Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

TPiB: Programming with Straws

When I was Tweeting about Strawbees on Twitter, Laura Renshaw sent me the above tweet about her library’s Everything is Strawsome program, an obvious play on the popular Lego’s song Everything is Awesome. This is hands down the most genius program name ever! I was so excited about the program name that I tweeted to Laura that I wanted to do a program with straws as well, featuring Strawbees. She then replied that this Straw Ninjas craft was the craft activity that she had found that inspired the program.

Straw Ninjas

I did some looking around and found some other straw themed ideas that I am considering doing as part of a straw themed program. Strawbees plus some other straw related activities would indeed make for a Strawsome program! Man, I love that name Laura.

Some of our Strawbees creations on display at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County in Ohio

Drinking Straw Cuff Bracelet

Mark Montano has a YouTube tutorial on making a beaded cuff bracelet using drinking straws.

Balloon Rockets

Straw Chinese Yo-Yos

I have mixed feeling about this one. I have done them before using small wooden dowel rods and I worry that the straws won’t be strong enough for repeated use. I guess it would depend a lot on the quality of the straws that you use. The Harvard Chinese Yo-Yo Club has some information about the history of the Chinese Yo-Yo.

Straw Wars

This is really just a fancy version of spit balls. To make it really Star Wars related, you could print off some pictures of Storm Troopers as targets.

Pixie Sticks

Using paper straws, you can make your own Pixie Sticks.

Hey, here’s an earworm for you . . . And you’re welcome!

This is currently what I’m thinking about doing for my straw themed program. If you have some other fun ideas, please share in the comments. I’m thinking this would make a great Earth Day program. Couple it with my Zip Tie Crafts and I could go with a whole upcyclying/environmental series.

STEM/STEAM Programming for Teens (an Infopeople webinar) (TPiB)

Yesterday I had the honor of doing my first webinar for Infopeople. The subject was STEM and STEAM programming for teens. Infopeople webinars are free and it looks like you can access the webinar in the archive by filling out a little form.

STEM and STEAM Programming for Teens at Infopeople

In this webinar I talk a little bit about STEM programming and the benefits for both libraries and teens, but a bulk of the discussion is on STEAM programming. I admit, as the wife of an art major I am a huge believer in the benefits of the arts. My goal was to share a variety of ways that art can be combined with technology to create a multi-discipline approach to teen programming that not only allow teens to develop tech skills but allows them to engage in creative exploration and self expression. I break it down into visual arts, motion picture arts, and the musical arts. I then share a variety of ways that you can use tech to provide some additional types of book discussions. The best part of being a part of webinars like this as that other participants can share their own experiences and program ideas.

Infopeople has a large archive of additional webinars you can access on a wide variety of topics. And here’s a link to their training and webinar calendar for upcoming training events. You can find out more about Infopeople here.

TPiB: When Books Inspire Art

One of the things I love most about the Doctor Who Tumblr is all of the amazing fan created art you find there.  Sometimes there are quotes, sometimes not.  But the thing is, Doctor Who is obviously a show that is touching a lot of people and inspiring them to create in response to them.  For many people, books do this as well.  Many of the authors I follow will share the artwork that fans send to them.  They may be drawing characters or scenes depicted in the books.  Sometimes they take their favorite quotes and make them into art.  The thing is, when books move you they can inspire a creative response.

Like many reading fans, I do this as well.  But I am not an artist.  All I have is a smartphone, some apps, and a desire to create.
Sometimes, I take a photo and it makes me think of a book so I create a promo pic.

Here, I used Diptic to create a type of word game/pictogram of some of my favorite children’s stories.  These are great to share online as a fun, interactive talking point.

Sometimes, I just really love quotes from books so I create ways to save those quotes for myself.  I simply used Instagram to take the photos, added some text to them, and voila!  They print off nicely and make great room decorations.
These quotes are from Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver, a book that I desperately loved.  It is a book about a future where love is outlawed.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs is a book where old photographs play an important part of the story.  These are not regular photographs, but haunting ones.  In this picture I just accidentally framed it wrong and cut my daughter’s head off.  Oops.  But it immediately brought the book to mind so I ran with it.
Both of these photographs inspired by Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis were taken months apart, which just goes to show you how much the book stays with you. It is set in a future America where water is sparse and a girl named Lynn must protect the pond on her land.  One day my 4-year-old went outside and sat on top of her playhouse with a pair of binoculars and when I saw her, it immediately made me think of the book (this is how the book begins actually).  Then months later, the Texas land was parched and cracking and I thought this is what the world in Not a Drop to Drink would look like, so I had to capture it.

