Like I said in my last post The Beauty of a Team, I am a camp person.
I have had a variety of different roles at a few different camps and I cherish those memories and recognize that time at camp has shaped a lot of who I am today. I have already spoken about how I appreciate the equal representation of male and female leaders at camp. But of course, camp is not perfect and there are ways that I could have encouraged more teamwork between the two groups.
Here are three ways in which summer camp (or really any organization working with youth) could encourage positive and inclusive behaviours between men and women:
1. Think outside of the box for Guys/Girls nights
Every camp I have ever been to had some sort of gender specific event during the week. Don't get me wrong, I mean why not get all the girls together for a spa night while all the guys go skateboarding? There is absolutely nothing wrong with having exclusive events, the problem occurs when as leaders we decide for all the female campers that what "girly" means is nail polish and massages, and that "manly" means getting dirty and playing sports. If I could go back, I would have tried to plan events that all types of boys and girls could enjoy.
2. Encourage Collaboration, Not Competition
Evenings at camp is game time! The introvert in me sometimes feared the campwide games, but once I got into them I was really competitive. In my experience of summer camp, there was usually a huge emphasis on "boys against girls". This can be totally fun and can really get kids into the games. However, it would also be useful to also include games where male and female campers were on teams together competing against other multi-gender teams.
3. Train young male and female leaders to work together
I believe that young leaders/volunteers at camp are the people we should be investing in the most, as they may continue each summer and will likely take their cue from the older staff. If at a young age, the staff can learn how to collaborate with each other in a positive way while also recognizing and celebrating their differences, this will set the tone for the following years.
I would love to hear feedback from fellow camp people! What do you think?