Saturday, July 13, 2013

✰The Positive, the Problematic & the Potentially Glorious ✰

Suggestions Brainstormed at the “Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind” workshop at Allied Media Conference (AMC) 2013 

The Allied Media Conference (AMC) is a very special conference, dear to our hearts and one of the best ones for childcare, youth programming, and nurturing an intergenerational movement.  It builds on feedback from each year, with a we begin by listening credo, and continually works to build collective access. We want to recognize that a lot of planning and effort happens to intentionally support caregivers and children and we thank everyone involved. Please accept the more critical feedback within this list with love and as part of the ongoing conversations to help move forward for next year.

lacing cards, a chew proof baby book, & baby blocks

The Positive
  • Parents and caregivers feel excited to bring children to the AMC. One mom said that the combo of childcare + Kids’ Track makes the AMC one of the few places she wants to bring her small child.
  • Youth are excited about coming to the AMC. They get a lot out of the experience such as workshops that are engaging for youth (such as scratch, flash animation, green screen*) and build media skills they can use outside of the conference. Children can also meet others with similar kinds of parents and not feel isolated by being the only kid from a political family.
  • Non-parents enjoy seeing children around them. Having childcare be in the main space and seeing children around them feels good.
  • One mom, who was at the AMC with her two young children for the first time, said that the combo of childcare + Kids’ Track makes her very hopeful.
  • Relationships are being built and nurtured so we can also support each other in more organic ways all around, and outside of, the conference.  
  • Two of the youth are already making plans to come to next year’s AMC!

    * Although we later found out that the greenscreen workshop either didn’t happen or was moved to an undisclosed location. The tweens, as well as several adults, went to the indicated room which was empty & waited & waited & waited & finally gave up.

The Problematic
  • Youth not prioritized in “all ages” workshops. Youth arriving late to “How to Create Magical Card Decks”  felt uncomfortable and left because the workshop was crowded and full of adults. Youth can feel intimidated if a the “Kids Transform the World Practice Space” is mostly attended by adults and want to leave the room when they come in to see this is the case.
  • Unsafe equipment/supplies (such as razor blades at small child level) in some of the spaces that are listed as “Appropriate and engaging for all ages” workshops
  • Railings on 2nd floor are extremely dangerous for small children, who can easily fall through. Putting up decorative cloth on the railing only makes it more appealing and thus more of a hazard.
  • Lack of clear structure for volunteers to know what is happening and what is expected of them: A childcare volunteer said that they were given no information about kids’ names, caregivers, allergies, etc., when they came in to volunteer. It felt extremely disconnected, confusing, and upsetting to not know what one was supposed to be doing and for there to be little communication during shift changes (people just coming and going without saying anything other then goodbye) or when taking children outside.
  • No quiet, dark (or able to be darkened) room for children to nap. Also, a shortage of childcare providers means that there’s no one to watch napping kids.

The Potentially Glorious
  • Put a cap on how many adults (without children) can be in a workshop that is geared for youth.
  • Quality control to make “Appropriate and engaging for all ages” workshops both engaging AND safe. Have a check-off list for presenters to go through to make sure their space is safe.
  • Have childcare (and the Kids Track) on the 1st floor!!!
  • Have an additional nearby quiet/napping room with extra volunteers
  • Provide healthy food/snacks with regard to food allergies and restrictions
  • Childcare organizers advocate for healthy food
  • Put trigger warnings on workshop descriptions instead of labeling sessions as “not appropriate for kids.” Allow caregivers (and other adults) to choose whether to attend based on content, not a sometimes-arbitrary rating system. *
  • Give trigger warnings before the start of the workshop. (This warns people who may have forgotten/not read the trigger warning in the description.)
  • Have name tags for all kids that include caregivers’ names and allergy info. Incorporate nametag making as an art activity at the beginning of each day so that the kids feel ownership of their name tag (and are less likely to take them off).
  • Childcare volunteers should do a head-count before taking kids outside & then another before returning to the childcare space.
  • Have a short (1-2 page) orientation handout for all childcare volunteers that includes how long they’re expected to stay and WHAT is expected of them. Information needs to be shared with ALL childcare volunteers.
  • More paid (2-3) childcare staff. More childcare and Kids Transform the World Track volunteers. Also, more intersections that conference attendees can get involved in supporting caregivers and children at different comfort/commitment levels as well as more learning opportunities on how to do so.
  • Science fiction geeks! How about creating a sci-fi workshop for tweens/young teens with accessible language? Also consider other themes, like how sex-positive subject matter could also be created into a class for tweens which need this kind of information.
  • Have AMC youth scholarships to cover travel expenses so that more children can attend the conference with their caregivers. Also all different groups and collectives could consider organizing (based around geography or issues, for example) collective support/scholarships for caregivers and children in their midst.
  • Network with the Disability Justice folks to collaborate on broader platforms of access.

    * Info about difficulties in planning rating system: when organizers plan the conference they don’t know what room workshops will be in and they also edit the descriptions a lot.

  • What if EVERYONE doing a workshop committed to :
    • keeping sharp and/or dangerous objects out of reach
    • making an announcement at the start that kid noises are welcome
    • encouraging people (of all ages) to ask for definitions/clarifications if they don’t understand terms that are used
    • giving trigger warnings

  • AMC organizers:
    • create a small working group which includes caregivers and kids on how to make the AMC more kid-friendly.
    • Create a collective vision/official statement of how the AMC wants to include children and caregivers.
    • Create a 5-year plan to work towards meeting these goals. Rushing too fast to create inclusion without necessarily understanding how to do so can create additional problems and push us past our capacities. We need to work on these issues in an extended committed fashion.

      We brought toys that would be safe for babies and all- ages because last time we didn't have anything fun for 
      all the small children in our heavily talk-based workshop