I love so much about Alice in Wonderland.  I love how part of the heart of the story is that Alice is a person full of wonder and imagination, and how as she grows older she risks losing that.  As a mom my desire is that my girls will never lose it, either their muchness or their belief in impossible things.  So I made a bunch of art to decorate their rooms and remind them to dream big.

I am a person who loves words.  Words inspire me.  They remind me of who I want to be and how I want to live my life.  And so I collect quotes.  I literally have journals full of my favorite quotes.  Sometimes, they need to come out of a journal and be front and center where I can see them.  So I make art for my home and office to keep the quotes where I can see them and absorb them.
Often I combine them with pictures of my girls because I AM a mom and we like to have those pictures around the house too.  My two favorite things: my girls and books.

The thing is, you don’t have to be an artist to create art inspired by your favorite books.  I am not an artist.  I am just a girl with a phone and a mad, crazy passion.
5 Things You Can Do With Your Book Inspired Art:
1) Print it out and frame it
2) Print it out and mod podge it onto a blank canvas (part 1 and part 2)
3) Put several panels together and make a bookmark
4) Print it out and make end cap displays
5) Make personalized gifts, cards and more.  Seriously, you can mod podge them onto anything.
Here is a list of my favorite photo apps
Here is a list of my favorite word apps
If you are a teen that creates book inspired art, or someone that loves one, don’t forget that you can submit your art in this year’s It Came from a Book teen art contest.  The deadline for submissions is November 1st and you can get complete details at The Library as Incubator webpage. This contest is sponsored by Teen Librarian Toolbox, the Library as Incubator Project, EgmontUSA and Zest Books.
Please note: The Quarantine photo is a photo is the only photo that is not an original photo.  Author Lex Thomas tweeted the photo and I manipulated it with permission as a promo pic for a guest post they wrote at TLT, because it is a truly cool photo.

We’ve Only Got This One Earth: Environmental teen programs and 47 Things You Can Do for the Environment

If you read much science fiction, you know that in the future we are forced to colonize another planet because we have destroyed Earth.  We only one life to live, and one Earth to live it on.  But have no fear, there are a lot of things we can do to help save this 3rd rock from the sun that we call Earth, and they are outlined for you in 47 Things You Can Do for the Environment by Lexi Petronis.  This little book is a great addition to your collection and has some little nuggets that you can pull out and do some Earth friendly (Earth Day is April 21) programming. 

Bottle Cap Crafts
One of my favorite teen programs I ever did was called Bottle Cap Crafts where we did nothing but make crafts out of, you guessed it, bottle caps.  You can paint the bottle caps and use them to decorate picture frames.  Put stickers in them and decoupage them to make necklaces, key chains, zipper pulls and more.  You can also fill them with beads and small items and epoxy to create shadow box necklaces.  You see these a lot at craft shows as they are very popular and easy to make.  If you glue a magnet onto the back of the bottle cap and string a washer onto a piece of string for the necklace, you can create easily interchangeable pieces.  Here are 50 bottle cap crafts on Squidoo.

School Supply Swap (Swap, Don’t Shop p. 82)
At the beginning of the school year – or half way through – host a school supply swap to get rid of those unused supplies that teens buy.

Your Library is Totes Cute: Make your own library tote bag (BYOB p. 58)
You can purchase blank tote bags at most craft stores or online and decorate with with fabric markers.  Or purchase colored tote bags and use bleach pens.

Bin Toss (Don’t Toss That p. 38)
Your programming doesn’t have to be all crafts, you can do some education and help teens learn what can and can’t be recycled by doing this simple activity.  You can make it into a game even.

Recycling Discarded Books
Libraries discard a lot of books and although most go into our booksales, some of them should never see the light of day again.  We wouldn’t want our patrons buying them for the same reason we don’t want them in our collections: the information is outdated, dangerous or just too silly to take seriously.  A quick Google search reveals a wide variety of crafts that you can make with books.  In fact, the Teen Programming in Libraries board on Pinterest has a variety crafts you can check out.  You can also use the pages to do quilling or a lot of the activities mentioned below that we do with magazines.

Some book page crafts include:
Book page Kusudam flower
Inspiration: Novel Ideas (a variety of book related crafts)
You can also check out this deconstructed art project currently on display at my library or Google book page art, upcylcing books, deconstructed books, etc.

