Students study nontraditional skills at camps

Photo by Michael Buckelew

Photo by Michael Buckelew

CONYERS -- If you had looked into some classrooms at the Rockdale Career Academy this week, you might have done a double take.

But if you saw girls welding and using power tools and boys in their scrubs, your eyes weren't deceiving you.

Students participated in nontraditional courses this week as part of special invitation camps offered through the department of Career, Technical and Agricultural Education.

Rising seventh- and eighth-grade boys participated in Scrubs, Scalpels & Sports Medicine to learn more about the medical field, while rising seventh- and eighth-grade girls had the option to participate in one of three camps -- DYNAMIC Camp to learn about the construction field, Fender Benders Collision Camp to learn about the automobile repair industry and Girls in Engineering Camp.

Last summer, two camps -- boys in health care and girls in manufacturing programs -- were offered. But this year, four were offered since two from the February break were canceled because of inclement weather makeup days.

The programs are offered to encourage boys and girls to consider alternative fields as career choices.

Roger Ivey, the CTAE coordinator at Rockdale County Public Schools, said enrollment numbers especially in the health care class are high. Overall, 45 students signed up for the four camps -- 22 boys and 22 girls, 13 in engineering, five in DYNAMIC and five in collision.

In the boys' class, some said they were interested to learn about different career options, like anesthesiology, sports medicine, paramedic and physical therapy.

"I'm involved in sports, and I want to help," said Jalen Peters, a rising eighth-grader at Memorial Middle School, who is interested in physical therapy.

They also studied CPR and first aid, how to use crutches, surgery and sanitary conditions while learning about science, technology, engineering and math through hands-on activities.

"It's interesting and has a lot of information," said Tyrone Hearn, a rising eighth-grader at Edwards Middle School.

Girls learned about power equipment, measurements, painting, cement and plumbing during the DYNAMIC camp while making stools, a light switch and a sprinkler stepping stone.

"I think it's really important for them to get over their fear of tools -- you need to respect the tool but don't be scared of it," said instructor Fred Avery. "Especially in this day and age, there are a lot of single females out there who might have to wire something or repair something themselves."

Girls were interested in the careers, many of them because their father, uncle or another male figure in their life also shows an interest in the field of study.

"My dad works in the garage on cars, and I want to work with him," said Mikayla Burnley, a rising eighth-grader at Conyers Middle School, who enjoyed painting cars the most during the Collision Camp.

Also in the class, the girls learned about welding.

During the engineering camp, the girls built catapults, solar-powered cars and small buildings.

"I like building things," said Tiffani Randolph, a rising seventh-grader at Memorial Middle School. "You have to fit all of the pieces together and know what you're doing."

Guest speakers from industries also visited most of the classes this week to give a more in-depth look into the fields.

The camp is free to students and provides them with materials like scrubs or hard hats; it is paid for through CTAE funds.

Ivey said CTAE will continue to offer these programs in the future. He hopes by next spring that the programs will see increased male or female enrollment in the fields. Other programs are being evaluated for the future based on need.