Search on SLJ.com ....
Subscribe to SLJ
Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Getting Ready for May the Fourth: Some Star Wars STEAM Ideas

Our weekly STEM program for 3 to 18 year old patrons took a turn for the galactic yesterday as we focused on Star Wars. None of the ideas I’m about to link to are my own, but I will tell you how well they worked for us and give you some tips for success.

81r2wmJ1JxL_SL1500_Our first activity was releasing Lego Star Wars figures from ‘carbonite.’ You can find the original post here. We used a combination of baking soda and water to freeze the minifigs into ice cubes. First hot tip – they don’t fit in standard ice cube trays. Luckily, I actually had some Star Wars themed jello molds (don’t ask) and they fit in those. We used vinegar to dissolve the ‘carbonite,’ but unlike the original post, I had the kids use pipettes to wash the baking soda away gradually. It really depends on your level of patience, but I think they had fun. Your mileage may vary.

Next we moved on to this activity – creating light saber cards. This was probably my favorite activity and the one I would consider the most teachable moment. If you scroll down in the post, you can find links to all the necessary materials, which were surprisingly affordable. There are also free printables to make the cards themselves. The blogger created one version for ‘May the Fourth’ and one for ‘May the Force,’ so you can use it year round.

We made balloon hovercrafts as detailed here. I’m sure you have some old CDs or DVDs and balloons around, and who doesn’t have a hot glue gun? Unfortunately, the other necessary piece (a pop up bottle lid) is much more difficult to find these days. Almost all of the items that used to have them, such as dish soap and sports water bottles, have switched to the new flip top model. I found them from some online vendors, but you either had to purchase thousands of them or pay exorbitant shipping fees. My best advice is to make friends with people who polish their hardwood floors – all of those containers still use the pop up lids, as does dish soap from the Mrs. Meyer’s company. It’s not ideal, but it is doable if you plan ahead (or have lots of friends with hardwood floors.)

We made these light saber sensory bottles, as well. The post recommends using VOS water bottles, which are quite expensive. We used the large Smart Water bottles because it is what I like to drink. I would recommend going with a smaller bottle, though.

Finally, we made some origami Millennium Falcons. There are many different versions of the instructions online, but the one I found easiest to follow is here.

Happy Star Wars day preparations to all!

TPiB: 3 cheap and easy after school programs

I’m always looking for small program ideas that don’t take a lot of planning time, are inexpensive, are flexible, and appeal widely. Here are three to try.

Sci-Fi Stitches – or – Embroidered notecards

You can be silly or serious with this one. I did both and both were fun. For the “sci-fi stitches” I printed a bunch of different old timey photos onto cardstock (check Pinterest, there are gobs of people who have boards full of quirky and interesting old black and white photos). For the embroidered notecards, I supplied some adult coloring sheets to use as templates.

IMG_20170112_165822354 IMG_20170112_163628900

IMG_20170124_210229700 IMG_20170124_203629464

Supplies

  • embroidery floss
  • embroidery needles
  • small pieces of corrugated cardboard
  • cardstock
  • tape
  • thumbtacks
  1. Draw your pattern onto the cardstock
  2. Place the cardstock on top of the cardboard. Using the thumbtack, poke holes along the pattern. If you’re using a coloring sheet as a template, you can punch right through the sheet itself.
  3. Thread your needle and start stitching into the holes. Use the tape to secure the floss at the back of the card.

Zenstones, aka draw on rocks

Seriously, drawing on rocks sounded kind of boring, but if you call it zenstones… or maybe rock-dalas… or meditation nuggets…  suddenly it’s a THING!

IMG_20170126_160502185 IMG_20170126_160509579 IMG_20170126_155408110

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Supplies

  • bag of rocks
  • permanent markers (black for light colored rocks, silver for black rocks)

This one was stone simple [lol!]. I had a bag of rocks left over from a gardening craft and I borrowed a few of the silver sharpies from the Tech Processing department and that was it. The kids did this for close to an hour. It was kind of amazing. This would be an easy pick for self-directed programming and could dovetail nicely with a number of seasonal themes.

