Children’s summer camps and wilderness programs for boys and girls in the United…

February 23, 2014

Girls’ Summer Camps Break Down Barriers

Asian schoolgirlRachel Simmons, cofounder of the Girls Leadership Institute and author of “Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Confidence and Courage,” provides a picture of the dramatic disparity of girls in leadership positions. In an op-ed article for CNN, Simmons explains that the reason that girls are not occupying the top political positions in schools or in civic representation is due to the way we as a society are raising our young ladies. According to Simmons, girls are “socialized to be likeable, to please others, to not tout their own successes and to speak softly like proper girls. As a result, they face powerful psychological barriers to attaining leadership roles.” Simmons is a strong proponent of girls’ summer camps as a means to shifting this problematic trend. At the Girls Leadership Institute and girls’ summer camps around the world, young women are breaking down their barriers to leadership, confidence, and courage.

Some of the Most Powerful Aspects of Girls’ Summer Camps are Between the Camp Activities
Girls summer camps certainly use an impactful curricula and challenging elements to engage their participants, but it’s not just the ropes courses and theatre productions that draw the campers out of their comfort zones. Simmons’s article states that “organizations such as the Girls Leadership Institute teach girls as young as 5 to express their feelings with friends and how to be assertive.” She challenges our educators to demand the same of its female students. Perhaps they could take a page from the book of girls’ summer camps: when there are 8 to 12 girls sleeping in one room and spending all of their waking hours together, there is a strong need for clear communication and introspection in order to ensure that everyone is comfortable. Additionally, reflections on challenge courses or after disputes necessitate that girls assert themselves and communicate their needs and feelings.

Girls’ Summer Camps Have Inspiring Role Models
As Simmons points out in the article, parental encouragement plays a huge role in a child’s confidence and sense of self. She points to statistics that indicate a significantly higher number of boys encouraged by their mothers to run for office than girls. We base our decisions off of the models around us, so it makes sense that this gender disparity continues. But at girls’ summer camp, young women are surrounded by powerful female role models. They see older, inspiring women in authoritative roles; and they build trust with and receive encouragement from these women. A seemingly simple relationship such as this can have profound impact on a young girl, inspiring her to grow up and become like the leaders she has at camp.

Girls Summer Camp Activities Eliminate Gender Norms
When campers are isolated by gender at summer camps, there is a blurring of social norms. Steering the canoe or carrying the hay for the horses is not seen as the “boys’ job,” and girls are free to act with liberal demeanor without worrying about impressing the opposite sex. They are not too cool to get up on the ropes course, and find themselves less likely to fear falling or making a bad impression in front of the boys. This liberating and supportive environment boosts confidence, courage, and self-assertion – all traits that Simmons says are necessary to bring girls up to social equality.

Camppage provides information on all sorts of summer camp programs all over the US and Canada.

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