So Many Fabulous Options

camper teach girl to tie climbing rope knowOur morning began as any normal day does at camp… with a hot breakfast filled with lots of singing and enthusiasm! As the day went on, though, the campers were given different opportunities to challenge themselves by choice! A few of the trips that were offered today were up to our own zip line course, kayaking and canoeing trips out to the Nolichucky and French Broad rivers, and a hike to Quentin Falls! With so many fabulous options, it again became tricky for our campers to choose what they wanted to do most. Trips set out and the rest of our girls settled into their activities. Here at Rockbrook, our girls get to choose which activities they want to take for their three-day activity rotations. The night before a new rotation, girls head to their cabins while counselors come around signing them up for the four activities of their choice.

Throughout the day girls worked on looms, made colorful jelly soaps, threw different sized creations on the potter’s wheel, and rehearsed for our end-of-the-session camp play! No matter which activities the girls were in, they were fully invested! For Twilight this evening, we also had a variety of counselor-led events in which the girls could participate. First, there were games of pickleball going on at our new pickleball courts! Girls from different lines came down and tried a new sport. They all enjoyed trying something new and even improved their skills. Next, we had a guided meditation session in the Junior Lodge. After a long and busy day, sometimes it’s nice to sit back and reflect. Girls grabbed a yoga mat, sat down, closed their eyes, and listened to soft words spoken by one of our fabulous counselors.

girls wrapping yarn for weavingThe last option offered was a Zumba class in the gym! Once again, girls from different lines followed the fun dance moves lead by another one of our talented counselors. On top of all of these fun events, there were still some girls playing in the creek, rolling down the hill, and reading on the porch of the Hillside Lodge.

To wrap up the night, the girls got to work on the Carrier Pigeon for evening program. The Carrier Pigeon has been a Rockbrook tradition since at least 1924. With Rockbrook’s 100 year birthday coming up in just 2 years, Sarah Carter and camp mom Marie Brown have been hard at work looking over precious Rockbrook history. The Carrier Pigeon is sent to campers every winter and features a variety of photos throughout the summer. In the old Carrier Pigeons, girls would receive theirs at the end of the summer and it would feature literary work from many girls who attended camp. This year we are trying to incorporate more literary works, such as songs and narratives, into our 2019 Carrier Pigeon.

Girls all over camp spent time tonight reflecting on their camp experiences. They were given a pen and paper along with the freedom to write about whatever they wanted. Girls excitedly turned in their work wondering if they will see it featured in the Carrier Pigeon come winter.

camp gymnastics girls

That Peculiar Sense of Adventure

girl pulling back archery bowTwo of the most popular activities at camp are the shooting sports, archery and riflery. Most of the girls at camp are eager to try these traditional sports at least once during their session. Each has pretty cool equipment— real guns and real arrows! Each is novel and challenging but also achievable, with an inherent satisfaction (hitting the target). Also, both archery and riflery are skills the girls learn quite quickly, seeing real progress in their abilities after only a few days. They are so excited when their scores improve with practice, and when they shoot a bullseye, it’s a huge thrill! There’s a bullseye club for each sport too, and whenever a girl shoots one, the staff announces her name to the whole camp during a meal. And finally, there’s a long tradition at Rockbrook of the girls challenging the boys of Camp Carolina to an archery, riflery and tennis tournament at the end of the session. The top shooters join the RBC archery or riflery teams for the friendly competition. There’s a lot to like about the shooting sports at Rockbrook.

I saw a news story reporting that more than “70 million Americans are expected to endure temperatures above 95 degrees in next 7 days.” Yikes! Rockbrook, thankfully, has been spared that kind of heat thanks to our elevation and northwestern-facing location. If you take a look at our weather station, you can see that we are enjoying a normal summer of upper 60s at night and mid 80s during the day. Camp in the mountains of North Carolina is great!

girls holding up tie-dye t-shirts they madeWe’ve seen the unveiling of incredible craft projects lately. These tie-dyed t-shirts, for example, are one of the best I’ve ever seen… swirls of deep color, each with a unique pattern. The same is true for pottery as the first kiln firings are being completed. Here too, it’s exciting to see how the process of finishing the pots combines with varying techniques of glazing to reveal a surprise work of art. The fiber arts cabin is producing especially amazing pieces. The girls are using all the the looms, from the wide floor looms to the lap looms, and showing real skill and creativity as they work on their weavings.

