Yesterday was Take Your Sons and Daughters To Work Day, and I got roped into leading sessions. I ran a presentation on desktops & servers: we opened up desktops, explained what the parts did, showed off a couple of servers, and finished things off with a round of LAN games. We were a big hit with the kids as well as the parents because evidently ours was the least boring and most interactive session, and I took pride out of that.
I learned some lessons, though, and I’m passing those along here in case anybody else needs to run one of these sessions for kids:
10 kids is a great group, 16 kids is too many. The 16-kid groups quickly devolved into screamfests, and we couldnâ€®t get everybody to stay quiet long enough to learn something. The 10-12-kid groups were more manageable â€“ 2-3 kids per volunteer seemed about right. Remember, weâ€®re not professional teachers â€“ itâ€®s harder for us to manage this number of kids.
Know how to get problem kids out fast. I had a kid try to slice his arm open with a stick of RAM, and then tried to jam a CPU into his skin to see if it would leave a mark. He was actively causing disruptions with other kids, trying to get them to do the same thing, and I had no idea what on earth to do. It was an unsafe situation for him as well as the other kids. Looking back, I wish I would have asked him to step into the back of the room and had the chaperone go drop him off with his dad, but since it all happened so fast, I didnâ€®t know what to do. Thank God he didnâ€®t break his skin, because Iâ€®d have freaked out.
The chaperones need to be trained, and then be actively involved. We had some chaperones that sat in the back quietly while the kids yelled and screamed, and we had other chaperones who actively helped to keep the kids under control. We had much better results with the latter.
Donâ€®t let parents leave with the kids during breaks. During lunch and the snack break, the parents took kids off to various places, and they didnâ€®t all come back at the start time. As a result, we had to manage 10 bored kids for 15-20 minutes. We couldnâ€®t start the lessons because we had to wait for all of the kids. The kids got uncontrollable while they sat and waited for the latecomers. An alternative would be having the chaperones running some kind of activity until all of the kids got together again.
We need separate tracks for 8 year olds versus 12 year olds. 8â€®s are old enough to get something out of it, but the material has to be completely different than what you present to a 12 year old. My 11-12 year old folks wanted to know more and more and more, but the 8-10 year olds needed shorter, more visual lessons.