Self Directed Programming for Spring

Welcome to Spring! It may not feel like it yet where you’re at, but according to the calendar, Monday was the first official day of Spring, so someday soon we’ll all be enjoying warmer weather in shorter sleeves. While you’re finishing putting the last-minute touches on your summer programming or starting to put in the funding requests for your fall ideas, I’ve pulled together some easy and last-minute self-directed programming ideas for the spring months that your tweens and teens will enjoy.

Guessing Contests

I love doing guessing contests with tweens and teens because not only are they easy to do and relatively cheap, but also they get them using their math, logic, and problem solving skills in ways that you don’t often see. I’ve seen them use equations, rulers, calculators, physics, computers, and other tools to try to figure out how many of a given object were in a container, and puzzle things out for hours on end. These contests can also be a wonderful way to get tweens and teens to interact with staff by simply placing the container on the desk, and tying it into an upcoming program.

What you need:

  1. Container: I’ve used glass jars, plastic jars, leftover bear-shaped jars from animal crackers, shadow boxes, and deep frames.
  2. Materials to put INTO the containers: for spring I’ve used Legos, Skittles, local wildflower seeds that would be appropriate to plant at the end of the contest, crayon bits, mini erasers, teaser mini-prizes that fit with summer reading themes, library cards, buttons, playing cards.
  3. Entry forms: printed out on regular printer paper with one side having spaces for their name, age, school (if needed), their guess of how many whatever are in the container, and a way of contacting them if they win. The other side could have a graphic pertaining to the contest, the timeframe of the contest, and the rules- typically one entry per person per day, whether group entries are allowed or not, that entries must be legible to win, whether they get to take home the contents of the container, whether they get to take home the container itself, etc.
  4. Prizes: if the prize wasn’t whatever was in the jar, then the contest winner (usually whoever was the closest to the amount in the jar without going over) would win one of the prizes stashed around. It can be anything from leftover summer reading prizes to a coveted ARC that was floating around to extra time on the computers or even fines reduced or free printing. Small things make a really big deal.

Display Contests and Scavenger Hunts

Another fun thing to do is to turn a wall or bulletin board into a display contest. I’ve taken silhouettes of faces and placed them up on a wall or bulletin board, numbered them, and then created a form on which teens could identify as many as possible, and then turn in their answers to see if they win. It’s relatively easy to do with current software, even if you don’t have any skills or access to Photoshop. As long as you choose characters or people with distinguishable profiles or silhouettes, taking their picture or likeness and turning the graphic all black in a program like Publisher or Paint works just as well. Themes my teens have loved include:

  • Cartoon Villains
  • Space Heroes and Villains
  • Famous Historial Figures
  • Famous Singers
  • Famous People
  • World Landmarks
  • Travel necessities
  • City landmarks

They also really get into scavenger hunts. By the time spring comes around, they’re already buried under state testing and finals, as well as everything else going on socially, and really need to let off a little steam. The most fun we’ve had with these has been on early dismissal days or on weekends as a surprise, or as a lock-in warm-up before things are officially “locked down,” and since there are lots of ways to set up a scavenger hunt, you can adapt them to just about any situation. My younger teens and tweens especially get a charge out of coming in and finding a new scavenger hunt set up. I’ve had access to a full color printer and a laminator so I can reuse elements with a minimum of fuss, but since I keep them up a week at the most you could easily use normal paper and tape or glue them onto construction paper or card stock. Everyone who successfully completes the hunt gets a mini-prize, favorites of which have been gel bracelets or mini-erasers. Themes I’ve used include:

  • Star Wars, with space, chemistry, physics, science fiction, and other related clues
  • Dystopia YA, with zombies, plagues, survival, first aid, and other related clues
  • Graphic Novel and Anime with cooking, history, movie tie-in, and other related clues
  • Muppet Characters with puppetry, anime, and other related clues

Colors and a Movie

One thing that is very easy to do is to set up the projector with a DVD, print out a bajillion coloring sheets, set them out with the colored pencils and markers, and let the teens go. No expectations, no pressure, just a social time (or not … depending on their personalities), a place to relax and unwind, and a safe space to go for a few hours. You can find a ton of printable coloring pages on Pinterest (I’ve linked a search to get you started since my board has disappeared). As long as you have an umbrella movie license, you’re set. Movies that are sure to get interest include:

  • Moana
  • Doctor Strange (beware about the whitewashing in the movie, and talk to your tweens and teens)
  • Rogue One
  • Hidden Figures
  • Underworld: Blood Wars
  • Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

…and don’t forget to bone up for the sequels to Guardians of the Galaxy (FCBD weekend May 5), the release of Wonder Woman (June 2) and the latest installment of The Fast and the Furious franchise (April 14).

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