Emoji Spelling Bee

Hey look! It’s not a craft! I heard about the “First Ever Emoji Spelling Bee” that happened at last fall’s Emojicon (a celebration of all things emoji) and it seemed like an activity begging to be turned into a teen program.

emojis: snail, minus sign, shell

Supplies

  • a list of silly words and phrases
  • teen supplied phones OR a computer projected onto a shared screen that can access an Emoji Keyboard Online
  • a timer

Have the teens come up with the words and phrases to challenge each other or make a list ahead of time. For each turn, give a teen one word/phrase clue and set a timer. When the timer is up, they are done and the rest of the group gets to decide if the phrase is “spelled” correctly or not.

TPiB: The Great Ornament Hack

ornament1

Every once in a while, I feel like I have a moment of genius (it’s not often). This Teen MakerSpace activity was one of those moments, I hope. I was standing in Michael’s when I saw this big tube of clear plastic ornaments. In the past, I have done the paint inside the ornament craft with my kids, both at the library and at home. But what, I wondered, if I asked them to take it further? Thus was born The Great Ornament Hack.

ornament12

The challenge is simple: Use ANYTHING (Except Legos!) in the Teen MakerSpace to make your ornament how ever you would like. Everything includes both traditional craft and tech elements.

For example, one teen was working on hacking the cap of his ornament to add an LED light so that it would light up.

ornament3

We are giving teens about 4 weeks to make their ornaments. Each ornament is being given a number and hung from our ceiling. Beginning December 5th, teens will be invited to vote for their favorite ornament. One lucky teen will receive 100 button making pieces – which is a very popular incentive (we also used this as one of our summer reading prizes).

This is a really open-ended challenge that allows teens to create whatever they want to represent themselves. It can be holiday or non-holiday themed. It can be personal or a gift. The possibilities are limitless and the creativity has been off the charts and exciting to see.

The response to this has been overwhelmingly positive. In the first two days alone we had about 15 ornaments created.

ornament5

Some of our hacked ornaments hanging to dry

ornament4

Mixed media spider

ornament6

There’s a color theme happening here

ornament2

Makey Mouse made by me with computer bits and pieces from our Tech Take Apart station

ornament10

Mario in process

ornament11

Steampunk ornament

As I have mentioned, in addition to having our regularly opened space and standard stations, we like to have temporary stations to keep it fresh and interesting. This challenge has proven to do exactly that.

The complete Mario ornament

The complete Mario ornament

To find out more about the Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, start here:

Small Tech, Big Impact: Designing My Maker Space at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (OH) (School Library Journal article, February 2016)

1 Year Later, What I’ve Learned (School Library Journal article, November 2016)

TPiB: Undertale Party

Last week, I wrote a review about the video game UndertaleIf you haven’t read it, go ahead and skim it before trying out this program! Also, be sure to ask your regular teens if they’re fans of Undertale before deciding to do this program. Undertale is a niche fandom that isn’t nearly as big as something like Pokemon Go, so make sure you are guaranteed an audience first!

undertale

I had my Undertale program a few weekends ago on a Saturday afternoon. One of my regular teens volunteered to help decorate our program room and plan games, which was a HUGE help!  The best part about my Undertale program was how it attracted teens from all over our county who didn’t know each other, and they all exchanged phone numbers at the end!

Music: I always like to play music in the background during programs because it makes it less awkward if there’s a lull in conversation.  I recommend two different playlists for this program.  First, you can play Undertale’s soundtrack on this YouTube playlist.  But, if you want to get hardcore, you can play music from the Undertale musical. Yes, you read that correctly!  Someone made an Undertale musical, which you can find on YouTube here.  This is a bonus for your teens who are big Hamilton fans!

YouTube Video:

Food: There are a ton of ridiculous names for food in Undertale, and they’re inspirational for food creation activities (a part of me wishes I made rock candy with the teens!)For a complete list, you can click here.

I chose to buy a candy mix and called it “Monster Candy”, Cinnamon Bunnies, and Spider Cider.  I had teens create and bake their own Cinnamon Bunnies using Pillsbury dough and chocolate chips.  We made big bunnies, small bunnies, and what we dubbed “womp bunnies” for all of the bunnies whose ears fell off while eating it.  I also poured apple cider in cups and put plastic spiders in them.

