2. Working With Minors | Presentation

Julee P. Farley

Teachers and subject matter experts are involved in OER development processes, but the ultimate audience for some OER will be PreK-12 students themselves. Some projects may feature direct involvement with PreK-12 students. Others might not. This section provides background knowledge on requirements for working with students under age 18. Before proceeding with in-person work with minors, make sure to complete any training required by your institution.

Learning Objectives

Learners should be able to:

  • Identify legal requirements and best practices for working with minors.
  • Deliver this presentation to faculty/students who may in the future be working with minors.
  • Identify how to obtain training required of faculty, staff, and students who work with minors.
  • Articulate ways to make working with minors safe, fun, and educational.


  1. View the slides titled Working with Minors [PPT][1] and transcript below.
  2. Summarize these in a series of talking points and next steps useful for others at your institution.
  3. Identify the office at your institution responsible for training faculty, staff, and students who work with minors.
  4. If you plan to work directly with minors, sign up for training with your institution.

Working with Minors: Training for Working with PreK12 Teachers and Students

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Google Slides: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1xqMqIIHUOuz_hVKHLCrb9l9EumS2NwdSwL6i1XHEsMk/edit#slide=id.g10d0b519b24_2_115

PowerPoint Slides: http://hdl.handle.net/10919/112264


Slide Deck Transcript

Welcome to “So you want to do outreach: Training for working with K-12 teachers and students.” This training was based on materials originally created by the Center for Educational Networks and Impacts at Virginia Tech.

The priorities for informal education may differ from formal education in that the goal of informal education is to inspire and interest students rather than focus on acquiring facts. These priorities [safe, fun, and educational] for informal education were created and pioneered by Dr. Phyllis Newbill at the Center for Educational Networks and Impacts at Virginia Tech.

Always remember that safety is the number one priority. If people do not feel safe or comfortable, then they are not able to focus on learning or feel inspired. You must ensure that you are creating a space that is both emotionally and physically safe for your learners. When you are leading an activity, you are in a position of responsibility, and children and even teachers will look to you for help.

The topics we will discuss are: ensuring you and anyone you are working with are never alone with a minor and how to determine if you are legally bound to report abuse or neglect.

Never be alone with a minor in a physical or virtual space (e.g., Zoom) and do not allow others on your team to be alone with a minor. This policy protects both the minor and the adult.

Consider this scenario and what you should do in this situation: A young person is the only other person in the bathroom when you arrive there. What do you do? [Answer: The best choice is to go find another bathroom to use. If that is not possible, you can wait until the young person leaves the bathroom to use it or find another adult and take this second adult with you to the bathroom. All of these solutions prevent you from being alone with a minor.]

Your organization may legally require you to report abuse and neglect. This is known as being a “mandated reporter.” Those who work in educational, childcare, and healthcare facilities are often mandated reporters although the laws vary by state. If you are not sure if you are a mandated reporter, you can check the laws in your state, talk to your supervisor, or contact the HR department of your workplace. If you are a mandated reporter, your workplace will likely have a procedure for reporting abuse/neglect, and you should familiarize yourself with it as well as take any trainings your organization requires.

If you are a mandated reporter, you must report suspected child abuse and neglect. Remember that a culture of silence allows abuse to continue.

Sexual abuse and sexual harassment are covered under Title IX (nine). Title IX is a federal civil rights law, and it states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Preventing and reporting abuse and neglect keeps people safe. Remember that abuse can be emotional, physical, or sexual. Neglect is the failure to provide for a child’s basic needs. Remember that abuse is not rare.

To summarize the safety section: remember to never be alone with a minor in either a physical or virtual space. Don’t allow others to be alone with a minor. You may be a mandated reporter and be legally bound to report abuse and neglect.

Priority number two is fun. You want your activity to be fun because if a learner is doing something fun then they will likely want to learn more about it. If the activity is not fun, you probably won’t choose to learn more about that activity or that topic.

When planning your activity, you should include a hook, personal stories, and two-way conversations. Make sure to leave out stereotypes, assumptions about relationships, and sensitive topics. We will cover each of these topics in greater detail in the following slides.

A hook is a good way to get learners interested in and engaging with your activity. You can engage learners verbally, by introducing yourself or your activity. You can also engage learners visually by using color or displaying intriguing objects from your work.

You can also engage learners by sharing a personal story or a story from your work. For example, you might talk about how you got in to your work, what is exciting or you, what makes your experience different from others, or an interesting story about the history of your work.

Another way to engage learners and to increase learning is to encourage two-way conversations in your activity. You encourage two-way conversations by asking questions as well as listening to learners and responding to them.

Avoid stereotyping your learners based on any physical or observable characteristics. For example, don’t assume that only female learners will be interested in your activity and male learners will find it boring. Also remember that teachers and students come from a wide range of backgrounds and home living situations, some of which may make the learner feel uncomfortable or singled out when discussed in front of their classmates.

Don’t make assumptions about families and living situations, for example, assuming that every child has a mother and father at home or that every child has their own room. Avoid talking about sensitive topics such as tattoos, romantic relationships, sex, religion, politics, curse words, alcohol/drugs, and partying and focus your language and conversation on your activity instead. Your activity has the potential to reach and engage all learners and using inclusive language will help make sure you achieve that goal.

