Posted in Makerspace

Top 5 DIYs

The afterschool teen programs in our makerspace are drop in activities that take no longer than 30 minutes to complete.  We’ve discovered that the afterschool crowd really enjoy making something out of every day household items.  Here is a list of out most popular DIYs.

Follow Teen Services Depot on Instagram for more program ideas.

Hot Glue Cell Phone Case

This is a very cheap DIY that teens will do for hours.  For complete instructions, visit Teen Services Depot on Instagram and watch the saved Instastory.


Sleep Mask

Supplies Needed:

  • Cotton fabric.  We purchased fun designs.
  • Elastic 
  • Quilt batting.  If you are on a budget, you can use felt.
  • Needle and thread


  • Google sleep mask template and print on cardstock for teens to use.
  • Teens should trace the template on two pieces of fabric.  We used cotton fabric because it’s comfortable on the eyes.
  • Teens should use the template to trace and cut out a mask on a quilt batting.  Cut this final product a little smaller than the fabric mask.
  • Have teens measure their heads with a strip of elastic.
  • On one piece of fabric, sew elastic to both ends.
  • Assemble the batting between the fabric and hand or machine sew to complete the mask.



Bath Bombs

Sorry, didn’t take any pics but click here to see our instructions.


Teens like to sew and that’s including hand sewing. They really liked the piggy bank and the plush owl.  Click here and scroll for “Sewing a Button” for instructions.


Hot Glue Fidget Spinner

Just in case fidget spinners are still cool at your library, here’s an easy DIY made out of a silicone mold, hot glue, skate bearing, and glitter.



Posted in Passive Programs

Subscription Boxes for Libraries

Owlcrate has blown up and I subscribed at one time but $30, no thanks.  If I don’t want to pay $30, I’m guessing teens don’t either so we decided to give teens a free alternative to Owlcrate.

What’s In Our Box?

Our box contains one book and three small bookish/themed items. Just like Owlcrate, we atozqaRvSOKj+gBVw552eQhave everything wrapped in tissue paper with a postcard explaining what’s in the box.  We also include information about joining our book club or other teen programs.

How Did We Get Our Stuff?

We get our books from conferences, donations that come from other libraries, and publishers that give us books to review (we read and review them first).  You can also solicit publishers for free books and swag.

Our swag came from websites and Target dollar section. If you are looking for a cheaper alternative:

  • If you or a colleague is going to ALA, comic cons, or other bookish conferences, have them grab a bunch of bookmarks, pins, buttons, bags, notebooks, or other bookish swag.
  • Publishers will sometimes send you swag if you inform them of your program.  Go to each publisher’s site, scroll down, and look for “Contact Us.”
  • Ask your director or circ coordinator if you can include library promo items.
  • If you have a button maker, make buttons.
  • If you have a Silhouette Cutter, make vinyl decals.
  • We ordered our pins from Pinmart. 
    • If you don’t want to buy pins, you can make pins using Shrinky Dinks

We ordered our boxes from Papermart.com but you can get really cheap boxes from Walmart, Dollar Store or use the boxes I’m sure your library gets in droves.

How Do You Begin?

  • The first thing we did was look at our budget to see how many boxes we could do 66QK3pRqR8e30v5b1OojKAper month.  We decided on ten boxes but you can more or less than that.
  • We then needed a catchy name.  We are terrible at naming our programs and if you are too, ask staff or your teens.  Our subscription box name is Ship in Volume. I got this name by Googling book idioms.
  • If you are familiar with Owlcrate, you’ll know that their boxes are themed.  The next thing we did was create three themes.  Since our name is a take on shipping book couples, our first theme was romance.  Subsequent themes include fantasy and contemporary. Our promotions looks like this:
    • April- We Ship It:Romance
    • May-All the Feels: Contemporary
    • June-A Whole New World: Fantasy
  • Time to promote! Here’s the description in our newsletter:
    • Have you wanted to sign up for OwlCrate but don’t want to drop the cash? Then sign up for our Ship in Volume Book Subscription Box and you will get a new YA book and a box full of themed goodies. What’s even better? You get to keep the box and everything inside!
      This subscription box will be limited to ten people per month, and you may register for all three months. If no spots are available, you will be placed on a waiting list. To subscribe to our subscription box, simply email INSERT YOUR EMAIL or message INSERT YOUR HANDLE on Facebook or Instagram with your name and email address. We will notify you when your box is ready for pick up at the library! Your box will be held for pick up at the desk in INSERT LOCATION for one week after you have been notified. If you fail to pick up your box, it will go to the next person on the list.
    • After the newsletter was released for a couple of weeks, we still had boxes available so we promoted it on our Instagram.  We received most of our signups through Instagram.
  • Time to Assemble!
    • Inside most subscription boxes, there will be a postcard describing the contents.  We did a postcard but instead of informing where to buy, we wrote cheeky descriptions.
    • We also created a logo using Canva and made it into a sticker.  To make the o0Vsf+4pQXyLyvTq%PNjogsticker, we printed the logos on sticker paper and cut them out using the Silhouette Cutting Machine.  If you don’t have one, print your logo on printer paper, cut it out and glue stick it.
    • We do not have ten copies of the same book so we chose books based on the reading habits/interests of our teens.  We knew most of the teen participants so it was easy to customize but if you are receiving new teens to your subscription box, you can include a survey in the email you send them.
  • Other Ideas
    • You can include a book review sheet for teens to fill out and return. You can put those reviews by the books in your stacks or on your social media/website.
    • You can include a sentence asking teens to take a pic of their box on their social media and to use a hashtag.