friends going down sliding rockJust looking at Sliding Rock is intriguing. After all, it’s a natural water slide formed by Looking Glass Creek as it flows over 60 feet of a dome-shaped rock and into a pool at the bottom. From a distance it’s even inviting. It looks fun for people to slide down. But standing at the top of the slide, the “refreshing” water splashing on the back of your legs, and looking down, it can be a little frightening too. Tonight when we brought all of the mini session Middlers and Seniors, you could see it in their eyes, that peculiar sense of adventure that combines uncertainty, physical challenge, and excitement, all in a beautiful natural setting. The water level tonight was a little higher than normal, so this made the sliding even more of an acceleration toward the plunge at the bottom. The girls had a complete blast sliding several times (some went down six times!) until it was time to drive out of the forest for our final stop of the evening, Dolly’s Dairy Bar. If you don’t know about Dolly’s you will when you hear from your daughter. We take everyone at Rockbrook to this local ice cream stand at least once during their session. It’s that good. Most of our girls will be happy to tell you it’s the “best ice cream on earth.” Perhaps a quick stop at Dolly’s would be a good idea when you pick up your girls from camp. I guarantee that will be a welcome suggestion! 🙂

two girls waving before sliding rock

The Start of Something New

Now that Second Session has officially begun, campers have eagerly jumped on all the opportunities for fun and adventure at camp. Every day except Sundays, campers take activities that they can choose themselves. Mondays at camp are always full of new experiences because they are the first day of activity rotations. Today was especially delightful because it is the first day of the fist activity rotation, and it is the second day of the whole session.

Every Sunday and Wednesday night after dinner, campers choose their next round of four activities that they will take for three days. Some campers enjoy taking the same activities every time because they want to continue building their skills, they particularly enjoy being with those activity instructors, or they are just big fans of that activity. On the other hand, some campers choose new activities every rotation in order to try the most they can while at camp, since many of our activities are things that are often not available at home. Either way, campers practice decision-making and independence when they pick activities and challenge themselves to try new things.

For instance, today in Curosty, our weaving activity, campers sat by the creek and learned how to make baskets that they will be able to take home and use. 

Meanwhile in Yoga, campers not only practiced different poses and breathing techniques, they also learned about yoga philosophy and history in order to ground their yoga experience and relate it to their lives.

No matter the activity, campers are able to take something away with them when they leave camp. Whether it is a freshly honed skill in knot tying, an experience on horseback they’ve never had before, or a new friend they made in needlecraft, each camper heads home with more than they arrived with. The combination of immersion in nature, working with activity specialists, and daily opportunities to build both skills and relationships make activities at Rockbrook a unique learning experience.

Girls arm in arm at summer camp

1st Session Video Note – Part Two

Robbie Francis of Go Swan Filmworks spent another day this week filming at Rockbrook, quietly roaming the camp with his camera capturing some of the action. And now we have this fascinating 2-minute slice of life at camp to enjoy.

Take a look! There are moments of pride, heartfelt affection, joy, determination, and of course sheer exuberance. It’s hard not to smile while watching it.

Click here for the video. Or see below.

 

An Eruption of Camp Life

weaving kid at campkid shooting rifleLet’s get right to the activities! That’s what every girl at camp was thinking as we finished breakfast this morning. Soon, counselors and campers alike filled every corner of camp with enthusiastic action. Amazing complex weavings seemed to spring from the looms in no time. Clay sculptures, friendship bracelets, decorative paper calendars, and small paintings became creative realities. Sports too!  Girls learned about firing rifles, shooting arrows and hitting tennis balls. The lake was busy all day despite some lingering drizzle parts of the day. The horseback riding staff taught their first mounted lessons. The adventure staff took girls on a hike to see a nearby waterfall and several groups flew overhead on the Rockbrook zip line course. The performing arts staff  introduced new songs, and our Yoga instructor taught girls their first poses and relaxation techniques.  It was an impressive eruption of camp life!

