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Outside (and Socially Distanced) Summer Programs

Summer is coming, and here in Texas at my library, we’re allowed to have in-person programming again. And while some of my co-workers will be doing inside programs, I’m doing a majority of my programs outside.

I realize as a former camp counselor and camp program director, outside programs are something I’m possibly more comfortable with than the average librarian. So, let me share some of my tips and some of my already-planned programs with you to help spark some ideas for your own outside programs.

The most common complaint to outside programs here in central Texas is that it’s hot. Yes, it’s going to be hot (hello, 105(F) degrees!), so cool everyone down! Make your programs water-centric or bring out the ice cream!

First up is capture the flag, but with water balloon launchers! I like to call this version Pirates’ Battle (supplies and directions here). You can think of this as LARPing, pirate version. If you want to take the STEAM route, the angles and trajectory of the water balloon launcher are great teaching moments.

Camp counselor pro-tip: When you’re making your water balloons, store them in a cooler and add water. This will lessen the likelihood of breakage.

Wet’n’Wild Water Games (supplies and directions here) is like Minute-to-Win-It games, but outside and with water. If your teens have favorite Minute-to-Win-It games, try and figure out how to make them water-friendly. Or Google for more if you don’t like some of these!

(Side note: Yes, my directions include a different capture the flag version than Pirates’ Battle above. Because of this, I won’t be comparing Pirates’ Battle to capture the flag when I talk it up or explain the rules.)

Camp counselor pro-tip: If you haven’t filled water balloons recently, you’ve GOT to try these. It makes it SOOOOO much easier and quicker!

Scavenger Hunt! My library is very lucky to have a park right next door. Scavenger hunts are fun because they allow teens to use their observation skills, teamwork skills, and communication skills to complete a task. And, they get popsicles at time’s up!

I realize that my scavenger hunt won’t really help you create your own, but here are my procedures, which may help you if you have never done one before. But, here it is anyway… you may be able to use some for your version, too.

Camp counselor pro-tip: Include a variety of tasks from silly to educational to  plain ol’ fun to hit the gamut of teens who may come to your program.

 

If water and ice cream aren’t your (or your teens’) style, try programs that allow them to get messy!

Gravity Art (supplies and directions here) is a program that is wholly un-tested, so grain of salt with this one, but my teens like unique art opportunities, and they won’t follow my step-by-step instructions anyway in favor of their own experiments, so my plan is to just have fun with it!

Messy Mayhem (supplies and directions here) is a program I actively “borrowed” from my time at camp, when we did a whole week of Epic Camp. I did this program several years ago, and I can’t wait to do it again this summer! Make sure you include in your advertising, though, that participants should  wear clothes that are okay to get ruined. I also provided several super large t-shirts for walk-ins.

 

Whatever your summer programming looks like, I wish you good luck! And please share your outside programming ideas in the comments, below, too!

Teen Virtual Programs That Are Working At My Library

Here at my library in Grapevine Texas we have always had a hard time attracting teens. We aren’t close to a high school either so that poses a problem. This past year we started a Teen Think Tank where we have monthly meetings, that they can earn volunteer hours for attending, and we have online game days each month. So far we have been successful.

We even had games everyday online during the week of spring break and we had a few of the same teens each day!

We do a lot of Jackbox games and they really love that. We had an art day where they came on Zoom to display art they had made. We have used Kahoot also, but those are so quick that we end up just chatting at the end of those.

One thing the teens really liked was a Zoom discussion call where we just talked about books everyone was reading. We got to add a few things to each of our TBR’s and the teens got to ask me, the librarian, for recommendations. I was able to recommended a few for everyone and one teen who doesn’t even like to read that much was super excited to try ‘Ready Player One’ being a big movie buff, but he wanted to read the book first!

Jackbox Games have been the most successful for us. We have even started doing Jackbox Tuesdays and we have a good turn out each time.  They are fun and easy to participate in, through Zoom and another device like a cellphone. They also have a bunch of options for party packs. We did have to purchase them for the library, but they are 24.99 a party pack and they have sales all the time. It has been worth the little bit of budget money we spent on it. https://www.jackboxgames.com/games/

We have also added other ways Teens can earn volunteer hours virtually. We started a blog that they contribute information to. We have had multiple book reviews, currently reading photographed stacks, and books with pets photos. It is still in the beginning stages, but the teens like having something to contribute as ways to earn volunteer hours.

Five Earth Day Reads

Hooray for Earth Day! Here are five newer non-fiction books for teens interested in learning more about our planet, nature, climate change, and teen activists around the world.

No one is too small to make a difference

 

No One Is Too Small To Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg: “The groundbreaking speeches of Greta Thunberg, the young climate activist who has become the voice of a generation, including her historic address to the United Nations.”

 

 

 

 

 

No planet B : a Teen Vogue guide to climate justice

 

No Planet B : a Teen Vogue guide to climate justice edited by Lucy Diavolo: “An urgent call for climate justice from Teen Vogue, one of this generation’s leading voices, using an intersectional lens – with critical feminist, indigenous, antiracist and internationalist perspectives.”

