“Why an all-girls education?” For those considering a single-sex education, this is a natural question and one our students and faculty often answer at admissions information sessions.
Mary Burch Ford, who served as the head of Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Connecticut from 1993 to 2008, answered this question with particular insight, saying “the function of a girl’s school is not protection, it’s freedom.”
At Penguin Hall, freedom emanates from the value placed on the character and personhood of the individual. Walk through the halls to a daily morning meeting, and you’ll immediately sense the camaraderie, kindness, and commitment to academics that is fundamental to our school’s culture. Girls feel more comfortable speaking their ideas and asking questions, an important standard in classrooms designed for open discussion.
Lise Eliot, a neuroscientist at the University of Chicago and author of the 2009 book “Pink Brain, Blue Brain”, acknowledges that there are some innate differences between boys and girls. For example, scientists have noted that boys may be better at certain types of spatial reasoning, but this does not make them better at math. In other words, these types of findings become a problem when they’re seen as absolute and perpetuated by teachers, parents, and peers.
Gender is a spectrum, and questions of how to set policy around gender identity is a reality many single-sex schools are embracing. This doesn’t eliminate the existence of gender, though, and the inherent factors that influence development, such as hormones and genes. But societal influences also play a major role in the development of socially-identified male and female attributes.
At Penguin Hall, excellent teaching is never based on gender differences; it is rooted in forming relationships of trust with students, differentiating teaching based on an individual’s needs, and holding students accountable for their best work.
As our alumnae have shared, graduates are prepared for college and life beyond school walls. “I think Penguin Hall prepares you extremely well for college… the routine of being introduced to a topic, reading, discussing, and writing is what I’ve experienced in college. And I’m used to speaking in a classroom, something that not everyone is prepared for,” said Penguin Hall Alum Emma F. ‘19.
Within these stone walls, girls learn how to advocate for their needs and ideas, whether it be spearheading a community project, launching an affinity group, or suggesting a specific course for the next academic year. They are challenged but supported in their academics, athletics, and extracurriculars and are provided ample opportunities for leadership roles. A survey of all-girls alumnae found that 93% of girls school graduates were offered more leadership opportunities than peers at co-ed schools, and 80% have held leadership positions since graduating high school. Half of the respondents felt more prepared than their co-ed peers in science, math, and computer fields.
And, building relationships with other girls is empowering, especially in an environment where strong values, an inclusive culture, and diversity of backgrounds and ideas are respected and celebrated. Girls in adolescence, surrounded by other girls and without the influence of factors that come with boys, are often more comfortable exploring and being their true selves. This is not to say that competition doesn’t happen — it does, but it’s often a powerful catalyst for growth, as girls work to navigate relationships and social dynamics.
In an all-girls setting, strengths that might have otherwise gone unnoticed are seen, nurtured, and allowed to shine. Working hard is encouraged and respected amongst peers. Girls have the opportunity to form lifelong friendships based on inner strengths and their ability to reinforce the positive in one another, an invaluable asset no matter where life leads after graduation.
If you’ve never considered an all-girls education, we invite you to experience Penguin Hall’s unique learning environment first-hand by scheduling your own Shadow Day.