Craft: I always try to give the teens something to take home from a large program like this, so I printed out Undertale perler bead patterns and let the teens go nuts.  Kandi Patterns has plenty of different character patterns available for free!  *Be sure you have PLENTY of black available, because every single character needs a black outline!*

skull-thingy

Perler beads are the perfect craft for this video game because the game’s graphics are 8-bit, and perler beads look just like the video game!  Creating perler bead crafts gave the teens something to do with their hands while they talked all things Undertale.  They talked for a long time about their favorite character, what path they played through first, and what is their favorite YouTuber “Let’s Play” video.

monkeything

Games: Figuring out games to play was a little tricky.  I did not want to play the video game itself because it’s only a single player game, and I wanted all of my teens to be engaged at once.  I decided to pick aspects of Undertale that were fun, and create activities that are somewhat related.  You could easily do your own puzzle activities, since that would fit Undertale’s gameplay.

Pun Off: Puns are a big part of the game, whether you enjoy them or not.  I planned to have a formal “Pun Off”, but it actually manifested by itself during the perler beads crafts.  The teens tried to come up with their best puns and reciting puns they memorized from the game.

Collect Gold Coins: In order to survive in the game, players have to collect coins which can be used to buy food for health.  I actually planned out a scavenger hunt for gold coins, but that fell through because our library reorganized our interior that weekend because we are renovating soon!  So, I decided to repurpose the ball pit balls that I spray painted gold and have the teens play a live version of Hungry Hungry Hippos.  Is Hungry Hungry Hippos related to Undertale? Not in the slightest, but it wouldn’t be a library program without a little improvisation!

goldballs

Disarming a Bomb:  One popular mini game in Undertale is disarming bombs in under three minutes.  I wanted to do something related to disarming bombs, which is how I discovered the video game Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.  I reviewed it for TLT, which you can read here.  The teens LOVED this game, and it will now be featured at our weekly Teen Game Night program!

Marshmallow Target Practice:  I printed out a giant version of Flowey, taped him to our library building outside, and let the teens practice throwing marshmallows at it.  I made sure to buy those giant campfire marshmallows for easy throwing! Flowey is the primary boss in the game, so don’t be fooled by the cute looking flower.

Glow Stick Dance Party: I had a celebratory dance program at the very end, especially because they were full of sugar!  I turned off the lights, gave them glow sticks, and turned up the music!

Video: Glow stick party

Questions? Comments? Tweet them at me!

By: Alanna Graves
Twitter: @LannaLibrarian

 

TPIB: Photo Shrink Jewelry Charms

shrinkydinks4Although we have some permanent stations set up in our Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, we also occasionally rotate in some different stations to make sure our teens have a variety of activities to engage in. One of our permanent stations includes a bank of iPads which we encourage the teens to do many things with, including create digital media and do photo manipulation. If you have read many posts here at TLT, you know that I am quite obsessed with photo apps and photo manipulation and creation. It is one of my favorite things to do (my phone currently has 14,000 pictures on it and that is not hyperbole). And I then like to find creative things to do with those photos: like turn them into shrink plastic jewelry.

If you are thinking Shrinky Dinks – well, you are right, kind of. Shrinky Dinks are a brand name, there are other types of shrink plastic. And there is shrink plastic that you can put right into your printer, which is my kind of shrink plastic. So this summer, we made photo shrink plastic jewelry with our teens. Today I’m going to tell you how.

Supplies

shrinkydins

  • 2.25 circle punch. I use this one, but you can also just shape fill a 2.25 circle on your computer’s graphics program and a pair of scissors. I like the circle punch because it is a clean circle and it is quick.
  • Standard single hole punch (1/4 inch)
  • Photo printer shrink plastic, as pictured above. There are a few brand options, just make sure it says photo or printer friendly.
  • Some type of technology and a printer
  • A heat source: I recommend a toaster oven
  • A brown grocery bag or lunch sack
  • A metal tray (this usually comes with your toaster oven)
  • Oven mitts
  • A hot pad or trivet
  • Jewelry making findings and tools

Step 1: Creating your images

Before your can print and shrink your images, you need to create your images. For example, you can use Instagram images. Or use any variety of apps to create the images you would like to create(see below for a list of my favorites). When creating or choosing an already existing image, you want to make sure of two things:

1) That they will fit into the 2.25 inches size nicely and

2) That putting a hole in the top or on the sides – more about this in a moment – won’t obscure the important parts of the image. For example, if you are doing a photo with people you’ll want to make sure that you won’t be cutting off their heads when you put a hole in the top.

shrinkydinks7

For my example bracelet, The Mr. had created a series of Doctor Who inspired silhouette drawings to decorate The Teens room. I took pictures of those pieces of art and used a variety of apps to add backgrounds, text, etc. I then uploaded the images to my laptop so that I could print them.