 

 

 

 

 

One Earth : people of color protecting our planet

 

One Earth: People of Color Protecting Our Planet by Anuradha Rao: “Profiles twenty environmental activists of color from around the world. Their individual stories show that the intersection of environment and ethnicity is an asset, not an obstacle, to helping the planet.”

 

 

 

 

 

Taking on the plastics crisis

 

Taking on the Plastics Crisis by Hanna Testa: “Youth activist Hannah Testa shares with readers how she led a grassroots political campaign to successfully pass state legislation limiting single-use plastics and how she influenced global businesses to adopt more sustainable practices.”

 

 

 

 

 

The wondrous workings of planet earth : understanding our world and its ecosystems

 

 

The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth: Understanding Our World and Its Ecosystems by Rachel Ignotofsky: “An illustrated tour of the planet that reveals ecosystems large and small, from reefs, deserts, and rain forests to ponds, backyard gardens, and even a drop of water. Through exquisite drawings, maps, and infographics, author Rachel Ignotofsky makes earth science accessible and entertaining, explaining how our planet works, from its diverse ecosystems and their inhabitants, to the levels of ecology, the importance of biodiversity, the carbon cycle, weather cycles, and more.” (Great for younger teens!)

Earth Day Reads

Genres: Non-fiction

Hooray for Earth Day! Here are five newer non-fiction books for teens interested in learning more about our planet, nature, climate change, and teen activists around the world.

No one is too small to make a differenceNo planet B : a Teen Vogue guide to climate justiceOne Earth : people of color protecting our planetTaking on the plastics crisisThe wondrous workings of planet earth : understanding our world and its ecosystems

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • No One Is Too Small To Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg: “The groundbreaking speeches of Greta Thunberg, the young climate activist who has become the voice of a generation, including her historic address to the United Nations.”
  • No Planet B : a Teen Vogue guide to climate justice edited by Lucy Diavolo: “An urgent call for climate justice from Teen Vogue, one of this generation’s leading voices, using an intersectional lens – with critical feminist, indigenous, antiracist and internationalist perspectives.”
  • One Earth: People of Color Protecting Our Planet by Anuradha Rao: “Profiles twenty environmental activists of color from around the world. Their individual stories show that the intersection of environment and ethnicity is an asset, not an obstacle, to helping the planet.”
  • Taking on the Plastics Crisis by Hanna Testa: “Youth activist Hannah Testa shares with readers how she led a grassroots political campaign to successfully pass state legislation limiting single-use plastics and how she influenced global businesses to adopt more sustainable practices.”
  • The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth : understanding our world and its ecosystems by Rachel Ignotofsky: “An illustrated tour of the planet that reveals ecosystems large and small, from reefs, deserts, and rain forests to ponds, backyard gardens, and even a drop of water.” (Especially good for younger teens!)

Life as a School Library Clerk (With No Students)

A student wearing a backpack walks down a library aisle

When I was at work on March 20th, 2020, I heard that the school was closing down and would be virtual for the next six weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Six weeks seemed like such a long time. Little did I know that it would turn into a year.

I work as a library clerk for two public high schools, splitting my full-time job between two buildings. At the start of the pandemic, I was nervous about being laid off. Thankfully, my school district was able to retain all of its employees and let many of us finish out the school year from home. I managed to find enough work to keep me busy at home and thought for sure that students would be back in the fall. Thanks to the rising COVID cases in my city, their return didn’t happen. Many staff members returned to the buildings, but the students did not. High school students just came back for in-person hybrid learning last month.

In addition to my school library work, I spent 15 years working in a public library. I know that library work often involves pivoting, as does any job that requires you to work directly with the public.

I never expected to pivot as much as I had to this past year, but I ended up grateful for new opportunities and experiences.

Before 2020, I recorded one or two Loom videos. I’ve recorded more than I can count this past year, showing students how to do things such as download books, use research databases, and search the catalog.

Without students present, I had time to complete a diversity audit at one of my schools and begin a second. I dusted neglected shelves. I shifted and weeded. I tried to get better at Instagram, looking for any way I could to connect with the kids.

Though students are back now, they’re still not allowed to visit the library due to an abundance of caution. That means they search for books online, place holds, and pick them up in their English class. I’ve poured hours into curating book lists on all kinds of different topics, full of high-interest titles that make finding a good read quick and easy. I started doing digital book-matchmaking and offering surprise book bundles, both of which have been hits.

I don’t get to interact much with students these days, but I’m grateful for the “thank you” emails and the kid who stopped me last week to say how much they enjoyed the books in their bundle. I lead a book club with two of my coworkers, and we’ve gone virtual this school year. We’ve had a record number of sign-ups and truly wonderful conversations about complex topics. Much of my digital work this year has been deeply satisfying and has still allowed for connection, just a different kind.

I hope this post encourages you in your own pivoting. We’ve lost a great deal due to the pandemic, but I hope there have been glimpses of goodness in your work. I hope you’ve experienced some moments of joy amid the uncertainties and challenges. I’d love for you to share how you’ve had to pivot and what you’ve learned through it all. What have been the highs and lows of your work this past year? Leave a comment below and let us know.