JUNEAU, Alaska — On Tuesday afternoon, a small group of middle schoolers huddled around a doll on the floor of a modular classroom at Floyd Dryden Middle School, blue plastic gloves covering their hands. Laura Stats, a wellness outreach coordinator for Bartlett Regional Hospital, was showing the class how to properly change a diaper.
“Diaper changing is really a little sport in itself,” Stats told the kids, who were watching attentively. She demonstrated on the doll how to wipe and refasten the diaper. “Always be up front – if you don’t know how to do it (change a diaper) it’s not a problem, unless you don’t let somebody know.”
The lesson is part of a two-week babysitting skills class at the middle school offered through the Juneau Afterschool Coalition’s B.A.M. program. B.A.M., which stands for Body and Mind or Before and After Middle School, provides free and fun extracurriculars for middle school students throughout the school year.
The organization aims to “engage disengaged kids” by getting them interested in activities not available through the school system, Juneau Afterschool Coalition program coordinator Betsy Brenneman said.
“We provide counter programming for what the schools are able to do,” she said. “That’s my job – to bring the community in and have it be what kids want to do.”
Stats has been teaching her Safe Sitter course at the hospital since 2011, but, last year, Brenneman asked if Stats would be willing to alter the class, which she usually teaches for a fee some weekends, to fit B.A.M. This is the second year Stats has taught the class for free at the middle schools; she’ll do a second session at both schools in February. Up to eight students can take the class at a time.
“Do you have to use gloves?” one student asked Stats as she showed the proper way to dispose of a dirty diaper Tuesday.
“Yes, you should, if it’s not your family,” she explained.
Stats uses the class, which meets for six days for an hour and 20 minutes after school, to teach child safety and job skills. Besides the diaper duty how-to, she also taught Tuesday’s class how to politely accept and turn down job offers, and how to vet the families who ask them to watch their children. Monday’s class tackled the sometimes awkward topic of negotiating fair pay.
Twelve-year-old Lilly Mashburn, a seventh-grader at Floyd Dryden, has a lot of experience watching her younger sister, she said, but Stats’ explanation on how to follow up on job offers was something she had never heard before. Stats taught the class to contact mutual friends of employers they don’t know to make sure the home is safe. Safety isn’t only important for the child the sitter is watching, but for the sitter, too, Stats instructed.
Seventh-grader Miraje Mcknight thought it was useful to learn how to greet an employer and their child.
“Kneel down at eye level with the kid,” Miraje said after class. “And if you feel comfortable doing it, shake the parent’s hand and say, ‘Nice to meet you.’”
Devin Locke, 13, said he’s taking the babysitting course to learn how to watch children with behavioral issues, like frequent tantrum throwers. He said he’s used to babysitting his little brother, who is really well behaved.
Lilly said it was important for her to take the class because she takes her role as a babysitter seriously.
“If you don’t know the proper things to do, that could be potentially dangerous,” she said. “The child’s life is in your hands.”
For more information on the Safe Sitter course, and other activities through B.A.M., contact Brenneman at email@example.com.