Step 2: Printing your images

You’ll want to follow all printing instructions on your shrink plastic. For example, you will want to reduce the color intensity because the colors gets darker when the images shrink.

shrinkydinks8

For making jewelry charms, after much experimentation, we have found that 2.25 inches is a good size to begin with pre-shrink. In addition, a standard hole punch at the top shrinks down to a good size for a top loop and threading onto some type of jewelry finding. You can alternately put a hole on the left and right side using your hole punch to make a fitted charm bracelet where you loop thread or o rings through both sides of the charm.

After you print your image you’ll want to make sure not to touch the image so that the ink doesn’t smear or smudge.

Step 3: Shrinking your images

Again, you’ll want to follow all the package instructions for using the shrink plastic. Typically you set your toaster oven to 325 degrees. You’ll want to place your images on a piece of brown paper bag that fits inside your toaster oven; this just makes it easier to remove for cooling. The paper goes on the metal tray which you put in the oven (though it also works if you lose the metal tray which I’m not saying I did but the image below proves). When you take the metal tray out you can remove the paper and set it on a heat safe surface to cool. We used a left over piece of ceramic tile, but any type of hot pad or trivet will do.

shrinkydinks6

The shrinking happens pretty quickly so you need to stay right there and watch your items in the oven. They will briefly curl up and it will scare you because you think, “Oh no, they’re going to fold in on themselves.” And yet somehow they don’t. When they are flat again, wait like 2 beats more and then remove the tray to cool.

We have done this in the library with teens and you want to make sure you have an adult supervising the toaster oven at all times. The items get hot and letting them cool down is essential.

Step 4: Turning your images into jewelry – or something

In the most basic sense, you can thread a single charm onto a basic hemp cord and you have a necklace. You can also string beads between several charms and create a necklace or bracelet. I happen to be lucky and my Assistant Director does chain mail as a hobby and this is a fantastic way to make a charm bracelet. Here are a couple of our creations to give you some ideas.

shrinkydinks3  shrinkydinks

shrinkydinks5

Don’t want to make jewelry? Don’t put any holes in your plastic, shrink like normal, slap a magnet on the back and you have one of a kind magnets.

There’s a Book for That

And because we try to have a book for every activity we do or station we create in our Teen MakerSpace, we were very excited to find this book:

shrinkshrankshrunk

A Couple of Notes

We experimented with other shapes, but found that circles worked best and didn’t have any rough edges that could poke.

You can technically do this with traditional shrink plastic and hand drawn images as well. For example, we found that our teens loved to make their initials or names.

Some of Karen’s Favorite Photo Apps

How Did You Do That? Photo Apps Version

App Review: Prisma

App Review: Aviary

App Review: FotoRus

App Review: Image Chef

Tech Talk: App Review – BeFunky

Generate Marketing Creativity with iPhone Apps

Meme the Apps

More Photo Crafts

Instagram crafts

10 Things to Do with a Blank Canvas part 1 and part 2

Share it! Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

TPIB: Photo Word Bookmarks (Or Instagram Photo Booth Strip Looking Bookmarks)

tb3Sometimes I learn about stuff at the library and go home and do it with my kids, but sometimes I do something at home and it turns out to be a great library/Teen MakerSpace activity. The Teen recently turned 14 and she wanted to have a taco birthday. It was very important to me that we have a taco themed birthday without having a Mexican Fiesta type birthday because this is not our culture and I didn’t want to appropriate it or do something that appeared to be mocking it. But The Teen, she does love tacos, so we had a taco themed birthday.

We ended up having a taco taste test where we drove around to various taco places and ranked their tacos. At the same time, our guests were invited to take pictures to spell out the word “taco” using architecture and every day objects which we would then turn into bookmarks.

The rules were this:

You had to appear in one and only one of the pictures.

You couldn’t use an actual letter, like from a sign.

