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A camp that gives girls hands-on experience in the police, fire and EMS fields has been such a hit that the Girl Scouts of Wisconsin–Badgerland Council created another camp to introduce girls to the building trades.

Girl Scouts are working alongside Madison Area Technical College’s construction and remodeling team at CampBUILD, a new Girl Scout program in which girls explore carpentry, design, plumbing, electrical and welding.

CampBUILD was created after the two organizations agreed there was a lack of opportunity for girls to explore the skilled trades in a safe, woman-led environment.

CampBUILD is modeled after CampHERO, another collaboration between the two groups and gives girls hands-on experience in areas where they have been underrepresented.

“The ultimate hope is that we are planting seeds and growing the construction workforce,” said Sandy Thistle, instructor of construction and remodeling at Madison Area Technical College’s School of Applied Sciences. “We (women and girls) are really good at this. We are really good mechanics.”

Five sessions of the camp were created for K-12 students and vary in length and challenge, depending on the girls’ age. Younger girls learn the entire process of building a simple birdhouse, while older campers weld, use power tools, read a plan and make plumbing repairs.

“Girl Scouts is all about giving girls an opportunity to try new things in a supportive, girl-led environment,” said Eliza Zimmerman, program manager for Girl Scouts of Wisconsin–Badgerland Council.

Girls attending a multi-night session stay at a nearby Girl Scout camp to get the traditional camp experiences, such as hiking, bonfires and living in a communal space.

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Thistle has been impressed with how well the girls did with learning the trades; a 12-year-old’s rapid acclimation to a circular saw in particular “blew me away,” she said.

Lena Miller, who took part in a camp last week for middle school students, took to welding quickly and said she likes it because it uses her brain.

“With the welding you can actually make stuff,” said Lena, a seventh-grader at Indian Mound Middle School in McFarland.

Some girls, like Ava Stevenson, an eighth-grader at Core Knowledge Charter School in Verona, and Erin Carlson, a seventh-grader at St. Maria Goretti School, want to help with remodeling projects at their homes. Ava was making a toolbox last week that she planned to paint and then use.

Lizzy Mueller, a seventh-grader at Core Knowledge, made a small sculptural piece by welding metal that she planned to give as a gift.

Alexa Peacock, a sixth-grader at Cherokee Heights Middle School, said she enrolled because she likes to build. The most difficult part of the session was learning how to use the tools properly, she said.

Hannah Ingebritsen, a sixth-grader at Lancaster Middle School, said she thought the camp would help in her future endeavor of becoming an architect.

“I was really nervous at first,” Hannah said about the welding. “Once you do it, it is really fun.”

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