Problem? These girls build their own solutions

Construction and carpentry are not readily associated with high school girls. Project H Design’s Girls Garage hopes to change that.

Girls Garage

Girls Garage in West Berkeley, USA aims to foster a hands-on approach to community solutions while encouraging girls to engage in hardcore building techniques usually reserved for boys. A product of nonprofit Project H Design, Girls Garage is a high school program where students learn everything from concepting and drafting to carpentry and construction.

Despite advancements in equality and gender right, women are still underrepresented in some science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects and fields, global studies have shown. In April this year, psychologists from the University of Missouri, the University of California-Irvine and the University of Glasgow in Scotland, determined that girls experience negative emotions about mathematics that can result in avoidance of math topics. Mathematics is a central subject in fields that involve innovation like engineering and science.

Girls Garage

Garage Girls, made up of female instructors, recognised that young girls were not reaching their full potential in co-ed classroom. The programme creates an environment in which girls are encouraged to explore STEM subjects through hands-on engagement. So far, Girls Garage’s students have built doghouses, steel sculptures, even furniture for a local women’s shelter. They have learned to jumpstart a car, MIG-weld, and draft in Adobe Illustrator.

The impact of the programme is undeniable. Since it was founded in 2010, around 200 girls from all walks of life enrol each year. A third of the enrollees receive financial assistance and 65 per cent of the girls enroll in multiple sessions, with some completing 10 or more sessions. Around 91 per cent of those enrolled feel more confident in their creativity after the session and 85 per cent are less wary of STEM subjects.

Girls Garage

In their latest project, Girls Garage partnered with the Women’s Daytime Drop-In Center, a social service agency that provides free counselling, housing, and job services to homeless women and their children. The students designed and constructed a cubby-based system with a desk for the centre.

“The girls used a chop saw, drill and driver (and very precise pilot holes), sanders and stain to build the unit. At the end of the week we carried the entire fixture over to the centre, 8 blocks away, and installed it in the office,” wrote the initiative.