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Breaking down stereotypes: Rosie’s Girls carpentry camp partners with HatchSpace

by Jillian Scannell

Instructors demostrate how to measure wood at Rosie's Girls Summer Camp.


This article was originally published by the Brattleboro Reformer. Along with camps in six other communities, Vermont Works for Women is hosting Rosie’s Girls summer camp in Brattleboro. In a new partnership, we are collaborating with HatchSpace to offer multiple week-long sessions of our summer camp for middle school girls.

Brattleboro Reformer | March 27, 2023

By Chris Mays

BRATTLEBORO — HatchSpace staff are being trained to run a new-to-the-area carpentry program for middle school girls this summer.

Caelan Keenan, youth program manager at Vermont Works for Women, said the idea is to create an environment with “can-do attitudes” and mutual encouragement to try new things, take pride in the work and have confidence.

“We really break down any sort of stereotypes that might exist in the world about what girls are capable of doing and where they can or cannot work or what career fields are available to them,” she said.

Vermont Works for Women’s mission is to promote “economic justice by advancing gender equity and supporting women and youth at every stage of their career journeys.” The organization started in 1987 and created the Rosie’s Girls program in 2000.

HatchSpace is one of seven Rosie’s Girls sites hosting camp throughout the state this summer. Other sites will be in Rutland, Alburgh, Swanton, Lyndonville, Essex and Montpelier.

Families can register for Rosie’s Girls at HatchSpace for weeklong sessions scheduled from June 26 to Aug. 25 at No prior experience is necessary. The cost is $300 per week and scholarships are available.

“With girls, we’re primarily interested in giving them opportunities to explore STEM and the trades,” Keenan said, referring to science, technology, engineering and math. “We’re focused on fields that are high-paying, that are in-demand and where women are underrepresented in the field. And Rosie’s Girls really sprung out of that desire to give girls at the middle school level — so sixth, seventh and eighth grade girls — an opportunity to explore different trades, skills and projects, and activities in a fun, supportive environment that focuses not just on how to use a hammer or how to use a chop saw but also developing confidence and feeling empowered in that experience.”

Keenan said her group has fielded phone calls every year from parents or teachers asking if Rosie’s Girls would be available in the Brattleboro area. HatchSpace’s facility and mission aligns with the group’s work.

Some socioemotional skills will involve self advocacy, building healthy relationships, effective communicating and stepping out of comfort zones.

“We found that the magic of the program is really in giving them this opportunity to take positive risks,” Keenan said. “And at the same time, it gives them a really safe environment to have conversations that are just preteen sort of topics for them to discuss together.”

Lars Hasselblad Torres, executive director of HatchSpace, said the plan to begin offering the program locally began with a phone call. He’s been in the role of executive director for about a year now, and has held numerous roles previously including helping to found and teach at a high school for the trades.

“I’ve taught almost all my life, and I have a real kind of burning appetite for youth education,” he said. “And it became clear to me that we didn’t have a great youth strategy here. We’re adults, 18 and over, a maker space for woodworking, and I was really keen to identify some turnkey programs that would lower the risk of starting up some youth programs here at HatchSpace.”

His daughter participated in a Rosie’s Girls program in Cabot when she was young, so the group was “top of mind” for him. When he reached out about a potential partnership, he said, “they were super responsive, and it kind of grew from there.”

“Historically, women, people of color, have been underserved by the trades in terms of access to career longevity, benefits, even inclusion,” Torres said. “I think with just a lot of progress over the decades, there’s a real hunger for both women who did make a go of it in the trades to pass on that knowledge to the next generation or a couple of generations down, as well as for younger folks to learn how to do things on their own, to be more resilient, self reliant, empowered.”

Torres said the industry is seeking more workers at the same time that women, and people in the gender neutral and BIPOC communities are “desperately looking to break into the trades, as well.”

“I liked the fact that Rosie’s Girls puts front and center that they are looking to break gender stereotypes in the trades, and that includes both their welding program, as well as carpentry,” he said. “They’re clearly looking to create more room in the shop.”

Each program will last one week, and it will run for a total of five weeks. If a participant enjoys their first week, they can sign up for another.

Torres said Rosie’s Girls has a “power skills curriculum” that it developed. He described how it covers basic math, basic design and drawing, tool training, and then brings it all together in a series of projects from beginner to complex.

One of the more straightforward projects involves building a step stool. From there, Torres said, it might be a toolbox or picture frame, which involves a little more complicated math.

“And interspersed throughout the hard skills is a lot of soft skills: team building, empowered communication, and that breaks up the day,” he said. “So it’s not just all in the shop. We want to take advantage of summer, being outside.”

Torres said the camp will involve community building to help “nurture a cohort of girls that feels like this was a special experience for them.” He called the program “brand new for us.”

He said that Rosie’s Girls and Keenan will help in steering HatchSpace’s program and will be providing its standard of training to Brattleboro staffers, he said.

Guest counselor Char Miller-King, also known as The Wooden Maven, will come up from Georgia for the July 10 to 14 session. The educator, mother and television personality has been “teaching confidence and creativity in woodworking to learners of all ages for over a decade,” states a news release, and “her gifts as a woodworking instructor have been featured on PBS, ‘This Old House,’ the Woodworkers Guild of America and numerous other outlets.”

Torres imagines campers will be local to the Brattleboro area but also from communities in the nearby bordering states. The program has capacity for a total of 40 girls, or eight per session.

Torres said the hope is to make it “part of a Southern Vermont ritual” and potentially partner with groups such as the Windham Regional Career Center to expand on programming to prepare girls for the woodworking workforce. He recently read an article that says Vermont will need about 500 builders a year to be entering the trades just to meet what he called “the replenishment rate.”

“This isn’t even counting for growth over the next decade,” he said. “So we’d like to be a place that’s a real partner and helping the state achieve those goals.”

HatchSpace currently has just over 100 members. They tend to come in from about 2 to 7 p.m. each day, “so we have lots of excess capacity at other hours of the day in the morning time,” Torres said.

Keenan said it’s not uncommon to see Rosie’s Girls campers end up at events her group hosts at technical or career centers later on.

“We’re really focused on just building their passions, you know, helping them fall in love with different hobbies and activities and things, so that when it does come time for them to make decisions about whether or not to go into tech ed or whether or not to go on to college or what job they have, that they’re informed, and they can make those choices,” she said.

Keenan noted Torres has “a real strong commitment to diversifying” the woodworking workforce and is conscious that it’s a male-dominated field. She hopes to make the camp an annual offering in Brattleboro.

“HatchSpace has offered extremely popular courses in woodworking for women since we opened in 2021,” HatchSpace founder Tom Bodett said in a statement. “We’re incredibly excited to create access to the joy of woodworking for middle school girls. We are honored that Vermont Works for Women has placed their confidence in us.”

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