When it comes to choosing the right school for children, there are nearly endless options. For those who want to give their daughters the best start, Bryn Mawr’s The Baldwin School has consistently produced top students since its founding in 1888.
The school’s original vision, established by its namesake Florence Baldwin, has remained steadfast. For over 130 years, the school has sought to provide the best education to young girls in order to prepare them for college and beyond, building in them confidence and a global perspective.
Benefits of a Single-Sex Environment
That success comes from a strong academic model, which fosters creative thinking, confidence and leadership skills. “One of the things we pride ourselves on is trying to provide the best experience for each individual girl. That might mean helping her figure out what her passions are,” explains Dr. Laura Blankenship, Dean of Academic Affairs. She believes that the single-sex environment for pre-kindergarten through grade 12 makes a world of difference in allowing students to find and pursue those passions.
“In the all-girls environment, students can really focus on learning,” says Dr. Blankenship. Girls aren’t distracted by male peers, which can sometimes foster shyness or unwillingness to speak up. Uniforms also allow students to focus on studies instead of societal pressures to conform to the latest trends.
“All of our teachers really focus on building skills specifically for girls. Primary among them is building confidence in the areas that are male-dominated still—things like math, science, computer science and leadership skills,” says Dr. Blankenship.
Recent studies have found that girls as young as six have demonstrated a lack of confidence in fields traditionally dominated by men. “We work really hard to make sure they feel confident in those areas so that when they do go off after Baldwin and find themselves in a co-ed environment, they don’t have that mentality of ‘This is for boys’ and ‘I’m not as good at this because I’m a girl.’ It completely eliminates all of that.”
To further encourage students to use a wide variety of skills, Baldwin introduced its DREAM Lab in 2015. “It’s a STEM oriented program, but we really focus on a lot of different skills, not just the technical skills,” says Dr. Blankenship. “We try to build really deliberately into our work problem solving, creativity and grit.”
The lab allows students to experiment with different tools and get hands on experience. “What we try to do is integrate a little of everything into those projects. If you’re doing a woodworking project, you’re going to be using math and creativity skills,” Dr. Blankenship adds.
Outside of the lab, students are also emboldened to succeed where they might not think possible. “We continually encourage our students to take upper level classes when teachers see that a student is doing well in something,” says Dr. Blankenship. “We also watch out for those students who might be discouraged and saying things like ‘I’m just not a math person.’ Our teachers are trained to counter that instead of just letting it go.” The result is well-rounded students who are comfortable in nearly any environment or situation.
Building Leadership Skills
Another advantage of a single-sex education is that girls have far more opportunities for leadership roles than they would at a co-educational school. Baldwin teachers are acutely aware of this unique environment.
“Girls are leaders in everything. They lead all the clubs, they’re the class presidents. They run a lot of parts of the school,” says Dr. Blankenship, who notes that many students gain a great deal of confidence from those roles.
Beyond those roles, students are also encouraged within the classroom to take on leadership positions. “One of the things that our teachers work on a lot is making sure every girl speaks up. They often provide opportunities within the classroom for students to lead the class,” says Dr. Blankenship, who notes this begins as early as lower school and carries the tradition through until graduation.
Success Beyond Baldwin
Having been encouraged from a young age to pursue all academic topics and hold different types of leadership positions, Baldwin students are poised to succeed in college and in their careers. “From an academic standpoint, resounding feedback we get from alums is that the first year of college isn’t that hard,” says Dr. Blankenship, who notes that Baldwin’s senior level classes are equivalent to those taught at universities. Beyond that, they’re not afraid to take on new challenges, whether that’s starting a business or accepting a bigger role at work.
Baldwin graduates have gone on to lead impressive careers, from working in the U.S. government to holding leading positions at universities and secondary educational institutions, to law and medicine.
While many women have historically shied away from STEM careers, 60 percent of Baldwin’s 2017 graduates indicated they were planning to pursue a career in one of those fields, likely thanks to programs like the DREAM Lab.
“We really encourage and challenge our students to pursue those kinds of careers. It’s part of our mission to close the gender gap in some of those areas, so I think we’re really attuned to that gap existing and wanting our students to be part of closing it,” says Dr. Blankenship.
The Baldwin School is hosting middle and upper school open houses on Oct. 19 and Nov. 1, from 8:30-11 a.m. There will be tours of the Early Childhood Center and lower school on Oct. 5 and Nov. 14, also from 8:30-11 a.m.