More Benefits of Youth Camp

Camp Benefits GirlsI spotted an article discussing how parents can understand why residential summer camps are worth their cost. It’s true; sleepaway camps are usually expensive and can cost between $1000 and $2000 per week. And while it’s also true every summer activity (e.g., other educational opportunities, extracurricular activities, family vacations, trips, and entertainment) costs something significant, what are the unique benefits of an overnight camp experience that can justify its price?

First of all, the American Camp Association has a lot to say about the benefits for youth of attending summer camp. We have written about it before here and here (and especially here!), but you should visit the ACA Web site to see what they say.

One clear, obvious benefit to camp is the fun and concrete skills kids gain from the wide range of camp activities available.  By trying everything at camp, girls learn how to be an archer, a swimmer, a knitter, a tennis player, an actor, and a horseback rider, to name just a few.  They learn to do things, exciting new things that can easily turn into life-long pursuits.

Perhaps more importantly, a quality camp experience provides kids intangible benefits as well. Here’s how one camp director in the article put it.

“Besides all the exciting activities and friendships made, the immense value in camp comes in the development of key lifetime skills and attributes such as confidence, cooperation, communication, new skills and decision-making, to name a few. Camp goes beyond a summer session. It’s unique in that it really is about each camper developing their best self for life… In that regard it is priceless.”

More than other summer activities, a sleep away summer camp experience endows children with valuable life skills, provides positive adult role models, supports them with consistent encouragement, and all within the kind of well-rounded wholesome environment all too rarely found these days. These are lasting benefits that can really make a difference in a child’s life as she becomes an adult.  It’s pretty clear; with that kind of benefit, camp is definitely worth it.

SC Camps in the Mountains

South Carolina Summer Camp Girls

Looking over the listing of girls attending Rockbrook, this summer and in the past, it’s interesting to see how many campers are from South Carolina. It’s not too surprising if you realize a couple of things about RBC.

First of all, camp is located only about 8 miles from the South Carolina border. You have to go up the mountain to get here, but you can drive to Rockbrook in less than 6 hours from just about anywhere in South Carolina. Here’s a map showing camp’s location.

There is also a long tradition of Rockbrook directors being from South Carolina. For example, our former director “Jerky” (Ellen Hume Jervey) was a native of Charleston, SC.  Later, the Stevensons and the Whittles where also from SC.

Another thing to appreciate is that before air conditioning was common in the south, heading to the mountains was the best way to cool down in the summers.  South Carolina summer camps would even establish outposts in the “upstate” for this reason.  It’s hard to beat the mountains in the summer!  If you’re from Columbia or Charleston, you know what I mean.

Unplugging at Camp

Kids Enjoy Summer Crafts without TechnologySpotted a nice article about summer camp in the American Way Magazine. It’s called “Summer, Unplugged.” The author, Winston Ross, interviews several camp directors and camp kids to find out what’s so attractive about being at camp. There’s a lot of good stuff to read, so you should go check it out.

One thing that stood out for me, was the discussion about technology and how camp is so nice because it doesn’t have cell phones, video games, television and the Internet. Campers admit that it’s really tough to give that stuff up at first, but once they settle in at camp, they appreciate being “unplugged.” One girl put it this way.

“It’s kind of like a symbolic way of stepping out of the real world,” she says. “It allows me to take off from home, leave my worries, thoughts about college, and stress behind. I just go escape.”

Turning off your technology allows you to really engage all of what camp offers— the real friendships, the physical activity, and the chances to explore and discover the natural world. Instead of being entertained by a flickering screen, you get to create a fun time with your friends. You get to actually do really cool things instead of just sitting around “watching” something. …Take off your shoes, soak ’em in the creek, and let’s make a basket.

When you think about it, there’s a lot more to life, to being human, than “facebooking,” text messaging, and watching “reality” TV. These days, it takes a real effort to get past all of that so you can exercise those more important parts of who you are. Camp is special place to help with that effort. It’s perfect for reminding you that life is more fun in the real world.

The History of Summer Camps

1861 First Summer Camp

The American Camp Association, the national accrediting organization for summer camps (including RBC!) and 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.

Balancing on the Rock

Kid Rock Climbing Summer CampYou’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.”

Are you rock climbing this summer?

They Need Summer Camp

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.

Summer Camp TeenagersSo 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.

climbing teenagers

The Best Girls Summer Camp

best-girls-campWhat 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.

Meeting you in Charlotte for Camp

Summer Camp CharlotteAre 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, 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.