The weather is teetering between 90 and 100 degrees, and the sidewalks of D.C.’s iconic Shaw neighborhood are almost completely vacant. It is the heart of summer—when quality summer programs are especially important to keep children engaged. The D.C. affiliate of the national non-profit organization Girls Inc. serves as that emotionally and physically safe space girls need during the summer.
Each week, the girls are introduced to new career paths and engage in related hands-on activities with their friends. This week, Elizabeth Pruitt, Ph.D., R.P.A., visited from The Society for American Archaeology. The girls were divided into three groups: working together on a dig, artifact mending, and creating artifacts.
“Archaeologists record everything and make sure the stories from the past don’t get lost,” Pruitt explains to the group.
One of the girls uncovers a stout white jar and asks, “What is this one called?”
Pruitt smiles. “This one is a cosmetic jar!”
“They had makeup then?” The girl’s face glows.
“Yeah, the ancient Egyptians had makeup!”
The audience’s excitement is very similar to a slumber party—and to them, Pruitt is the best storyteller in the world. Their eyes widen, and they chatter amongst themselves about this new discovery.
As the girls switch to the next group activity, artifact mending, Pruitt explains the origin of the artifacts to me. Each of the pieces used are from a museum in Tennessee, a generous donation to archaeologists who use the pieces for teaching purposes during field outreach. Three girls work together at a table to restore a mug. Although the girls are divided into three groups, there is a general theme of teamwork among all of them.
At the third station, the girls are creating their own artifacts. Jayda, a Howard student assisting Pruitt for the workshop, explains the history of colonoware to the table of energetic girls. Each girl forms the clay with her hands as Jayda circles the table and shares the history of the process with them. Jayda explains to the girls that this method was popular from the 1600’s through the 1800’s and used by Africans and Native Americans to create their own pots, bowls, and cups.
Denese Lombardi, executive director of the D.C. affiliate to Girls Inc., observes the girls in their workshops and a smile spreads across her face.
“There isn’t a single girl out there who isn’t capable. She just needs to be introduced to new ideas,” Lombardi shares. “Partnerships like the one we have with The Society for American Archaeology are great ways to keep the girls engaged. Bringing someone in who can talk to them about archaeology opens so many doors for them, and they get five days to immerse themselves in each of these programs. At the close of each week, the girls come together in their groups and discover new doors to get really immersed in these new exercises.”
Seeing so many girls in such an enriching program is an inspiration to people of all ages. The social and emotional learning skills they are strengthening now are not only keeping summer fun—they are preparing them to be the strong, smart, and bold leaders the program intended.
When asked how she handles saying goodbye to each group of girls, Lombardi shared, “Imagine that one day you’ll run into a student and they’ll say, ‘You have no idea what you did for me,’ and know they will be healthy functioning adults.”
To learn more about Girls Inc. DC, please click here.
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