The week began with Eureka! Family Fun Fest, a mandatory parent-daughter Girls Inc. event weeks before camp. The event was split into two parent sessions, the first for English speakers, and the second for Spanish. This considerate gesture was not necessarily a matter of necessity, but rather a mindful convenience for parents of girls who would be more comfortable receiving the information in Spanish. At the time I didn’t think much of the Girls Inc. staff members’ constant reassurance of this, but I realized afterwards the importance and depth of this statement.
During both sessions of the event, bright young girls and their siblings crowded around the STEM table, my post for the afternoon. On the table were hundreds of LittleBits, magnetic pieces that create simple circuits when stuck together. Aimee and I played with the girls for hours, explaining the basic functions of inputs versus outputs and watching their eyes light up when they completed a circuit through physical touch, making four small motors move a bottle cap car (my favorite demonstration). The experience watching their faces glow with excitement for STEM made me even more excited to facilitate our lessons during camp, a memory I’ll hold onto beyond this summer. As girls experimented with piezo sensors and LED lights, most parents watched reluctantly in the background, avoiding the STEM table altogether. This wasn’t necessarily out of the ordinary, since the table was crowded with anxious kids waiting to play with expensive things, but I wanted parents to engage with the material just as much as their daughters were. I had the opportunity a couple times to chat with some parents during the English session, but only one mother stopped by during the Spanish session. This stuck out in my mind not because the Spanish session attracted a noticeably smaller crowd, but because the girls in both sessions were just as enthusiastic as those in the other, itching to get their hands on circuits and introduce themselves.
The day continued with the same games, the same ice breakers, and the same raffle drawings in both sessions. I had the opportunity to interact with all of the future campers through four corners, name games, and birdie on a perch, three very Girls Inc.-esque icebreakers. The final activity we played during each session was a game called “My people are people who-“ where everyone stands in a circle and someone in the middle says those words with a characteristic or interest of theirs. Those in the circle who relate to the chant then run across the circle to find a new place to stand, leaving the last person in the circle to repeat the process. This game was a real crowd pleaser, and a number of the more outgoing kids wound up in the circle upwards of five times. Common sentiments in both sessions included tacos, the color black, dogs, and Mexico, among many others. Despite not meeting one another, the personalities and optimism of the girls in either session were exactly the same, and I could tell some beautiful friendships would flourish during the four weeks of Eureka! Camp, regardless of culture or race. If kids can become good friends in two hours, what makes it so difficult for adults to interact with each other? I keep thinking about the unwillingness of many of the parents to even come near the facilitators’ tables, especially the STEM table. The depth of the Girls Inc. staff members’ reassurance didn’t dawn on me until nearly a week after this event, writing this blog post. People like familiarity, and tend to stick to what they know. Despite our efforts to ingratiate ourselves with the culture of California, us DukeEngagers may never fully understand the area we’ve been thrown into, and locals know that. The difference between the parents and the kids though, is the kids probably don’t.