When creating an exhibit or setting up an activity, especially one where you may be at a table and waiting for learners to approach you, think about how you can make your space a “yes” space. A “yes” space is one in which you can say yes as much as possible and minimize the number of times you will say no to a learner (e.g., ask them not to touch something). Put touchable items (remember that touchable items can be used as a hook to engage learners in your activity) where they can be touched. Create physical barriers for fragile items that you may not want to be touched and if you must tell a learner not to touch something, set a clear expectation by letting them know not to touch before presenting the object.

See an example of a “yes” space on the next slide: This exhibit pictured demonstrates a “yes” space. There is a hook of a cool object to touch that is placed in an easily accessible area of the table. There is also a hook of a person asking questions to promote engagement with the exhibit. This exhibit does showcase fragile objects that should not be touched; notice how the fragile objects are protected by a physical barrier. Think about how you can set up your space so that you can maximize the number of times you say yes to someone who wants to engage with you and your activity and minimize the number of times you will say no.

As a review of the second priority, “fun”: 1) Make sure to include a hook, stories, and conversation in your activity; 2) avoid stereotypes, assumptions, and sensitive topics; and 3) arrange your space to be a “yes” space.

We will now move onto priority three: making your activity educational.

In this component of the training, we will discuss how to determine learner capabilities, language use, making your activity sensory-friendly, how to choose an appropriate activity, and educational standards in your state.

Consider the scenario presented on this slide: A boy in a wheelchair comes with his family to your exhibit. His body is twisted, and he does not make eye contact with you. Should you address him? The answer: Many diseases attack the body and not the mind. Assume that the child can understand you until you have information otherwise and engage this learner as you would any other learner.

Consider the scenario presented on this slide: Two children come to your exhibit with an adult. One child is six inches taller than the other. Which one can understand bigger words? The answer: Heights vary greatly among children. They might be the same age, or the shorter one may be older. Learner capabilities are not related to their height.

We learned in the previous module that assumptions about learner abilities based on physical appearance are not reliable. Instead, you can ask questions of children, beginning with simple questions and asking more complex or difficult questions if the learner seems interested and seems to understand you. You can also ask the learner to describe an object, which will give you a good idea of their vocabulary and sentence structure skills.

Plan what you will say to learners during your activity, both to ensure that your content is age appropriate as well as to ensure that your activity will take the amount of time you believe it will. Once you have your script, you can use readability functions in Microsoft Word/PowerPoint or readability score applications to determine the grade level for your content. Make sure that your content is not too difficult or too easy. For example, a fifth grade reading level would likely be too difficult for a second grader and too easy for a twelfth grader.

Try to ensure that your content is easy to understand for your learner group. Other resources that may be helpful are The Thing Explainer book[2] and The Up-Goer Five text editor[3] both of which use only the vocabulary of the 1,000 (or “ten hundred”) most common words in the English Language.

When preparing your activity, remember that some sensory experiences may be overwhelming for learners, which will limit their ability to engage with your activity. Having a written sign to describe your experience may be useful, and if you have sensory aspects to your activity make sure to let learners know about those ahead of time. Leave out bright lights and repetitive or loud noises if possible. In general, avoid surprises, which may frighten some learners. Also, do not put pressure on learners to engage with your activity if they seem hesitant; instead, let them engage at their own pace.

When you are trying to determine what activity you should do, try to select something that you think is interesting or exciting. If you’re excited, your learner group will be able to detect your excitement, and they will be more interested. You can also think about why you want to do outreach, what has inspired you, and how this outreach might fit into the bigger picture of your life and career. You can also ask local teachers or school administrators what their needs are. For example, they may have difficulty meeting certain educational standards in standardized testing or may have an existing venue for outreach in their district. You can also discuss with teachers which grades or subjects may be best aligned with your activity; be sure to be honest about which grade levels or ages you feel most comfortable talking to and if there are any subjects you feel more comfortable talking about.

The state you live in likely has educational standards that schools must meet, such as standardized testing. These tests and standards typically cover key concepts and vocabulary that students must know.

These standards vary by state and are related to student learning and achievement in grades K-12 in English, mathematics, science, and history/social science, among others. Finding and becoming more familiar with the educational standards in your state may help you include important information in your activity and help you determine which subjects and grade levels may be most appropriate for your activity.

As a review, remember to determine learner capabilities by asking them questions or asking them to describe objects. Make sure you plan what you will say in your activity and that your language is at an appropriate level for your learner group. If possible, avoid loud and repetitive noises, bright lights, and other overwhelming stimuli in your activity. When planning your activity, think about what ages you feel comfortable talking to as well as what interests you and what you are excited about; if you are excited, your learners are more likely to be excited. Finally, use educational standards in your state to help create your activity.

Resources and Additional Reading

Virginia Tech Policy 4815: Minors on Campus or Participating in University-Related Programs. https://policies.vt.edu/assets/4815.pdf

GoogleSearch. University websites regarding interaction with minors. https://www.google.com/search?q=university+%22working+with+minors%22

  1. Center for Education Networks and Innovation. (2021) Working with Minors: Training for working with PreK12 teachers and students. VTechWorks. http://hdl.handle.net/10919/112264. CC BY NC-SA 4.0.
  2. Munroe, R. (2015). Thing explainer: Complicated stuff in simple words. Dey Street Books.
  3. Anderson, T. [n.d.]. The up-goer five text editor. https://splasho.com/upgoer5


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Making Open Educational Resources with and for PreK12 Copyright © 2023 by Julee P. Farley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.