Using a DIY Escape Room Kit

One of our most popular teen programs this summer has been Escape the Library!, an escape room-style event. I have hosted four so far and still have two to go. This event took a lot of planning. I wasn’t sure I could come up with a good story, nor did I have the time to invest in creating puzzles. I looked at Breakout EDU, but it was a little out of our price range for this fiscal year. Luckily, I found Lock, Paper, Scissors (formerly known as Heist Party).

Lock, Paper, Scissors is a business that creates DIY escape room kits. For $20, I was able to purchase a kit that I can use over and over again. There are four kits to choose from. I selected Escape Room Z, which involves zombies trying to steal your pizza. Once you purchase a kit, you gain access to a file with everything you need to print the game at home. The file includes all of the clues, posters, and a Publisher file that allows you to edit the game.

Once printed, I had a little difficulty figuring out the set-up but Lock, Paper, Scissors provides a handy YouTube tutorial that walked me through it.  For our programs I used some real props to make the game more interesting and to make it seem more like an actual escape room, rather than our library meeting room. I recommend making a map of where you’ve hidden the clues, because I found myself forgetting a couple of times. Also, try a practice run with some staff members before your actual event.

The game was a little difficult for our teens, but they still managed to solve the puzzles and escape within about 30 minutes (with LOTS of hints). Escape Room Z is recommended for groups of 4 -6 players. We’ve been averaging about 15 teens per event. To accommodate all of the teens, I printed off multiple copies of the game and color-coded the clues. The teens were then divided up into teams by color and then all played simultaneously to see who could finish first. The team play went smoothly, but it’s a good idea to try and have a “hint master” per team. After all teams “escaped”, the teens were allowed to shoot the zombies with toy dart guns. This was their favorite part. We served pizza, but I think they even enjoyed shooting the zombies more than the pizza.

Overall, I think the DIY kits from Lock, Paper, Scissors are an easy and affordable way to host an escape room event at your library.

 

13 Reasons Why Read-Alikes Bookmark

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Since the Netflix series came out, a lot of our teens have been talking about 13 Reasons Why. I created a bookmark and accompanying display of read-alikes. It’s only been up a few days and I’ve already had to restock it! If you’d like to use this bookmark at your library, click here to download the pdf file.

How to Start a Teen Anime Club (When You Know Nothing About Anime)

I recently presented at the West Virginia Library Association’s annual Spring Fling Conference. My session covered the basics of starting a teen anime club. A little over a year ago, my teens asked me to create one for them. I know nothing about anime, so I was intimidated. It turned out to be one of my most successful recurring programs! I figured there were other librarians out there in the same boat, so I would share what I learned.

Here are the slides from my session:

Click here to download the handout.

Preparing for May the Fourth

Confession: I hate Star Wars! I blame my hatred on a college ex-boyfriend, but we won’t get too far into it (that’s what I pay my therapist for). However, I recognize that the Star Wars fandom is massive and that I should at least host a program for them on their day – May the Fourth. Here’s a run-down of what I have planned:

DIY Glow Stick Lightsabers

DIY Glow Stick Star Wars Light Sabers for Kids

 

 

 

 

 

This tutorial is simple and requires only glow sticks, Sharpies, and duct tape.  I thought about doing the pool noodle light sabers, but if I learned anything from our Festivus Party – it’s that my teens can’t be trusted with anything that could possibly be used to hit someone with.

The Force Awakens BINGO

Star Wars Bingo

I’m planning to screen The Force Awakens, but I wanted to do something other than just showing the movie. To make it more interactive, I created a BINGO game to go along with it (with the help of this generator from Darths & Droids). Click here to download the set of 15 cards for your own Star Wars event.

Food

I am going to attempt to make Princess Leia cupcakes and Star Wars party mix.  For beverages we’re going to serve Yoda Soda & Vaderade.

Coloring Sheets

I’m going to leave coloring sheets out in the Teen Zone all day as a passive program.

That’s all I have planned for now. Not too shabby for a non-fan.

Squirt Gun Painting

My after-school crowd has been clamoring to do more art-related programs. I have many artist pals, but their talents have yet to rub off on me. As a result, art programs aren’t really my forte but I try to give the teens what they want (within reason). One of our branch locations hosted a squirt gun painting program, which sounded like a fun event that I could pull off without needing any amazing artistic abilities. It turned out awesome! One of the teens told me it was the best library activity ever and the paintings were gorgeous. Check them out in the slideshow below:

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Here’s what you’ll need if you want to host your own squirt gun painting event:

  • Squirt guns (the cheap ones worked okay, but a few did bust and leak)
  • Liquid watercolors (you could also mix tempera paint and water)
  • Canvases
  • Gloves
  • Smocks
  • An outdoor space to host the event

You will need to lay down the ground rules with the teens right away . For me, that was no squirting each other or pointing guns at each other. Our event went smoothly, but there’s always room for improvement. I didn’t think to label the paint colors on the squirt guns which would have been very helpful. I would also recommend planning an activity for the teens to do while they wait for their paintings to dry. Overall, this was an excellent event that gave our teens a unique creative outlet.

Urban Fiction for Teens Bookmark

urbanfiction

Urban fiction flies off the shelf at our main branch library. It’s been so popular that we carved out a separate collection for it in our adult fiction stacks. However, the genre remains interfiled in our teen fiction collection. In order to help our patrons find teen urban fiction titles, I created the bookmark above. Click here to download the printable PDF to use at your own library.

Teen Festivus Party

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I’m not really a holiday person. Due to my Grinchiness, I wanted to host an alternative Christmas party for our teen crowd. So, I channeled my inner Frank Costanza and decided a Festivus party would be awesome.

As expected, almost all of the teens were unfamiliar with Festivus. To educate them, we watched the episode of Seinfeld that introduces the story of Festivus. There were a variety of reactions to the episode. Some thought it was funny, some didn’t get it at all, and others thought it was sexist and made light of child abuse. Festivus dinner was served during the episode screening (not a traditional one, because I didn’t feel like making meatloaf).

unnamedOnce the episode finished, we moved on to the Airing of the Grievances and Feats of Strength. I gave teens slips of paper to write out their grievances and we placed them in a big box because I was concerned about letting a gaggle of teens hurl insults at each other. Most of the grievances turned out to be school-related, anyway.

In order to avoid jail time, the teens didn’t wrestle. Instead, we did a hula hoop contest and Festivus pole limbo as our Feats of Strength. Winners received mini-Festivus poles. To make our Festivus pole and the mini-Festivus poles, I just spray painted some PVC pipe silver. Not difficult at all.

Approximately 17-20 teens attended the Festivus party. We created a Facebook event for it which received a lot of attention, but mostly from adults. This could definitely be adapted as an adult event and it would probably draw in a good crowd.