How to prepare the Hackspace for visits by young children, and how to plan your sessions.
Young visitors to the London Hackspace need to be accompanied by a legal guardian. This person will be responsible for the safety of their child. We generally make every effort to ensure our facilities are safe, but young curious minds can have a great talent for spotting and being attracted to the most dangerous object in the room.
Make sure everybody is aware that children will be around. Post an announcement to the mailing list, tweet it, and post a prominent sign on the main entry door.
This should include:
- A request to be considerate of the kids and their safety. ("Don't leave sharp objects lying around, don't leave open power sources unattended, unplug any heavy machinery when it's not used, etc. Any assistance in keeping things safe is appreciated.")
- An invitation to help preparing the space
Health & Safety
The space needs to be clean. And safe. Safe and clean.
- Generally: clean the entrance area, the classroom, and any other room in which the kids will be spending some time. Clear and cover an area where they can sit down on the floor in a group to do activities away from any tools (shrapnel etc.)
- For the class room: make sure there are absolutely no wires/pins/little bits anywhere. Put anything that you won't use in a box, or in other rooms. Turn off all power outlets that you won't need. Generally check the floor, all the corners, ...
- For the dirty room/workshop: decide in advance in which area your demonstration will take place. Make enough room for your group, move things around if needed. Clean the area, and store away/cover/unplug anything in the general area that is a potential safety hazard (including the new PCB etching tank.) Make sure there are enough grownups around to stop kids from doing unintentionally stupid things.
- Make sure you know where the first aid kit is (next to the lift) and check that it's still complete.
- Have a step stool if required in the right place so that they can see into any machines with higher 1m viewing windows. Viewing should be one by one wearing safety goggles if appropriate.
- Have some snacks and drinks as low blood sugar leads to bad behaviour. Get plastic cups.
- Have name tag stickers ready for the kids (for younger kids: put the sticker on the back)
Once you're done: make a list of everything you did so you can demonstrate preparedness. Document any near misses so that precautions can be taken to prevent them happening again.
Make sure to prepare a plan beforehand, even if only to ignore it later. Outlining what you're going to do will help you focus, and it may become easier to react when confronted with surprises and distractions.
Some things to ponder:
- What is the sequence of events?
- Who does the introduction? Who gives a health & safety talk?
- Pay attention to your own timing (what to introduce when? What to point out/repeat? When to leave space for experiments? When to introduce pauses?)
- Identify inherent timing/other constraints of your session (how long will it take to teach certain things? Are there timing constraints dictated by the use of particular materials, techniques? How best to make use of waiting periods?)
- Write down an outline of your plan, this often helps to improve it.
- Practise a few rounds (e.g. in conversation.)