Cynthia, myself, and Toby from the Teen Tech Squad brought 6 laptops and 4 drawing pads to the after school program at Zanewood Recreation Center, which is located about 4 blocks from a junior high. We were set up around a round table in the game room alongside the Wii, pool table, TV, etc. We didn't have a theme or project this time, but as it turned out the drawing pads were a draw (no pun intended), so that got the ball rolling. We instructors circulated and helped kids individually. Having three instructors was good; none of us stood around. The kids were engaged with their projects, which meant lots of questions. The kids who joined in were in 7-9th grade and mostly girls-- most of the guys were playing Smash Bros Brawl. We gave participants only the most basic description of Scratch-- that you can use it to make animations and games-- and then their questions steered the rest of the session. Most made animations; about half focused on drawing and animating their own sprites, and the other half imported 2 sprites and focused on setting up dialogue between them.
There is no wi-fi at this location, which turned out to be a good thing, I think. Without the opportunity to open up a web browser and get distracted, they all worked on their projects the whole time. Most participants were at our table the entire 2 hours, for a total of about 8 participants plus various over-the-shoulder casual observers. Zanewood has no student computers at all, so the kids don't have that internet expectation when they come, which is one major difference between there and our libraries.
I'm thinking of doing more Internet-free workshops, at least for beginners. Maybe introduce it at the end to allow for uploading, or else just use Flash drives to transfer.
This session was all about location, location, location. When we have a built-in target audience available 5 days a week through this program and we're welcome to come anytime, why are we putting so much effort into informing/cajoling/bribing/dragging kids into our programs at the library and still not getting as good a result? Outside programs require time out of the building, which can be especially difficult to schedule without sub funds, but the results are nearly always drastically better, especially during the school year.
Cynthia and I are hoping to go back to Zanewood during one of their evening activity times and see how that goes.