If I had to define the gist of this blog, I’d say its goal is both to describe what happens at camp, and to explain why Rockbrook is what is, does what it does, and makes a difference for the people here. If you ask anyone who attends camp to convey what’s so special about it, they’re bound to struggle, and finally throw up their hands and say, “you just don’t get it.” I’ve been working at this task for almost 20 years, and I still feel there’s more to say. If discussing camp was a simple thing, you’d think I would have figured it out by now, but I haven’t! Sure, I have my theories, but they’re certainly incomplete.
Let me today interpret a few recent photos you’ve seen in the online gallery.
Muffins! You may have heard of our famous muffin break, that special time between morning activity periods (around 11am) when we serve a freshly baked muffin to all the campers and staff members. When the bell rings to change morning activities, everyone detours toward the dining hall porch where the Hi-Ups pass out the day’s muffin. Everyday it’s a surprise flavor too! It could be “cherry white chocolate,” “pumpkin chocolate chip,” “funfetti sprinkles,” or classic “blueberry,” for example. The baker sometimes creates amazing unique flavors, like when she made “key lime pie” muffins, and the legendary “cookie dough” muffins that where topped with a small dollop of cookie dough. Realizing that the girls could use a mid-morning snack, and loving fresh baked goods herself, Sarah invented the idea of muffin break. Ever since, and probably forever more, we all enjoy muffins at Rockbrook.
Woodworking! It’s our newest activity addition at Rockbrook and is quickly becoming one of the most popular. In the wood shop, located behind the lower pottery studio, the girls are measuring, cutting, shaping, gluing, drilling and sanding pieces of wood. They’re learning these basic woodworking skills while they make wooden journal covers, cutting boards, sculpted candle holders, or secret boxes. Along the way, they are using true woodworking tools like pull saws, block planes, chisels, rasps, tape measures, drills, and clamps. This is an activity that really empowers the girls and gives them a great sense of accomplishment when they have a finished project to take home. It’s a great example of camp proving to them they are more powerful than they think. No wonder it’s popular!
Gaga ball! You may not have heard of this group game, but it’s always a big attraction at camp. During any block of free time, there’ll be a dozen or more girls crowded around our gaga ball “pit.” The game is a form of dodgeball and was invented in Israel in the 1970s. All of the players start in the pit and then swat a small rubber ball around trying to hit other players with the ball. If hit, a player is “out” and must hop out and over the wall to wait until the game is over— when only one player remains. Each game only takes a few minutes to play, so even if you’re out, you’ll be back in to play another game shortly. One variation allows players who are out to reach over the wall and hit the ball. If they hit it and get someone else out of the game, they get to go back in. Gaga ball is a fast paced game that’s easy to learn and fun to play, especially with a large group.
Horseback riding! Rockbrook is known for its riding program and, as you might guess, attracts girls who love riding. This is why we have so much of it going on. During the 4 activity periods each day, we’ll have up to 6 different mounted lessons occurring simultaneously— girls on horses learning to walk their horse through a course, to find the right posting rhythm while trotting their horse, and to canter over cross rails and jumps. There are lessons for all skill levels. The girls learn to tack up their horses and how to take care of their stalls. For those really excited about horses, there is our “stable club” which gives girls a chance to work even more with the Rockbrook horses— washing them, feeding and watering them, and taking care of their feet. With 32 horses currently at the riding center, there’s always plenty to do…. and usually plenty of girls eager to help.
Rain! This afternoon, like many afternoons around here, we had a brief thunderstorm pass over camp. In a way, these are welcome breaks from the heat, but they can also include lightning. To help us be safe during these storms, we have a lightning warning system that automatically sends out a loud horn-like sound whenever lightning is detected near camp. The campers and staff know that when they hear this sound, they should immediately take shelter in a building. The lifeguards clear the lake. Riders dismount from their horses. Tennis players, and everyone outside, moves inside. This lightning system continually monitors the storm, and when there has been no additional lightning in the area for 20 minutes, sounds an “all clear” horn signaling everyone that it’s now OK to resume their regular activities. The system works great, usually giving us plenty of notice before a rainstorm is upon us. Today that storm lasted about 45 minutes, just long enough to play a quick card game in the dining hall or ballgame the gym before heading back out.
Camp is so many things. These blog posts can only give a hint as to its depth, just like the photo gallery can only capture a handful of brief moments among millions each day. There’s cool grey fog in the mornings and golden sunsets at dusk, but in between there are Rockbrook girls woven into the textures of camp life. It’s a full life, rich with new experiences, a good life, for sure.