(left) Photo / DIY Girls

Adds soil - Wendy adds soil into the planter box so she can plant her seedlings.

(right) M. Terry / SFVS

DIY student Wendy Arevalo works on her project with instructor Cristina Gutierrez.

The room full of young girls was buzzing, not from conversation, but from the sounds of power tools. Wearing protective head gear, the  pre-teens drilled, hammered and confidently used saws of every kind to construct their own wooden garden planters. 

This is the third year for the intensive DIY wood working summer camp held at Pacoima City Hall, the majority of the participating students are entering middle school in a few short weeks. DIY Girls partnered with the Los Angeles-based Harbor Freight Tools for Schools to offer this nontraditional summer camp.

“The main goal is to expose young girls to careers that are currently male-dominated,” said Cristina Gutierrez, director of programs for the nonprofit organization, DIY Girls. “Twenty-seven girls that are students from Telfair Elementary, Pacoima Middle School, Fenton Avenue, San Fernando Middle School and O’Melveny Elementary school participated.”  

Each girl is given a single plank of wood measuring 8 x 1 feet  and while constructing their project, they use mathematical concepts and the prototyping process to make sure they have enough material to construct a planter. 

Wendy Arevalo, 11, from Pacoima Middle School, said she is almost finished with her planter and is looking forward to painting it and putting on the final touches on it by using a wood burner to write her name onto it.  

“We got to design it. I measured the wood and used the table saw, the hand saw and a miter saw to cut the wood,” she said.

“My parents think it’s cool and see that I’m enjoying myself,” said Arevalo, who said it’s her goal to be a veterinarian.  

In the process of making the planter, Arevalo also utilized math by measuring and cutting the wood — sometimes at angles.  

“The goal is to get them to be exposed to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields through hands-on activity,” said Gutierrez. “At first they’re a bit nervous to use the power tools, but they get comfortable and confident. They quickly learn that they have the ability to do this kind of work.

“This experience allows them to see if they can do this, they can do anything. ”  

During the sessions they also learn how to germinate and plant seeds, and talk about healthy recipes to utilize what they might grow in their planters at home. They discuss health issues that are prevalent in their community, including diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and the connection between health and food. 

DIY girls, which began in 2012, seeks to give female students access to summer programming that engages more girls and young women in STEM at a young age, while also encouraging girls to consider nontraditional professions. For more information about DIY Girls, go to: www.diygirls.org.

Harbor Freight Tools for School focuses on those skilled trades that emphasize the expert use of tools and materials that can lead to high-demand, high wage careers.  For more information, go to: https://harborfreighttoolsforschools.org.