Not long ago I was having lunch at Merri-Mac with my friend George. He had recently retired from 15 years as a camp director and he missed camp. As we finished eating the girls cleared their tables and then the tribal leaders stood on their benches and began leading their tribe songs. First Iroquois would cheer, and then Seminole would answer, finally Choctaw rallied in response. George was stunned and he asked me what they were doing. Who was leading this? Was it a special day? I said simply, “George, this is lunch. After the tribe songs they will sing side by side, then the Princess Song, and finally the announcement song.” I then explained that at dinner we would sing cabin and state songs, and at breakfast the next morning we would sing breakfast songs. Of course there were also chapel songs, and Lakeside songs, and Final Campfire songs, but that was getting off subject. I got the impression that George had never seen anything like this, and I knew exactly why. George had directed a co-ed camp, and girls will not stand up and sing, at least not like they do at camp, with boys in the room. I think that is sad, because you have never seen a person have more fun than when they sing with their friends.
Most people agree that boys and girls develop differently. In general girls develop language more quickly while a boy’s develop in their visual/spatial abilities. Other studies show that boys focus when under stress while girls tend to take less risk in stressful situations. So it is no surprise that children consistently perform better in single-gender schools. Settings focused on their particular strengths are simply going to be more effective.
Camp, however, is different. We are not making our campers better students (though I suspect they are), we are making them happier, more adventurous people. Our strength is that camp is both an intensely social (we live together!) and a low stress setting. The result is a place where it is safe to try new things. It is a place where the girls live together in their cabins as families, and like a family, it is a place where they can cheer for each others’ success and encourage each other when they fail. This is why girls who attend single-gender camps are more likely to develop a healthy sense of adventure, make life-long friends and return year after year.