Have fun, be creative.

If you are doing this in a library, you will want to set some additional parameters and perhaps a time limit.

Materials Needed

  • A photo device of some sort, like a smart phone or tablet
  • Printer
  • Clear contact paper
  • Scissors
  • Craft floss to make a tassel
  • PhotoShake app

This is a fun, quick and easy project to do. After you take the photos, it takes about 15 minutes to complete.

Making the Bookmarks

Participants then texted their pictures to me and I made them into bookmarks using the PhotoShake app. Since I have a bank of iPads in my Teen MakerSpace that each have this app downloaded, it’s easy for us to have the teens email their pics to a generic email to download and make into bookmarks. After receiving the pictures and downloading them, I delete the emails immediately. You could also just use a hashtag and then download the pictures that way if you are worried about email.

Using the PhotoShake App to Make Your Word Photo

tb5

After opening your app, choose the Wide Photo option to make your bookmark.

tb6

At the next screen, you will choose the Horizontal option.

tb7

Select your photos under the Shake option. Then choose Edit. It will ask you if you want to Edit your photos manually, say yes. You can then put your photos into the correct order to spell your word. If you’re not familiar with this app, you’ll want to spend some time getting to know the various things you can do with it. For example, you can erase the borders if you wish. In addition, you can add filters, crop and more.

You will then save your photo, which is found under the Share option. You can then print your and cut your photo to size using your regular print options. Ours looked like this:

tb1

To make the bookmark more durable, we covered both sides in clear contact paper. We then punched a hole in it and added a tassel. Instructions on how to make a bookmark tassel can be found here.

tb2

In addition to spelling fun words like taco, we have also done names and nicknames.

Taking the pictures and seeing how everyone made the letters for their words was the funnest part of all.

As an alternative, you can use this same process to make Photo Booth Strip Bookmarks if you have a green screen or a photo booth in your library. Even if you don’t, it’s a fun and easy way to combine Instagram photos into a Photo Booth Strip Bookmark. You would simply choose the vertical option instead of the horizontal option for your layout.

readbookmarks

This is What Happened When We Held a Pokemon Go Program at the Library

pokemongoLast Thursday The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (OH) hosted it’s Pokemon Go program, an event that was put together by a committee of about 7 people for all ages. We scoured the Internet and found a variety of activities and decorations which helped make our event an exciting success.

Because Pokemon Go is played by people of all ages, we specifically chose to make this an all ages event, which proved to be a very wise move. We had a lot of families come that were obviously enjoying playing the game together. Our event lasted for 5 hours and we placed a lure (a lure draws Pokemon to your location) every half hour. A lot of people came and stayed the entire time and it was fun to see them sitting around talking and then get up to go somewhere and catch a Pokemon. At one point someone declared that Pikachu was nearby and there was an excited mass exodus. As far as I know no one caught Pikachu that night, but they sure did have a fun time trying.

Decorations

pg22Pokeball Lanterns

Two of our staff members worked incredibly hard to make the space look awesome, which they did with these amazing Pokeball lanterns. They tested three different ways of turning white paper lanterns into pokeballs: duct tape, spray paint and tissue paper. They ultimately decided that red paint was the easiest and worked the best.  In all 3 versions they used black duct tape for the center line.

It was awe inspiring to walk into our programming room and see about 10 of these hanging from the ceiling.

pg20 pg14

pg5Pokeball Tables

My personal philosophy of table decorations is not very visually appealing. I only recently learned what tablescaping is. But some of my coworkers believe very strongly in making things look amazing in ways I would never even think of, which is why they set about creating these amazing pokeball table effects.

To create the look, they used red and white table clothes and black duct tape. They overlapped the two – it works better to put the white on the bottom and have the red on top – and taped them together using the black duct tape. You’ll have excess on each side which you will need to cut off.

pg18

To create the center button – is that what it is, a button? – they used a thick white plate and a black marker.pg17 pg16

Food

We believe firmly that you can’t have a program or party without food. We had a vast array of snack food items that we related back to Pokemon. For example, Doritos were “Charmander Chips”. The snacks were served in red and clearish white bowls designed to look like open pokeballs. When looking for Pokemon snacks, Pinterest really is your friend.

pg13

A local baker made 7 dozen pokeball cookies. Every last one of them were eaten.pg10

