Last year Panama City, FL offered the first ever “Railsbridge Teen” and it turned out to be an amazing experience. Most of the effort planning a teen Railsbridge paralleled the organizer cookbook preparation used for a traditional workshops, with just a few exceptions:
Parent Permission and Involvement Several of the parents stayed and decided to go through the curriculum along with their teen and I highly recommend this if possible. For those that chose not to stay we found it best to discuss the following before they leave:
We established an original age guideline at 13-18 but we made a few exceptions allowing some as young as 9 to attend if they’d had programming experience. *Sidenote: Yes the 9 year old completed the entire workshop and understood the concepts.
Bypassing Installfest For most of the kids the schedule and transport issues meant committing to a Friday night and full day Saturday would be nearly impossible. We modified the curriculum to plan on not having an Installfest. I’ll be sharing the tools and modifications we used to work around the Installfest limitation.
Food Food for Railsbridge Teen is so much easier than a traditional Railsbridge. Rather than a catered lunch or coffee and breakfast the kids wanted donuts and snacks. Lots of snacks. They asked for $5 pizzas and bags of cheetos and all the world was right. If you can, go ahead and include the attendees in the planning of their own workshop. Teens are very good at telling you what they want.
Venue The process of choosing a venue was not the same as it is for us traditionally with adults. It was essential to look into venues the kids were already comfortable, such as the library meeting room, clubhouses, community centers, etc. In the end we chose a place several kids were already meeting for their school co-op activities. The facility had a kitchen, plenty of tables/chairs, and internet access.
Curriculum Flexbility We did not change any of the core aspects of the curriculum. The teens built Suggestotron just as the adults do and enjoyed it a lot.
Stickers and Rewards I can’t say enough about how such a tiny thing creates HUGE motivation. We had stickers from Stickermule that were a big hit and became the coveted accessory for every laptop in the room.
Stay in Touch A larger percentage of teens in the workshop will be eager to continue and learn more than you may find in a traditional workshop. Consider hosting a monthly meetup with the teens to continue to check on their progress. We’ll share more on follow up in the weeks to come.
Feel free to <mailto: reach out if you have any questions about organizing a Railsbridge Teen in your area. Create the opportunity and they will come.