along for an adventure!
We hear this a lot, actually: that camp is a refuge. It’s a place where girls can escape the busy, sometimes overwhelming pace of their regular lives. For many young kids, each day is a bombardment of stimuli, new information and entertainment. There are school responsibilities, social demands, and activities at home all demanding attention. Increasingly, parents have noticed that the intensity of their children’s lives is making them more anxious, fearful, and worried. There’s so much going on, it’s difficult for kids to really connect with the people (family and friends) around them, adding even more to the burden of handling everything on their own. Everything around them seems to be shouting, and sometimes it’s just too much!
Thank goodness for camp. It really can be a refuge, a huge relief from all of this. Simply being outside, unplugged from rapid-fire electronic stimulation, is a powerful antidote. Having daily opportunities to engage creative talents, physical challenges, and deep social/personal relationships is so welcome, kids just blossom in a camp setting. It’s the greatest gift to simply have time to relax, to play in the creek, dress a little silly, or chat with a friend in the porch rocking chairs. The environment of a kids camp is a powerful healthy response to the extreme busyness of ordinary life. It always has been, and these days, it seems like it’s needed more than ever.