Rosie’s Girls Project Kits
By Nell Carpenter, Youth Program Manager
Every week of Rosie’s Girls summer camps we pack up our tools, PPE, art supplies and hardware into a truck and bring it to our host Tech Center for that week. This is a pretty well-known experience amongst those involved with Rosie’s Girls and each year we try our hardest to make it a little bit easier than the year before. I had big plans to make this much easier for our staff this year – spreadsheets, checklists, new labeling systems, the whole nine yards.
In May when we decided to cancel Rosie’s Girls in-person camps due to the COVID-19 crisis, I could not have imagined that a month later we would have re-created that system but with a significantly different goal.
Our small but mighty team, including a long-time Rosie’s Girls instructor who came aboard for this project, worked extremely quickly to come up with an alternative to in-person camps. We read articles about what youth needed, listened to youth’s opinions, thought about the heart of our program, and ultimately decided to pair weekly zoom calls with a Rosie’s Girls Project Kit. At the time, we had no idea what that would look like, but we knew we had only about a month and a half to figure that out.
About a month later, we are in the midst of packing up 70 Rosie’s Girls Project Kits to be distributed to middle school girls and gender non-conforming youth around Northern and Central VT. We prioritized youth who had been registered for our camps and youth who work with some of our local partner organizations to receive kits. The coolest part: we feel pretty great about capturing the Rosie’s Girls spirit in these kits and in how we will get them into the community.
Physically distancing, masks on, blasting our Rosie’s Girls playlist, our team still got to do a summer’s worth of packing and moving. However, this time, it’s 70 kits full of hours of at-home, age appropriate, Rosie’s Girls related activities and projects for our youth to self-direct through. Some of the highlights are these metal sun catcher kits sent to us by a pair of artists in California, a notebook with a custom activity guide based off of our camp programming, a birdhouse to construct and decorate, and Rosie’s Girls swag to feel a part of the family, even from afar.
This year, we packed up Rosie’s Girls into 70 wooden crates to reach 70 girls and gender non-conforming youth. Although nothing can replace camp, we believe in these kits paired with weekly zoom calls to help youth find a sense of connection, expand their sense of possibilities for their lives, and increase grit.
In our camp and afterschool programs, I watch participants tinker and troubleshoot projects and challenges on their own. Our instructors are at their best when they are encouraging the youth to work through tough questions and obstacles on their own, while also present to offer new tools when they need them. Whether this is a chisel to chip the metal ‘boogers’ off a welding project or language to describe healthy and unhealthy relationships, we simultaneously honor young people’s experiences and knowledge while recognizing that they are still building their toolboxes.
We can NOT wait to hear stories about youth working through these kits at home. We have no doubt that questions and frustrations may come up, and we also know that that’s where growth often occurs. And, when that stinkin’ nail keeps bending and you just need to step away from the project, we’ll be on zoom to cheer you on and help you through it.
Thank you EPSCoR for supporting our vision of capturing the spirit and fun of Rosie’s Girls camps and bringing it to youth at home. The project kits would not have been possible without your support!
And a special thank you to those who donated or discounted supplies for the project kits: Nelson Ace Hardware in Barre, Vt.; Clifford Lumber in Hinesburg, Vt.; Vermont Paint Company in Williston, VT; Margay and Binturong and UGears.