Have you ever seen a 10-year-old girl welding metal as sparks fly all around her? That's just a typical afternoon at Camp H.
The summer camp and after-school program located in Berkeley, CA is part of Project H Design, a nonprofit created by Emily Pilloton to bring creativity, design and hands-on building experience to the community, specifically young people.
Camp H, is only offered to girls 9 through 12. It creates a safe space where they can learn the fundamentals of building and design, and experiment and explore a field that is stereotypically just for men and boys.
"I remember being at that age and being socially awkward and a big math nerd, and loving to build things," Pilloton tells the Good News. "I started the camp to live vicariously through my campers and to provide more opportunities for girls to do really audacious things, like learn how to weld when they're 10 years old, and do things maybe people have told them are only for boys, or do things that they never thought was in the realm of possibility."
Every session is different - sometimes they only use woods, sometimes only metals. One particular week, the girls were instructed on how to build a birdhouse, however, the girls designed the birdhouses as they wanted.
"They were all different, and they were all tailored to the different birds in the girls' backyards," says Emily. "We don't hand them a set of plans. I want them to think creatively about their own voice, and learn the tools to make it."
The girls use all sorts of tools - hammers, power drills, and yes, even welding power supplies! "Not a lot of 10-year-old girls have seen a welder, let alone used one," she says. "I'm usually shocked at how brave they are. Before I can even finish the demo, they're like, 'Give it to me, I'm ready.' I love being surprised by their confidence."
Camp H also offers an "I Can Fix Anything!" camp, where girls learn to fix flat tires, patch drywall, other practical skills for typical situations that come up in life.
"I love hearing girls say, 'I made that.' Those three words - I made that, or I built that, or I fixed that, are very powerful to hear coming out of a fifth-grade girl's mouth."
"Even though I didn't have a camp like this when I was young, I was destined to do it for the rest of my life," Emily says. "Working with these girls is just a reminder that this is such an amazing age for a young girl to feel like, 'Yeah I can fuse metal - what can't I do?'"
For more information, head to the Project H Design website.
All photos courtesy of Emily Pilloton and Camp H.