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Working with Kids

Many of our affiliate sites could teach us a thing or two about working with kids. We’ve learned a lot from our collaborations with the Intel Computer Clubhouse Network. It has developed a great list of tips for people working on creative projects with young people. We adapted this page from the Mentor Handbook of the Computer Clubhouse. It’s a useful reminder to those who are new to working with kids as well as folks who may need a refresher on how to let kids and their own interests and passions drive a project.

Be yourself.

Work with kids in a way that is comfortable for you.

Be reliable.

Kids should know when to count on you coming. Your absence will be noticed!

Be consistent.

Be consistent not only in your own attendance but in making sure that you treat all campers fairly and equally. Although you may find yourself engaged with an individual kid, try not to give the impression that you have a favorite. Be open to having others participate. The more consistent you are, the more campers will trust you and start to call on you for help and conversation.

Be approachable.

It is important for campers to know that you are available for questions. If you have a chance to work on your own projects, make sure that you are still open to the campers around you. Invite campers to take a look at what you are doing, or ask them for advice on your project. Make sure people know who you are and that you are there to help and to talk.

Be patient.

Everyone learns in different ways, yourself included. Be patient with your own learning and with the learning process of others. Sometimes this means stepping in to help, or stepping back to let campers work to solve a problem themselves. Be patient especially when showing someone how to do something that you may know how to do very well. Try not to do it for the camper, unless safety is an issue. Each person will go through a very different learning process and will take different amounts of time to learn something new.

Be creative.

Don’t be afraid to share your ideas, give advice, and be a resource for creative ideas and new knowledge. This might mean showing a member a new tool in Photoshop, challenging them to try something new, or taking on something new yourself

Be an active participant.

You are not here to be a textbook. Engage in your own learning while you are mentoring, collaborate on projects, ask questions, and experiment.

Listen.

As adults we often don’t take the time to really listen to the ideas and thoughts of young people. Take the time; you might find you learn amazing things. Show your interest and excitement, observe, and ask questions. Get to know kids, and let them get to know you. Engage a camper in conversation. Ask questions. Offer to share something you know. However, understand that it will take time for the kids to begin to feel comfortable with you.

Treat all participants with respect.

Make sure everyone—young and old—feels welcome, important, and a part of the program. Learn names and greet each other by name. Show your interest in their projects— and in their presence. Respect the kids for who they are and where they are developmentally. Each person has different learning and communication styles.

Treat kids as individuals, not as a group.

We all come from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Take the time to get to know everyone individually. Avoid prejudging who they are, their skills, or their cultures. For some it may be through conversation, others through working on a project or showing you what they are doing. Get to know the campers, their interests, and the way in which they feel most comfortable interacting.

Go with the flow.

Be prepared for the unexpected! Bring ideas for what you would like to do, but be prepared
to go with the flow of kids’ changing ideas.

Discover and innovate together.

Don’t be afraid to share your ideas, give advice, and be a resource for creative ideas and new knowledge. This might mean showing a member a new tool in Photoshop, challenging them to try something new, or taking on something new yourself.

Try saying:

  • “Have you tried this?”

  • “Do you know about this?”

  • “Gee, I don’t know the answer to that question—let’s go find out together.”

Figure out your own interests.

Experiment with our resources, work on your own project, and then share your ideas and
excitement with campers.One of the best ways to be a role model is to share your own engagement in working with
tools, people, and ideas.

Give off energy.

Show your excitement about what campers are doing, and your interest in learning from
their work. Share your own excitement and engagement in your ideas, and your own work
as a Maker.

Mentoring in a Virtual World

You may be hosting virtual programs this summer if COVID-19 restrictions are still in place. Working with campers online can add challenges to connecting and engaging with kids. There are strategies you can use to build your relationship. Below are four suggestions from The Clubhouse Network blogpost Transitioning to Virtual Mentoring.

Determine a Virtual Mentoring Model

Virtual mentoring can take many forms. Whatever cadence and programming you choose, try to maintain a regular schedule so that youth have consistency during this uncertain time.

Use a Light Touch to Invite Participation

Invite campers and guides to participate in programming with a light touch, expressing your wishes to see them again while also acknowledging that everyone has different capacities to participate.

Consider Member Safety

Confirm that guides have gone through a screening process before virtually interacting with youth. Consider reaching out to campers’ guardians to get permission for virtual interactions.

Empower Relationship-Building

Consider starting workshops and other STEM activities with time to connect and check in. Research shows that young people may actually feel safer communicating virtually rather than in-person, as technology can offer a protective “shield” to share emotions and provide more time to compose a response.

Learn more about e-mentoring strategies in the E-Mentoring Supplement to the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring by MENTOR The National Mentoring Partnership.

Maker Camp June 18, 2021
Maker Camp is a do-it-yourself online resource to help leaders like you organize a summer camp that engages children in making. Our goal is to provide you and your campers with the inspiration and the helpful resources, along with many possible projects to fit a wide range of interests and abilities. The idea is to focus on making as a playful, social activity. Maker Camp provides enough support for anyone to get started. Making provides experiences that help children become self-directed learners and good problem-solvers.
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