Ask someone to picture a contractor or a plumber, and chances are they’ll most likely think of a man. While men are often called on for tasks and repairs that require technical skills, a new design and build camp called Camp H seeks to tear down that stereotype by teaching girls hands-on mechanical skills.
After school and during the summers, Camp H in Berkeley, Calif., teaches 9- to 12-year-old girls hands-on building and develops their self-confidence. Emily Pilloton, a designer, teacher and activist who founded the camp, said that the activities like cutting plywood with a jigsaw and fusing metal with a welder provide young girls with the opportunity to learn math and science in real-life situations while creating projects that they can be proud of, according to Slate.
What They’re Learning
The camp teaches practical skills but also tackles other challenges often faced by girls, including a loss of interest in math and science in favor of reading and writing. Also, Pilloton noticed that female and male students approach problem-solving differently — boys dive right in while girls are more hesitant and ask for guidance. Lastly, girls should be held to the same standards as boys, said Pilloton. “I don’t want girls to just be given a hammer and say, ‘You’re holding a hammer, that’s awesome!’ I want to teach them how to weld. And to work on projects that don’t feel artsy and craftsy. Not like straight-up wood shop, but to balance the creative and the artistic side.”
In this season’s after-school program, Pilloton is teaching an “I Can Fix Anything!” class that teaches girls the basics of power tools and electrical equipment. It’s never too early to teach girls how to check air pressure in tires, fill the car with oil or install a new windshield wiper. Future programs will focus on building furniture and lighting for a women’s shelter. Pilloton added: “I want the projects either to have a personal connection or to teach the girls about being a citizen. I will never ever just give a girl or a student a set of plans and tell her to follow instructions.”
Camp H is an offspring of a high-school shop class called Studio H in Bertie County, N.C. that Pilloton co-founded. When working as a school adviser, the only way that she knew how to get kids to open up and build confidence was through teaching them to build things with their own two hands. Pilloton told Kristin Hohenadel at Slate, “They were really into it! They would say, ‘Where’s the chainsaw, I want to cut something in half!’”