Recycling Old Magazines
We’re always getting rid of old magazines, but they don’t have to go into the landfill.  Make crafts with them!

Marble Magnets
made with bottle caps, discarded magazines, glass stones, glue and magnets

Paper beads: roll strips of paper to create paper beads and string them to make bracelets and necklaces.

Marble magnets: Using clear acrylic rocks founds at most craft stores, you can create unique, personalized magnets.  Simply cut your word or image to size, use a clear glue to adhere to your rock, put a small backing on the back and then glue on your magnet circle. (marble magnets instructions)

Magnetic Poetry: You can make your own magnetic poetry kits by cutting out words from magazines and gluing them onto pieces of magnetic strips.  This is one of my go-to activities for National Poetry Month, which is also in April.  Pair it with some sidewalk chalk poetry outside and you have a poetry inspired Earth friendly event.

Magnetic Poetry
made with discarded magazines, magnets and glue

Decoupage: With some discarded magazines and a little Mod Podge, you can turn anything into a personalized treasure. Notebooks, picture frames, light switch plates. Good times.

Wrap it up!
If you are making any of these crafts as gifts, you can make your own wrapping paper.  Simply cut up paper bags to size, wrap and paint, stamp, sticker, and stencil. Or use those random bits of off topic paper you have lying around – just turn them print side in and decorate.

Movies suggested:
Gorillas in the Mist
Ferngully: the Last Rainforest
The Day After Tomorrow

Teen Fiction with an Environmental Theme:
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
Trickster’s Girl by Hilari Bell
Torched by April Henry
Hoot by Carl Hiassen
Rootless by Chris Howard
The Pearl Wars by Nick James
Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci Lloyd
Destroy All Cars by Blake Nelson
The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher
Empty by Suzanne Weyn

Craft books like these are not only great for your collection for your teens (and they will like it because it is very accessible), but they are great for any adults who want to do environmental activities with teens.  If you have it in your collection, you can use it for program inspriation – that’s one of the bonsues to nonfiction.

Strike Yer Colors! There Be Pirates Here! Arrrrr! (TPIB: Talk Like a Pirate Day)

Arrrghhhh! September is always a fun month programming-wise.  You have Banned Book Week, you have National Library Card Sign-up Month, you have all the Back-To-School activities, you have International Make Your Mark Day (September 15th-ish, see blog post here) but my absolute favorite program to do in September is International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

September 19, 2012 is the 10th anniversary of Talk Like a Pirate Day, and HOW can you let this programming opportunity pass you by?  It’s perfect for all ages, because of the wide variety of crafts, activities, and movies that you can show; and if you’re like me, you are responsible for more than just the teen population. 

For starters, have your kids hoist their own colors by making their own Jolly Roger flag.  Print out and copy a variety of skulls, bones, swords, and other emblems that can be found on pirate flags, and then have your kids cut out and color them to their tastes.  Then glue them onto squares of vibrant copy paper, or go traditional and use black construction paper.
If that’s not enough craft-ivities for your programming time, take butcher paper or colored copy paper and have kids cut raggedly along the edges so that the edges look worn.  Then take black crayons or markers, and have them draw their own pirate maps.  This would be a perfect time to make collection connections and have your pirate books rotating around during craft time to use as examples.  Then to make the secret X, you can have them dip a paint brush in a mixture of lemon juice and water- it won’t stain clothes, and when it dries it won’t show up on the paper.  Only waving it over a light bulb will cause the treasure to reveal itself.  (Karen’s tip: you can soak paper in coffee or tea and let it dry to have it get that worn, weary look).
If you have tweens/teens, have them make pirate booty by stringing different colors of pony beads and gold beads onto lengths of cord.  Or have them make hemp, sailor’s knots, or braided bracelets.  If you’re really ambitious, throw a temporary tattoo or henna party in conjunction with pirate day- just remember that with this type of program, a permission slip is often recommended.
Games are always a hit with my kids.  Pirate Fluxx is a fun card game with ever-changing rules, and works with up to 8 players at a time.  Have a Talk Like a Pirate contest, with the best Pirate talker winning a prize.  Or modify the game Assassin for a pirate theme:  one of the crew has the deadly black mark, but can they figure out who has it before the marked one takes out the rest of the crew? 

You can put together your own “treasure chest” – actually a time capsule – and bury it.  Come back in 1, 5 or 10 years and unearth it.