And we ordered a pepperoni and a cheese pizza which we cut in half and swapped out to make them look like poke pizzas. Again, Pinterest.pg3

Activities

In addition to making Fingerprint Pokemon Buttons in the Teen MakerSpace, we did a variety of crafts and activities in this program.

pg24

We also colored our own pokeballs which we then made into buttons. Yes, we use our button makers a lot. I can not stress enough to you how popular they are. And with all ages.pg11

Younger kids made Pikachu ears. We also printed off and folded these Pikachu and pokeball cubes. We tried many ways to hold them together and hot glue worked the best. And should you be thinking the Pikachu ears were too young for teens, I myself was pleasantly surprised to see that a lot of teens did in fact make and wear the ears.pg9

We also made this Pin the Tail on Pikachu game. It was amusing to watch adults play it.pg6

At each completed station participants got a Pokemon card and a ticket that went into our raffle crawing. We put together 50 Pokemon Hunter Kits that included things like glow sticks, wipe on sunscreen, small bottles of water and little eggs with miniature Pokemon. The kits were wickedly popular and it was fun to watch people trading cards and Pokemon throughout the night.

pg4

We also did this scavenger hunt, which was shared online by another librarian, Karissa in the Library, who was kind enough to do all the work. It worked really well for us and I highly recommend it.

We also had a Guess the Pokemon game set up on a large screen TV. One of our tech people created a slide show that showed a silhouette of a Pokemon and participants were supposed to guess the name of the Pokemon. I was not involved in the creation of this game but it resembled this game in theory: http://www.sporcle.com/games/dlh1231/nostalgia. I was not good at this game, but most of the people present got a perfect score.

One of the best parts of hosting a pop culture related event is seeing how enthusiastic people are for that pop culture phenom. We had a variety of kids and adults coming in dressed to the nines.

pg

And although most of the people who came were already playing the game, we wanted to make sure and have an education component so we had a tech education table set up next to our charging station where newbies and players alike could have questions answered, learn secret tricks and tips and more.pg7This turned out to be a highly successful program for us. It met all of our goals and, most importantly, every one who came had a great time and left in awe of the library. At the end of the day, that’s what we want to do: create positive library experiences.

More Pokemon Go at TLT:

Pokemon Go and Teen Programming (TPiB)

MakerSpace: Making Fingerprint Pokemon Go Buttons

App Review: Pokemon Go, The Basics

See Also:

Pokémon GO: What Do Librarians Need To Know? (School Library Journal)

TPiB: Sharpie Art! Quick and Easy Programming and MakerSpace Ideas

I’m not sure how it happened, but I am obsessed with Sharpies. They have proven to be very popular resources in our Teen MakerSpace. Yes, really. Whenever we have an activity in the Teen MakerSpace, we try to have corresponding books in the Teen MakerSpace. Sometimes we come up with an activity and search for support books, other times we find activities by browsing through the books in our Maker Collection.

There are several go to publisher’s that I search regularly to find maker related titles for our Maker Collection, and one of those publishers is Quarto books. We have a fairly large number of titles by them in the space and one of my favorites is this:

sharpieart

Sharpie Art Workshop has inspired a lot of fun quick and easy Maker activities for us in the Teen MakerSpace. One of the most popular has been our Sharpie Post It Note Art Gallery . . .

postitart6 postitart5 postitart7 postitart8 postitart2

This title by Quarto is a good companion book for the Sharpie Art Workshop because it talks about lettering and has some coloring pages in the back.

wordstoliveby

In fact, there is a page of reading/book related book marks in the back which we used as the inspiration for our Sharpie Book Mark station recently.

openhouse28

We also have Sharpie Art Buttons as one of the challenges for our Button Making Station. Here are some examples of the artwork that our teens have created.

sharpiebuttons - Copy

We also made small canvases available and the teens made some small canvas art. This robot is my favorite thing ever. The mini canvases cost about $1.47 at the local craft shop or you can buy a bulk order of Amazon for about $1.00 a canvas.

sharpieart - Copy

Here’s The Teen in action making a Sharpie Art Button.

buttons18 buttons15 buttons6We’re six months out now from creating our Teen MakerSpace and we have found that we like to have quick and easy activities to add. We have also found that they don’t have to always be tech heavy. In fact, many of our teens seem to enjoy drawing, coloring and more traditional crafts, so we are working on making sure to provide a variety of both tech and traditional crafts in our Teen MakerSpace. Sharpie art gives us a lot of easy options with just a few tools. And if you make sure and buy your Sharpies during a good sale, it’s not that expensive.

