Why We Believe in an All-Boys Camping Environment (and All-Girls, too)
While opinions about single gender vs. co-ed education differ wildly, our 90-years in camping gives us much perspective into the advantages of single gender summer camp – girls or boys. Of course, the obvious advantages are those of reduced social pressure and less vying for attention from the opposite sex. But looking further into children’s development, one might make an argument for much deeper benefits that are gained in two major areas of kids lives: peer support/friendships and empowerment/positive identity.
We feel, and have witnessed, that when boys are free from competition for girls’ attention (and our neighboring girls camps echo the same), they are free to explore and deepen their relationships with their peers. Boys can be boys – discussing favorite sports and activities of the day, game strategies, goals, and feelings that might otherwise be “uncool” with girls present. For example, a shy or socially awkward boy, who’s spent the school year under performance stress around girls and/or academics, can now feel comfortable with all kinds of other boy personalities and young counseling staff to pursue and express new interests. Increased socialization means expanded friendships. Less competition for female attention means boys feeling free to be boys, discussing and learning on a deeper level to make deeper friendships and learn more about themselves in the process – which leads to our next point.
Empowerment and positive identity. Friendships and self-discovery are empowering, confidence-building, and important to personal growth. We think this is one of the biggest boosts to self confidence and self discovery there is: kids having the space to feel loved and supported for who they are as unique individuals, free to express themselves, without fear of judgement, in a safe supportive environment. Karen Blakelock, in her article for Women’s Media Center sums it up nicely, “Ultimately, four years at an all girls school and three summers at an all boys camp has taught me this: When the other gender isn’t around, we feel free to be the person we want to be, not to conform to gender stereotypes.” And yes, I think we can all agree that there is much to be gained from such freedom, in the way of personal discovery, happiness, and learning to embrace differences in others.
At La Junta, “boys will be boys” is an empowering mantra.