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Of Pickles and Power Tools
Camps attract non-traditional participation
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It was a gristly scene. A clash between rival gangs, the Dills and the Koshers, left victims strewn across the classroom, some with deep wounds and weapons still in them. It was up to a group of middle school boys to use what they had learned to describe what happened to the pickle "bodies" during the autopsy.
This was just one of the exercises during two week-long camps hosted by the Rockdale Career Academy and the RCPS Career Technical and Agricultural Education program to encourage "non-traditional participation" by boys in the health care and medical fields and girls in the
manufacturing field. The "Scrubs, Scalpels and Sports Medicine" camp for boys ran from June 14-18, and "Girls in Manufacturing," ran June 21-25.

The camps are one way to fulfill federal and state requirements to encourage nontraditional enrollment, explained RCPS CTAE director Roger Ivey. The camps also targeted middle school students because they were still open to the idea of trying out a non-traditional field.

Bea Wilkins, the instructor for the "Scrubs, Scalpels and Sports Medicine," said in her health classes at RCA, out of 28 students, maybe three or four might be boys. Instructor Amy Carter, who lead the "Girls in Manufacturing," echoed those sentiments. Out of about 360 students enrolled in engineering programs at all three high schools, only 30 are girls.

The health fields camp was specially designed to engage boys with topics such as forensics, sports and germs. Paramedics and technicians from National EMS "responded" to an emergency call to the classroom, trainers from Georgia Tech's Athletic Association and local high school athletes came in to talk and demonstrate some splint and wrap techniques. Boys also learned about infection control, made mouth molds while learning about dentistry, and performed mock autopsies on pickles to learn about crime scene-related medical fields.

"I took a hands-up survey at the beginning," of the camp said Wilkins. "Maybe a fourth of them were kind of interested in healthcare and had some idea of the things they could go into. By the end of the week, I don't recall one that didn't say they wanted to look into something in the healthcare field," said Wilkins a registered nurse with a master's in public health.

For Patrick MacDonald, the pickle autopsy made the biggest impression. He reeled off the names of the various directions and types of cuts.

In the Girls and Manufacturing camp, participants drilled, carved, and made their own products, such as a game board, and learned about assembly building by making clocks.

Participants Shelby Dismuques, 12, a rising seventh grader at Memorial Middle and Rina Linuza, 12, a rising seventh grader at Conyers Middle, said they both enjoyed the camp more than they thought they would, because they were able to make things with their own hands. If the camp hadn't been just for girls, they weren't sure if they would have signed up.

"Because, when you go somewhere with boys, they act like they can do things better than you can," said Dismuques.

"Especially boys our age from school. They won't let girls do it. Or they don't think they're strong enough for it," said Linuza.

Carter, a non-traditional teacher herself, said she hoped to be a role model to other young women that it was okay to get their hands dirty.

"I'm hoping we can break that cycle of, ‘oh it's only for boys' and show them that it's okay for girls; girls can do anything they want to do," said Carter. "I've noticed, starting in the middle school, as a female teacher, I could get more response because I could show them it was cool to work with my hands and do this kind of stuff and its okay for girls to get dirty and use a saw and a drill and build things," she said.

Pete Brannon, who recently retired from being RCA's manufacturing instructor and will serve at president of the Georgia Association for Career and Technical Education, observed that in some ways, girls were better at the engineering and technical classes, because they could follow directions.

"People are so used to picking up things and they work, that they don't think about how much is involved in it," he said. "These girls will pick up on the fact that it's not just that it works. Someone had to come up with a design, which involves conceiving, drawing, coming up with the method for manufacturing it, materials, specifications you must meet when manufacturing something. All those things factor in."