During their free time— three different 45 minute blocks  —the girls enjoyed freshly baked muffins as a mid-morning snack, waterslide rides and diving board tricks at the lake, for some a chance to walk or run “Charlotte’s loop,” and games of gaga ball, more tennis, and even more tetherball. After dinner, the sun was practically blinding as groups of girls sat on the hill to watch an amazing, cloud-marbled sunset.

zip line through the treesWhat a luxury to have this kind of free, unhurried, self-directed time! When the rest of the year is often completely scheduled, camp gives girls a chance to decide for themselves what they’d like to do. They (not their parents) select their camp activities. They (not their teachers or coaches) decide how to spend their time. Camp provides extraordinary opportunities, and exactly the right kind of encouragement to try new things at each girl’s individual pace. If you’ve ever wondered how to inspire children to be more independent and self motivated, this is it. You give them a real chance to do things on their own!  Camp supports and empowers kids in this way, and it can make a big difference for them long after the closing campfire.

Of course, we’re just getting started. Everyone is settling in nicely at camp, making quick new friends as we share this time together in “the heart of a wooded mountain.” Take some time to browse through the photo gallery and you’ll see what I mean. Meanwhile, let’s us know if you have any questions, or better yet, write your camper a letter or an email.  She’ll love it!

teen girls holding muffins

Seeing Past Failure

kid on pottery wheelIt is OK to fail.

I repeat: it is OK to fail.

This is not something we hear everyday, or something we ordinarily tell children. For most, we’re not looking for failure; we want success! But if thought about differently, this is advice we don’t hear enough. Getting that C on your math test or missing the bullseye in Archery may seem like the end of the world, but they don’t have to be.

I majored in Comedy Writing and Performing in college. Junior year, as part of my studies, I spent a semester at the Second City, a well known institute for comedy in Chicago famous for turning out comedic stars like Tina Fey and Stephen Colbert. An important lesson we were repeatedly taught during my time there was that not only is it OK to fail, but you have to fail. You have to go in front of an audience and try your stand-up or sketch act and it has to at least fail a few times so you can figure out what is funny and what is not. Failing, in comedy, is how you find your voice. As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, it was the most freeing thing for me to hear that failing now and then was a good thing.

The American composer and music theorist John Cage had this to say: “Nothing is a mistake. There is no win and no fail. There is only make.” For him, especially in creative endeavors, what seems like a failure in truth contains the seeds of learning as long as one is determined enough to “do the work.”

weaving on lap loomThat same lesson can be applied to camp. Accepting failure is especially important when, as a camper, you are learning new things all the time, whether it be in an activity or in learning to live within a community for the first time (communication! compromise!). Learning something new means expecting and accepting mistakes. It means you are going to fail once or twice or a few times before successful habits and skills come to be.

I teach Curosty, Rockbrook’s weaving activity, where girls are learning something new just about every time they enter the cabin door. For lots of campers, it’s their first time ever seeing a loom, let alone using one. For some, the act of weaving by hand is a new feeling completely. For them to expect to be perfect at it, not make a single mistake, from the get-go is a ridiculous expectation because they usually never are. They’ll have to tie and re-tie knots on their bookmarks a few times. All the potholder loops will pop out when they’re casting off their work. And there will usually be gaps in their first reed basket. But that’s the best way to learn: by failing. Correcting failure, seeing past it, always leads to growth. With the right attitude, moments of failure can blossom into real learning.

Camp is a safe place for this kind of learning too, because, no matter what, you know you are supported and encouraged by your friends and the entire Rockbrook community. Here at camp, we’re all experimenting, all discovering, and all failing now and then along the way. We’re all in it together. If there’s any place to fail and fail safely, it’s here.

girls summer camp campers

Creative Mistakes

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” — Scott Adams

creative weaving kidsWe are so fortunate here at camp to have the extra time to slow down and be creative. As head of Curosty, the weaving activity here at Rockbrook, I see firsthand everyday the results of this extra time. From circle weavings to baskets to woven headbands, the girls have made many a woven ware that they may not have had the chance to at home. Along with this opportunity to nourish their creative selves, the girls are also afforded the freedom to make what I like to call “creative mistakes.”

