One of the benefits of working at camp as an Arts& Craft Instructor, was being able to teaching basic woodworking to kids 9-14, a good portion of them never having any previous experience with it. This was especially true with many of the young girls. It was nothing too difficult; hammering (for string art), wood burning, sanding, and the drill press (for wood games using golf tees and wooden squares pre-cut for them). I had safety lines, safety goggles, and strict rules about no one using the drill press without my supervision and wood burners needing my supervision or the supervision of one of my counselors or other staff.
I was exposed to woodworking young through my grandpa and 4-H, debating in Middle School of becoming a Shop Teacher. I took woodworking projects in 4-H and even built a cedar chest that went to State Fair (for another story). I even helped with 4-H woodworking judging at State Fair one year (a great story for another time). I wanted my campers to be safe, but I also wanted them to know that the basics were attainable.
One sunny afternoon, I had the usual mix of boys and girls in the Craft Hall ready to take on the drill press. A little girl of about 9 or 10 crossed my red line into the drill press area, safety glasses on, her sanded & marked piece of wood in hand. She didn't act too sure about the powerful machine she had watched others use & was now standing before. I went over the basics again, encouraging her that she was just as capable of this as anyone else. There was no rule that said girls couldn't do woodworking or handle power tools. We lined up the first hole to be drilled as she took a hold of the handle, slowly and gingerly pulling the drill bit down into the wood, making the hole. As she raised the handle and released, I watched her change as her face lit up. In an instant, something changed and suddenly the little girl timid about a power tool knew that she could do it and knew that she had done it. There was excitement and a realization that come about in drilling that first hole as well as a truth that she was truly just as capable as anyone else. That day a little girl was introduced to woodworking and maybe to the power she was a capable of.
Perhaps, it's the feminist in me or a reminder of the little girl I was, going to woodworking judging surrounded by boys, but that afternoon a little girl realized that girls can and being a girl shouldn't stop her. That afternoon, I got to be make a difference in one little girl and I got to watch it happen.
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