Santa Fe Girls’ School offers a nurturing and challenging space for adolescent girls to find their voices in the absence of adolescent boys, whose learning styles and maturity levels are arguably dissimilar.
Co-founder Lee Lewin said that, after several years of teaching in the public elementary schools, she saw a pattern that emerged in the fifth grade.
“Many girls—not all of them, but many—lose sight of their own individuality, their own strengths. Many girls become reluctant to compete academically with boys for fear of losing the boys’ admiration. Middle school is a three-year window where girls who are at risk of losing academic focus should be sheltered from gender dynamics. It’s a critical time to develop academic strengths and self-esteem so they can continue on to public high schools or the high schools of their choices and be successful.”
Research supports Ms. Lewin’s experience, showing that adolescent girls can feel uncomfortable competing with and outperforming boys. They often fall behind boys in mathematics, science and applied arts, and technology, and may continue to lose academic confidence. In a single-gender environment, girls can discover and develop their individual voices with less apprehension.
The advantages of this middle school window of single-gender education are strengthened by the school’s small size (45-student capacity; 15 in each grade), and its practice of seminar-style teaching methods, which encourage profound and enduring learning through active inquiry and debate, and the investigation of multiple perspectives. Students learn how to think, rather than what to think.