Have a pirate costume relay race.  Get a variety of scarves, hats, etc.  Place them all together at one end of your room and have teens relay race to dress up the designated person as the best pirate.  Or do a Project Runway type of pirate fashion show.  Don’t forget, you can buy plain bandannas and use fabric markers or pain to make pirate scarves.  If you are really adventurous, you can do tie-dying.  But you can also do no mess tie-dye with permanent markers and rubbing alcohol.

I have always wanted to do a can stacking event and use it as an opportunity to encourage teens to give back to their community.  You can have teens bring canned goods to donate to the local food shelter as their admittance “fee” and then see if they can build a pirate ship out of the cans.  This is called CANstruction: making sculpture out of stacking cans.  If the cans scare you, or you don’t have space, you can always have races to see who can build a pirate ship out of Legos.

For a great passive program for tweens and teens, have a pirate themed scavenger hunt using the library’s collection.  They could pick up the scavenger list at the teen or reference desk, search to find the proper books that have the items, and return for their pirate booty (or scan the library for QR codes and get their clues).  And absolutely give each person their own pirate name- there are numerous pirate name generators online, and anyone with a smart phone can walk around during the program and attach a nametag to each participant. 
With Talk Like a Pirate Day being a Wednesday this year, my kids are coming straight from school and sitting most of the day- which makes for jittery and wiggly kids.  If your kids are anything like mine, they want constant stimulation, and if you have a movie license, showing movies is an excellent way to balance things out.  Those who finish early can watch the movie, those who need more time can have all the time they need without feeling like they’re holding things up for others.  Movies like The Goonies, Peter Pan, Hook, and The Pirates:  Band of Misfits work with family programming, while the Pirates of the Caribbean series skews more toward an older tween/teen audience.
If you want to make sure everyone knows you are having an event, then email the Webwench (webwench@talklikeapirate.com) and they’ll add your event to the official map, and you can join the official Facebook, follow their Twitter, and add your photos to the Flickr as well.  If your library provides access to Mango Languages, it’s a wonderful day to promote the database as well- Mango has a Pirate Language tutorial.
So tell me’now, how will ye be celebratin’ Pirates Day?

TPIB: Poetically Speaking!

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?” – John Keating, Dead Poet’s Society

April is National Poetry Month and a great time to get teens thinking about and writing poetry so that they can add their verse. So that they may sound their “barbaric yawp” and “suck the marrow out of life.” You can find some ways to celebrate National Poetry Month at the 30 Ways to Celebrate page at Poets.org. You can also keep reading and find some of the ways that I like to share poetry with teens.

One of my favorites is Poem in My Pocket day which is April 26th this year. The idea is simple, carry a poem in your pocket and when you have a chance to interact with others take it out and read it to them.  Set up a challenge where on this day any teen who comes into your library with a poem in their pockets gets a simple reward with the caveat that they must read it out loud to you.  It could be something as simple as a cookie or their name on the wall of fame, the point is to encourage poetry.

In the past I have had a yearly poetry month contest, which has always been quite successful (and also incredibly angsty).  The trick, I have found, is to work with your local English teachers and ask them to collect and submit the poems.  I always had teachers coming in with manilla envelopes full of poems written by a variety of their students.  Some of the teachers even provided extra credit for submitting which increased participation.  I have also found it works better to have a middle school/junior high and high school category because their skill levels are so different. And I recommend having a wicked cool prize, preferably a substantial cash prize (which you can deliver in the form of a prepaid gift card since most libraries can’t give cash and need a receipt to turn in).  I always have teens fill out a submission form and ask them not to put their names anywhere on the poem itself for judging purposes. And I ask that all submissions are typed in order to make sure I can read everything.  You can then either have teens vote on their favorite poem or put together a panel of judges to help you select a winner in each age category.  Making sure teen names do not show to the public can help eliminate any bias in judging.  You can invite the teens to a poetry slam and announce the winning poems there. You can also make sure and display the poems on your various web sites, in your teen area, and in your library newsletter if you have one.  As part of my submission form I always had teens sign a statement saying it was an original work and giving permission to reprint the poem.  I am impressed every year by the various poems that my teens write.

There are also lots of fun poetry themed activities that you can do to inspire poetry writing.

