When teaching, we have found that there were always one or two kids who seemed to be naturals at balloons.
My class runs six weeks and has a maximum class size of 10. I get a teaching fee and the parents pay extra for supplies (hand pump and 1 gross 260s). I start by talking about balloons, safety, the environment, do demonstrations of blowing and tying and work the class up to twisting their first mouse. By the end of six weeks the kids are making teddy bears, fruit baskets and even the pink panther, if they are really good.
Teaching kids to twist helps them with manual dexterity, self esteem, and even structural engineering. I almost always have full classes and have even had kids go on to do birthday parties for friends and siblings and cousins. Nothing makes a kid happier than earning $10 at a party so he can buy another bag of balloons. Its a blast! Its great to run into the kids months later, they will tell you or even show you how much they remember!
Remember, it's not competition, it's good will and good publicity. I can't tell you how many jobs I've gotten as referrals via teaching. Give it a shot if you have a free afternoon each week.
Let me explain what I mean by that. I have taught a number of beginner workshops. This is a 'start from the very beginning' kind of thing. We talk about inflating the balloon by mouth. A few in the group get it, but I don't spend time on it. I quickly pass out pumps to give them a chance to try it, explaining that as long as air gets into the balloon it doesn't matter how. Once they've had an opportunity to inflate balloons themselves, I hand out inflated balloons and we move into 3 fold dogs, a more complete dog, a swan, etc. I spend time talking about the properties of the balloon they're twisting, how much air is in the balloon and other things about balloons.
"My" workshop is not aimed at any particular level. Everyone has different interests and pursues different things in ballooning. It's an art. When I go to a magic lecture, I know who the lecturer is. I try to read some of their material before I go so I know what to expect. I don't look to see how hard their material is. I look to see if I can learn anything from them. Some of the best lectures I have attended only contained material that an absolute novice could do, but that were full of useful ideas that I've never considered. I try to pack my lecture with useful information about balloons in general and teach what I know. If you walk away with a new sculpture or two that you didn't do before, that's a bonus. If you walk away with a new way of thinking about balloons, I've done my job.
This fits in with what I said about selling yourself rather than selling what you do. I would like to see more people just teach what they think is important/interesting and get off of the topic of defining levels. The definitions will keep changing.
After that, I'd distribute the hand pumps and some uninflated balloons and go over inflation basics and finger-friendly knot-tying techniques. After some hands-on time, I'd poll the class to see what their interests were for figures, so I could plan the rest of the course, based on their subject intersts and skill levels.
Since this was a beginning course for 6 one-hour sessions, the meat of the class would focus on small (one to three balloon) figures. I chose to order all one brand of 260's, but planned to make the 4th week 'Explore other balloons' night. With other brands plus hearts, 160s, blossoms, airships, hearts and rounds, I figured I could let them begin expanding their own twisting horizons (what brand balloons they like, how to incorporate other-shaped balloons, color palatte choices, etc).
At some point early on, I would've made them access information online at the Balloon HQ web site. The last week would have allowed for some time for larger sculpture techniques (basic balloon fabric principle) in hopes of building interest in higher level courses.
My main goals for this beginning class as a whole would be:
My goal is to get my own television show to teach people about different medical procedures. I believe this has given ballooning a very positive outlook. I have found this very useful for patient education. I have performed before large groups of individuals and patients, with a very positive response. It has taken me around 5 years to perfect my techniques and I have gotten other doctors help on many of the intricate surgical procedures. The problem always is that people always have a large amount of personal medical questions which are at times difficult to answer and need my medical knowledge to gain believability. This very serious side a ballooning has given balloons a very serious side and I am working on a book, "Balloons In Medicine", which I expect to market to the medical community. I feel this book would also be of great interest to my fellow balloonists, who I consider very dear friends.