Doing Sharpie art has all been a good reminder for me that not all programming as to be elaborate and well planned. If teens seem to be bored, I can just bust out the Sharpies and challenge them to make something – anything. I’m always surprised by what they come up with.

TPiB: Locked in the Library! Hosting an escape room program at your library

tpibPuzzles, mystery, a darkened library, a time limit, and the ominous feeling that a ghost just might be looking over your shoulder? Yes, please!

My library is this gorgeous 80+ year old building that’s been expanded thoughtfully so that the original building–a one-room stone space with tall windows, a fireplace, and impressive oak doors–has been preserved as a reading room. It’s not a place teens have much opportunity to enjoy unless they’re quietly studying for finals all alone. It’s quiet. It gets dark. The doors close behind you, and then…..

It becomes an ideal spot to try out a locked room/escape room program.

We hosted this escape room as an after-hours program. Teens entering 6th-10th grade arrived at the library before closing to register and get matched into teams. The meeting room was the designated “holding pen” where we provided board games and snacks while the teams waited their turn to be called into the puzzle room. Each team was given 15 minutes to solve a series of puzzles that would ultimately lead to the key that opened the door. It was a blast, and we’re in the process of planning another similar program for the fall.

two padlocks secure a weathered wood doorThings to know

You cannot do this program alone.

Logistics alone required us to have two staff members because the teens were in two different spaces in the library. On top of that, it’s really bad practice to host an after-hours program by yourself in case emergencies arise. Fortunately, one of my coworkers is an escape room enthusiast and was a tremendous help in getting this program off the ground. Plus, it’s just fun to plan with someone else!

You don’t have to come up with all of the puzzles on your own.

Breakout EDU logo: a left pointing arrow extending from an open boxGuys! There is this FANTASTIC resource out there that you can use for free to help you plan your escape room, but shhhhhhh–don’t let the teens know! Breakout Edu has pre-assembled kits to purchase and open-source plans to follow, so you’re able to use their resources even if you are doing this program on a shoestring. They also have a very active Facebook group with a dedicated cadre of educators and puzzle enthusiasts who are ready to help.  We used The Mighty Pen game from the site, but modified it to fit the time constraints we had.

You might want an actual camera

I have no photos to show you from this awesome program because I used my phone to time the groups… which precluded me from using my camera app. Bring a camera so that you can snap photos at a moment’s notice while still updating the teams on their time.

Tweens and Teens are just different

Two of our teams were in 6th and 7th grade, two were in 8th-10th grade. The way the younger groups approached the puzzle was dramatically different from the way the older groups did. If you have mixed age groups, expect the tweens to need more clues and have less focus than the older teens. When I do this with a younger group in the future, I’m considering numbering the clues so that they’re able to more clearly see what they have yet to find. The older groups worked more efficiently and did more creative problem solving, but wanted to hang out in the meeting room and play games less.

Practice makes perfect

Plan far enough in advance that you can have a test group–family, friends, coworkers–run through the puzzles before the big day. It will help you with timing, help you iron out any glitches, and see what kinds of rules and guidelines and clues you will need to provide

It’s a heck of a lot of fun!

This is one program that was well worth the effort. It brought in teens I’d never seen in the library before, teens I hadn’t seen in years, and our stalwart fans as well. It was fairly inexpensive, creative, engaging, and everyone involved had a blast.

Video Games Weekly: Pokemon Go and Teen Programming (TPiB)

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard of Pokemon Go, the newest app that inspires gamers to GO OUTSIDE! Many libraries have already utilized Pokemon Go as social media content, book display inspiration, and promotional material.  Instead of focusing on what Pokemon Go is and how to play, this article is going to focus on doing Pokemon Go themed programs for teens.

pokemon4

Short Version of Pokemon Go: Players download the app to their phones, and run around outside trying to catch Pokemon. The app uses Google Maps to trace where players are in the real world, and players can “catch” Pokemon that appear on their screens through augmented reality.  It looks like this on their screens:

pokemon2

Resources to learn more about Pokemon Go:

App Review: Pokemon Go, the very basics, safety issues, and Pokemon Go and libraries

Pokemon Go, Explained

Pokemon Go is Catching Us All – In Unexpected Ways

Everything You Wanted to Know About Pokemon Go But Were Too Afraid to Ask

Pokémon GO: What Do Librarians Need To Know?