Make Your Own Magnetic Poetry Kit
Supplies: Magnet tape strips, Discarded magazines, Scissors and glue (bonus if you have tins such as used mint tins)

Simply have teens cut out words from various discarded magazines and glue them on to magnet strip tape cut to the appropriate side. Here teens will collect for themselves a wide variety of words that they can use to create their own magnetic poetry kit.  You can store the words in old magnetic tins and larger tins can be double as storage and a canvas to create their own poems. Oriental Trading has a design your own lunch box tin that would also be a good idea for storage and an additional craft.

The Exquisite Corpse

I have mentioned the exquisite corpse a lot in my various activities, but it is also a great way to get teens working together to make fun poems.  Simply fold a piece of paper multiple times and pass it around having each teen write one line of a poem.  The rule is that they can’t read any of the other lines so they don’t know what others have written.  In the end you unfold the paper and read the poem and it is often quite amusing.  You can also do this as an online activity (although they will see the previous lines) and use your social media sites, like Twitter and Facebook, to write a group poem.  You could also do this by having teens tear headlines out of those discarded magazines.

Book Spine Poetry

Take a cart of just returned books, a full one, into your program room and let teens use the books to create book spine poetry. This is also a fun way to create displays on the end of your shelves. The idea is simple, you place the books spine out on top of one another to create a poem using the various book titles. I love this activity and you can see a fun gallery of book spine poems at 100 Scope Notes.
Sidewalk Chalk Poetry

Teens still love sidewalk chalk and this is a great way to create some fun art around your library on your sidewalks; they become a blank canvas that teens can share poems they love or write their own to share with the world.  Bonus, supply are low but creativity is high.


There are a variety of things that you can purchase or re-purpose and decoupage with poems, again by using words and sentences torn from discarded magazines. You can do spiral bound notebooks to create poetry journals, boxes to store your magnetic poetry tiles in, etc.  You can also have teens creates poems to frame and hang on their walls, or decorate your teen space with them.

Poetry Wall

Create a space in your teen area where teens can create or leave poetry.  You can get magnetic chalk board paint and create a space (either directly on the wall or by using plywood and affixing it to the wall. Or you could just buy a magnetic dry erase board).  Be sure to have a variety of magnetic words available for teens to use the space.  Or you can use cork board tiles and teens can simply pin up the poems that they write (you’ll want to check in periodically to make sure you are not having anything put up like advertisements or content inappropriate a public display.)

Special Delivery

Have teens decorate pizza boxes (ask a local pizza place to donate) and write poems on the inside. This is a great way for a teen to deliver a poem to someone they love. Or if you are in a school, deliver poems to your classrooms.  You can also do this activity using Chinese food style take out boxes that you can find at most craft stores.

Have a Poetry Exchange

Many people have a favorite poem. Have your teens bring in a copy of their favorite poem and have an exchange party. You can switch out poems and have teens read them and then try and guess whose favorite poem it is.  Or have teens put them together in unique presentations (wrap them as a present, do a video, etc) and share them with each other.  This takes the concept of the open mic reading and allows teens to get creative with their presentations and include tech or art if they so choose. Plus, every teen will walk out of the room with a new poem.  You could even swap poems in a way similar to the traditional white elephant gift exchange.

Mad Dash Poetry Scramble

Think relay race and puzzles, kind of Survivor style. Print out the words to a poem and cut the paper up into single lines.  Have teens assemble in teams at one end of the room and have the poem set up at the other.  One by one each teen dashes to the end of the room to grab a line, comes back and tags the next teen, and then in the end they try to unscramble the lines and put the poem together.

Other simple things you can do include:

  • Random Readings: during the day (if at a school) or during your library program, stop all activity and have a random poem reading. Everything just stops and everyone must freeze while you read the poem.
  • Or play a game of poetry freeze tag and you set up a signal where you tag a teen at the program and they must bust out a poem and everyone freezes during the reading.
  • Show the movie Dead Poet’s Society
  • Have a make your own fortune cookie craft where your fortunes are lines from your favorite poems.
  • Have a poetry contest
  • Have a poetry slam
  • Have a poetry scavenger hunt and provide teens with snippets of poems and have them find the title, author or next line.

Don’t forget that Teen Ink, Figment and VOYA are all places that encourage teens to write and create so be sure to share them with your teens.  VOYA has a yearly teen poetry contest and the winners appear in the April edition, it is also a good place to find additional poetry activities to do with your teens.

Whatever you do, be sure to take some time to get teens thinking about poetry during the month of April. If you have some fun poetry activities you have done in the past or are thinking about doing this year, please share them in the comments.