This winter session marked our first in our new space off Second Street in West Berkeley! Our new home has almost double the square footage of our old spot, which meant that our students and instructors had a lot more room to build bigger and bolder projects.

Advanced Design/Build

The majority of winter session’s Advanced Design/Build class was a mini design studio! Our most experienced high school builders were tasked with designing a chicken coop for one of our longtime clients, Growing Leaders! They began with wild ideas—a watermelon-shaped coop? A chicken cathedral?—and landed on a design that was a blend of a traditional chicken run and a California bungalow. In the last two weeks, our teens began to frame the walls and roof trusses. This cohort will continue building out the coop in our spring session and will install it on site at Willard Middle School in Berkeley in May!

Chicken Coop ideating for Growing Leaders

Construction + Community

From day one of winter session, Construction + Community was go go go! On the first day of class, our high school students took a field trip down the street to BORP (Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program), their clients for the term. After giving us a quick rundown of the organization’s history as a pinnacle for disability justice in the Bay Area, Kayaking Program Manager Mia Feldbaum took our students on a tour of the facility’s and explained the desired projects: three redwood planter boxes and a new, ADA-accessible picnic table. Our students spent the following month and a half assembling planter boxes out of redwood lumber. When it came to the picnic table, they had to consider the design constraints that came with accessibility standards: one side of the table needed to be able to fit three wheelchair users comfortably. On the last day of class, our students returned back to BORP to install the planters (including repotting the plants and cacti) and picnic table.

Picnic table for BORP

Protest + Print

Protest + Print looked a little different this session! In the first month, we welcomed guest instructors Meng Nguyen and Seth Vargas—two local professional sign painters—to teach our students the basics of hand-painted lettering. Unsurprisingly, it was harder than we all thought! But also incredibly fun…

In the second month, our students then “translated” their statements of solidarity into 3-color risograph prints, getting a crash course in risograph printing in the process. We ended the class with a fun yearbook risograph print of students and instructors (including Junior the shop dog) with the help of our new polaroid camera!

Protest + Print 2024
Risograph print, Protest + Print yearbook

Carpentry + Woodworking

Our intrepid middle school builders in Carpentry + Woodworking tackled a meta-project this winter session: building wooden toolboxes! Or cat purses. Or art caddies, depending on your preference. This project was an excellent introductory woodworking project for our middle school builders because it involved a variety of power and hand tools: miter saw, band saw, drill and impact drivers, and hand sanders. On the final day of class, our enthusiastic builders used acrylic paint pens to personalize their toolboxes, giving them a colorful

In other news: 

  • We’ve designed a new class for high school students, Architecture + Activism! Taught by Tonia Sing Chi and Emily Pilloton-Lam, this architecture studio will cover the drafting basics and representational techniques, all culminating in a design for a real world community client. As with all of our teen classes, this program is free for all students to attend!
  • We hosted our very first corporate “mixer” in our new workspace! Employees from our cornerstone corporate partners—Cello & Maudru, Clark Construction Company, NOVO Construction, Overaa Construction, and Turner Construction—traveled to Girls Garage to meet with our current high school students and recent alumni to discuss career pathways for women and gender-expansive people in the construction and trades industries. The event was designed to link our incredible builders with values-aligned companies for future internship and mentorship opportunities!
  • We’ve decided to start offering adult programming in our new workspace. This spring, instructors Augusta Sitney and Evie Ortiz will co-teach Womxn in the Woodshop, a woodworking class for adult women and gender-expansive folks, and Bethany Kaylor will run a 1-day workshop called Intro to Risograph Printing. Although providing high quality youth programming is and will always be our highest priority, we’re thrilled to expand our community to reach older adults.