What librarians have to say about Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go: What do Librarians Need to Know?

Everything Librarians Need to Know about Pokemon Go!

Is Your Library a Pokestop in Pokemon Go? 

Teen Programming Ideas

Sort your program attendees into teams: Pokemon Go has three teams that players can join: Mystic, Valor, and Instinct.  Each faction honors Pokemon strengths differently, kind of like Hogwarts Houses or factions in Divergent.  You can sort your teens in a variety of ways!  Have them take a Buzzfeed quiz, make team badges with a button maker, or 3D print badges and have them choose randomly.  (P.S. I’m Team Valor. Represent.)

Pokemon Safari: See how many Pokemon the teams can catch around/outside of the library in twenty minutes.  Require them to take a photo of the Pokemon that way you can count how many they have caught, and you can always ask to reuse the images for you library’s social media pages.

Pokemon Pictionary Battles: You’ll need two sketch pads or marker boards, markers, a timer, and clues for this activity. The clues are going to be Pokemon!  You can use the Pokemon Database to find the weird sounding Pokemon to make the competition more fun/difficult.

Have two teams pick a person who is going to draw (the third team will play the winning team  in the next round).  Set the clock for two minutes. When you say ‘Go!’, the players begin drawing the Pokemon for their team to guess. The first team to guess first wins!

I have found that not all participants are Pokemon experts.  If they don’t know what the Pokemon looks like, you can keep two copies of Pokemon Handbooks on the side and have them use a portion of their time to look it up (literacy skills FTW).

Pokeball Target Practice: You can paint a ping pong ball to look like a Pokeball, and have them practice throwing them at Pokemon/targets. You can also have them paint their own Pokeballs! See here for an example.

pokemon7

One Truth and One Lie: Have you heard all of the outrageous news stories about Pokemon Go?  There are so many out there that are unbelievable!  Print out headlines on a piece of paper, and pair them with your own fake headlines. Have teens guess which one is real, and which one is fake.  You can also print out the real articles and have a teen read them out loud for the group.  Some examples are on http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/11/tech/pokemon-go-crazy-events/index.html 

Pokemon Theme Song Lip Sync Battle: Do your teens know all of the words to the Pokemon theme song? Have them lip sync a few lines in a lip sync battle! You could also have them do the Pokemon song that names all of the Pokemon in order.

Pokemon Cubees: There are plenty of Pokemon paper crafts online, including cubees. You can find plenty of printable examples here.

Best Named Pokemon Contest: Poke Trainers can rename Pokemon in Pokemon Go. Have teens show off their naming/comedy skills. It can be funny, overly descriptive, or ridiculous!

Make Your Own Pokemon Exquisite Corpse Style: Fold an 11×17 piece of paper into thirds. Put teens into groups of 3. One teen draws a head, one teen draws a body, and the last teen draws the feet. You can have teens create a name for their Pokemon character. Want to take it to the next level? Scan the completed Pokemon in and use your technology to make Pokemon style cards for their characters, including giving them points and special powers. There are some Pokemon card makers and tutorials available online here and here.

STEM Learning Electricity Demonstration: Okay so this one requires some explanation.  There are different types of Pokemon such as water, fire, electricity, and plant. Pikachu is an electric Pokemon, so you can easily implement an electricity-themed STEM program. Here is one of my favorites.

STEM Learning Water Demonstration: You can freeze Pokemon figurines in ice cubes and have teens try to figure out which solution will melt the quickest.  Here are the instructions.

STEM Plant Pokemon: Plant Pokemon, you can have teens makes seed bombs like this: http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Make-a-Seed-Bomb/

Programming Ideas from Other Librarians (Facebook Groups)

Teen Services Underground
Teen Librarians

Questions? Comments? Tweet them at me!

By: Alanna Graves
Twitter: @LannaLibrarian