“Educating the Whole Child” is a phrase that the American Camp Association, the accrediting organization for camps, including Rockbrook, uses to describe what camps really do. Sure camps are fun for kids, but they are also uniquely educational, providing important developmental benefits that the otherwise 2-dimensional experience of schools often do not. If we wish to raise three dimensional children who are more than just academic achievers, polished artists or top athletes, for example, then we need to address the “whole child,” her creativity, imagination, bravery, decision making, thoughtfulness, compassion, love of nature, curiosity, passion, flexibility, initiative, collaboration and communication. We need to encourage and foster these important aspects of being a happy, well-rounded and adjusted human being. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see all of these traits blossom in our children?
Of course! Fortunately, life at camp does provide many opportunities for your girls to develop these character traits. Learning to do a handstand, taking care of large animal, completing swimming laps to join the “Mermaid Club,” discovering a creepy looking bug (maybe, on the wall above your bed!), deciding how to spend free time, helping with cabin and dining hall chores, compromising when a difference of opinion arises, helping a younger camper, being inspired by the misty fog of the morning, singing (loudly!) with friends, getting your bare feet really muddy, tying an even more complicated friendship bracelet, leading your friends in an off-the-wall skit, rescuing a fellow kayaker after a rapid— each of these, and so many more experiences at camp, is a way to develop that third dimension, a way to promote being more fully human. In this way, camp is educational in the best sense of the word. It fulfills real childhood needs, and in the end, can be a profoundly life changing experience.
OK, fine. But sometimes, we also cut loose, just for the fun of it… Like this afternoon when the “Biltmore Train” came to camp. Back before it was a winery and tourist destination, the Biltmore Estate ran a commercial dairy selling its milk and ice cream locally. For a while it delivered its wares in a truck decorated with a train motif, so when it arrived at Rockbrook, the girls called it the Biltmore “train.” Today, we have a different supplier of ice cream, but we continue this tradition by forming a different train; we hold an all-you-can-eat (well, at least until the six big tubs are gone) ice cream party. Campers break into several lines, counselors wear themselves out scooping, and after the first cone, the girls race to get back in line (to the end of the “train”) for another. All of this makes for a high-spirited, somewhat sugar-charged, afternoon, a once-a-year decadent treat for these girls.