For the past few years, I’ve tried to find a way to celebrate “March Madness”, while also giving a fun and easy activity for our Spring break teens. I talked it over with my service club (which doubles as my TAB lol), and they came up with the idea of playing basketball in the library.
We’d had NBA 2K tournaments before, but they were adamant that this was not something they wanted to do again. They wanted to actually play basketball. I left that meeting more than a little confused, but as usual, decided that my job was to then take their idea, and make it possible in a library setting.
As if kismet, later that week I saw a group of teens in our teen room get in trouble not soon after for throwing things across the room at each other. Then it clicked! They WANT to throw things, and they WANT to do something like basketball, so why not make that happen on a safer and smaller scale. Enter, our first “Trashcan Basketball” event.
You want to talk about free, simple, and easy-cleanup programming? Here you go!
I promoted it like a real March Madness basketball game tournament, and made a daily afternoon reservation for our larger meeting room. Two large trashcans on either end as our hoops, and paper from our department recycling bin and scrap paper tray to make our basketballs. At first they were skeptical, and thought I was joking around with them, but when they walked in and saw the space that was normally pretty formal, all set up for them to goof off with permission, they were on board.
Voila! They had such a great time, we repeated the program the following year.
When my teens play NBA 2K in our teen room, they tend to branch off into small groups of 2 or 4, and there’s a huge learning curve actually for some teens who don’t have gaming systems at home, or who don’t hang out together. With trashcan basketball, I tend to get more teens to participate at once, of various genders and skill levels, because it eliminates that feeling of ineptitude. Most of us know how to throw a wad of paper towards a garbage can, and when we miss, it doesn’t feel quite as devastating as missing the layup with Derrick Rose in a room of your peers. It made me realize that they would intermingle with each other if I took away some of the pressure that technology can sometimes introduce.
So this year, when thinking about it, I talked to the group again, but this time about ways to go even beyond the basketball. What else where my teens enjoying, that I could pull away from its technology while making more inclusive and fun? What we came up with was Bop-It, Lego Gaming, and another round of basketball.
Last summer, our circulation of the Lego video games seemed to explode, and one open Lego block program in the teen room also seemed to go really well. So when the idea of a Lego-themed “Batteries Not Included” program came about, I thought it was pretty cool. Buying a few supplement packs of the blocks, with special characters or pieces that the library doesn’t usually allow the little ones to use makes the program seem exclusive and “special”, rather than childish and silly.
On the surface, this new series really boils down to just really simple games of Simon Says(Bop-It), or teens playing with Legos, but beyond that, I believe its a great way to get my teens to come away from screens for a while and really connect. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge proponent of gaming, and believe that it’s a great way to even encourage higher-order thinking in many cases, so I’m not trying these programs as a jab at technology. It’s worth a try, though, to help teens identify ways to find some balance, and provide them with a way to “play” again.