A creative mistake isn’t your conventional mistake. It isn’t a roadblock. It’s not a signal to rip up your project, throw it in the trash, and start all over again. It is a mistake that can lead to a new way of doing something and, as a result, lead to a more interesting finished project. It may feel disruptive in the moment, but when embraced, it is a thing of creative beauty.

Weaving ChildA day doesn’t go by that I don’t hear campers nervously proclaiming, “I made a mistake!” as they drop their project onto the table in defeat. I very quickly tell them there is no such thing as a mistake in Curosty, and encourage them to keep going with their project. Bumps of yarn sticking up from a woven bookmark makes for a cool texture. Running out of time to weave a rug turns into a little mat for your cat. Just recently, I had a camper who was working on a circle weaving make the decision to veer from weaving in the circle shape because she wanted to cover up the blue yarn she no longer liked. Her finished weaving had dashes of yarn across the center making for a really neat design with unexpected pops of color.

At school or at work we are not always given the space to make mistakes, but here at camp it is welcomed as a tool for learning and discovery. There is value in making mistakes in a creative endeavor because it can turn into something uniquely you.

As a camper once told her Curosty classmates: “The quirks are how you know it’s not from a store.”

fiber arts children

A Pervasive Spirit of Creativity

weaving pot holderWhy are there so many craft activities at Rockbrook and why are they so popular? It seems like everywhere you turn there are girls creating something complex and colorful, combining unexpected materials, contrasting and coordinating with beautiful results. One answer is that there are intriguing techniques to learn and inspiring instructors excited to share what they know. In pottery, for example, the girls have become fascinated by the wheel and have been eagerly giving them a spin. It’s fascinating to watch a carefully centered ball of clay turn, and then muddy yet steady hands, gradually shape and pull the clay into a bowl or cup. Just seeing it makes you want to try it. Likewise, there’s a fascination to tie dying, the careful folding, twisting and tying of the white t-shirts. When the richly colored dyes soak into the shirts after being selectively applied from plastic squirt bottles, it’s like a flower blooming in slow motion. It literally brings out “ooohs and aaahs.”

I also think there is a pervasive spirit of creativity here at Rockbrook, and while that spirit also drives our enthusiasm for costumes, writing and singing songs together, and performing skits for each other, it finds daily expression through the many craft activities available. Weaving potholders or larger fabrics on the floor looms, layering colors of paint on paper, tying intricate knots in cotton thread and stringing beads for a bracelet, the girls can be imaginative and inventive in ways that we are quick to celebrate. That kind of encouragement to be boldly creative feels really good and is lots of fun.

Teen Girl Canoe TripFinally, I’d say our craft activities are popular with the girls because here at camp— and this is true for almost everything we do —we do them together. We share the experience with each other, with people we care about and know so well. In other words, the camp community enhances the process of making art, of being creative, and developing artistic skills. With a group of girls knitting on the back porch of Curosty, the group will be laughing and chatting.  Being social, reacting to each other’s excitement, or perhaps being quick to lend a hand with a challenging bit, adds to the joy of weaving a basket with your feet in the creek… “Doesn’t the sun feel really good next to this cold water?” Whether it’s paddling a canoe down the French Broad River, shooting archery, or decorating a memory box, having good friends around to do it with makes the activity more meaningful.  Being a little slower paced, our camp craft activities are particularly good examples of this, but doing so much around here together, as a community, is another reason camp life is so great.

And none of these reasons craft activities are popular at camp (the inherent opportunities to learn, create and socialize) rely on the quality of the final products the girls make— the paintings, pottery sculptures, weavings, and so forth. The real rewards come from the process rather than the end result. The process of making crafts together is way more important than having the crafts they make.  Sure, the girls are also proud of what they make, and they’ll probably present something they’ve made to you as a gift on closing day, but while they’re here, the fun is in the making. It’s in dressing up, and not so much in the nature of your costume. The fun is the hiking, and not the destination (Turn that goal into a stroll!).  I think that focus is another ingredient in the secret sauce that is camp.

Girls silly costumes