JEFFERSONVILLE — A group of local Girl Scouts molded small blocks of wax into the form of human noses on Wednesday night, trying to make them as life-like as possible. But the kids weren't participating in an art class — they were learning some basic skills of funeral services.
Participants from the Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana met at the Mid-America College of Funeral Services in Jeffersonville to learn about mortuary science. The event was part of the Girl Scouts' Spark event series, which allows girls to meet women working in STEM fields.
Teachers and students from the college answered the Girl Scouts' questions about restorative art and gave them a quick tour of a reconstruction lab, where they learned about the embalming process and uses for various tools. The kids also received a crash course on how to sculpt body parts such as noses with mortuary wax, which is often used in funeral services to return bodies to a natural appearance.
Lee Gohmann, faculty member and distance learning coordinator at the college, said the mortuary field is becoming more and more popular among women. About 80 percent of the students currently enrolled at the school are women, but when the school was built in the 1980s, there were only a few women, she said.
The Mid-America College of Funeral Services, located at 3111 Hamburg Pike, offers degree programs such as Associate of Applied Science, Bachelor of Science and a Funeral Director and Service Certificate.
Gohmann encourages more women and young people to enter STEM fields such as mortuary science, and she wants them to understand what funeral services involve to remove its stigma.
"In the past, you think of funeral directors being dour old men, and it's not," she said. "We're young women. We're grandmothers. We're mothers."
The Girl Scouts are always curious to learn more about the field, Gohmann said.
"It demystifies our business," she said. "We've been asked everything from how do you embalm a body to what happens to a body after it's dead. They're very interested in that side of it."
Deidre Minton, 12, is a member of Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana Troop 1211. She She said she enjoyed learning about how ways to fix various parts of a deceased body.
"I find it very interesting how different cosmetics can look a different way and how they can recreate someone after they've died," she said.
Minton's mother, Rebecca Minton, said she thinks it's a great experience for the girls to see a field that usually wouldn't be introduced to them. It's also an opportunity to encourage girls to learn about STEM careers.
"Girls are not always given the same opportunities," she said. "They are sometimes overlooked, and so the more opportunity we can give them, the more successful they will be."
Abby Stehman, 15, a member of Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana Troop 891, said she was interested to learn about some of the exact methods and the complexity involved in funeral services.
"For a long time, I thought they just put makeup on and put them in the coffin," she said.
Jaky Correll, who graduated from Mid-America College of Funeral Services, guided students as they sculpted the wax body parts and provided insight into the methods of restoration. She showcased a wax sculpture of Beyonce that she had created while in school, which she won a restorative arts award for.
She said the event shows girls a different kind of STEM field they could pursue. She encourages girls to pursue careers that are traditionally male-dominated.
"I didn't know there were so many outlets inside the death care industry in general, and it's a surprisingly really good fit for women," Correll said. "They're usually more compassionate and take things with care and they're good at details."