So far the teens who are participating are REALLY excited about the boxes.  They were calling them Owlcrates at first-LOL.  We even had a mother email us asking if her homebound teen could participate.  Our goal for this program is to reach readers who are too busy to attend library programs but still want to participate. So far, we are seeing a mixture of our regular teens and teens who are in high school or college and are too busy to attend library programs. We hope the word gets out and that it grows.




Posted in Big Programs, Makerspace

Beauty Science

One of our goals for the year is to host career readiness programming for teens but how do we make that sound exciting to a 14 year old?  Our first career readiness program was called beauty science and teens created popular beauty items and we discussed the science and careers associated with it.

Will boys come to this? Yes!

Bath Bombs

We weren’t sure if teens took baths but on social media, bath bombs are not about relaxation; it’s about taking a video of a cool fizzing sphere.  We don’t care what they do with them.  As a matter of fact, we asked them to tag us in their videos.

Budget: $60/50 teens; 3 small bombs/teen

Ages: 10+

  • Citric acidbath bombs
  • Corn starch
  • Baking soda
  • Epsom Salt
  • Food dye
  • Essential oils
  • Molds (small)
  • Bowls
  • Measuring spoons
  • Mixing spoons
  • Plastic wrap
  • Goody bag
  • Spray bottles of water


  • Out of 20 participants, 4 were boys
  • Twisting the molds together seemed to work better
  • Sometimes the molds don’t work.  If this happens, dump out the mix, add a couple of sprays of water, and mix again.
  • Let the bombs sit out unwrapped while teens make their other molds.  Then wrap them.  They seem to hold better when they dry out for a while.
  • If you want to turn this into a long program, 1.5 hours, allow teens to experiment with colors (galaxy, unicorn, black).  Teens can also put toys inside the bomb.  They can do themes (Hogwarts sorting, etc). You can have teens create their own company and give their bombs names and they can design a logo on a sticker or tag.
  • Here’s the PDF of the instructions- bath bombs.

DIY Lip Balm

Teens find this to be the most fascinating because they can’t believe it’s so easy to make something they buy in the store.

Budget: $55/50 teens

Age: 12+

Supplies Needed:


Disclaimer-We used a counter top burner but you can use the double boiler method.

If you have a microwave in your room, this is ideal but if you don’t, you can boil a bowl of water and place a metal or glass bowl over the bowl with hot water.  You need to be able to melt the wax.

We did this program as a drop in so only four teens could do it at a time. The following batch was enough for six teens.

  1. Have the group decide what color they want their lip balm to be.  Give them that color crayon.  The crayon will not leave a pigment on the lip; it just creates color for the balm.
  2. Have one teen pour a 1/4 cup of beeswax into a glass or metal bowl. Pass the bowl.
  3. Have the next teen put a table spoon of shea butter or petroleum jelly into the bowl
  4. Have the next teen break crayons into the bowl and add a couple of drops of essential oil.
  5. Melting time:
    1. If you are doing this as a drop in, the staff can stand at the front of the table with the double boiler and allow one teen to stir the ingredients until melted.
    2. If you are doing a group of teens, you can pre-boil water and place it on a table cloth in the middle of each table of teens.  Have one teen put the bowl with ingredients on top of the boiling water and the teens can take turns mixing.  Just be sure to remind them A LOT that that bowls are hot and to not touch them with out an oven mitt.
  6. We transferred the melted ingredients into a Pyrex measuring glass for easy pouring.
  7. I’d recommend a staff member to the pouring.
    1. Have teens place a funnel in their tubes and pour the ingredients.
  8. Have teens set their tubes in the middle to dry.
  9. While it is drying, teens can clean up and write their name or the type of lip balm on the label that comes with the tubes.


  • This program is very quick and only took about 10 minutes.  To provide a longer program, you can have teens make several different types of beauty products.
    • You could create a career readiness program and have teen create a beauty company and a logo.  You can have teens work in groups and “pitch” their product to the group.
    • You could use the M in STEAM and have teens make their lip balm company into a business.  They could figure out profit/cost. You could teach Google Slides or Power Point and have teens create their presentation on slides to present to the group.
  • Out of 17 teens, none were boys.  Boys were not interested in making lip balm even though they use it.  I tried to encourage them to make it by telling them to give it to their mom or girlfriend-nothing worked.
  • The tubes are professional looking but they aren’t cute.  I prefer these containers because you can add glitter and you can actually see the lip balm. It’s also cheaper.


DIY Sugar Body Scrub

Budget: $45/16 teens-depending on the supplies you already have

Age: 10+

Supplies Needed:


  1. Important: The mixture should be 75% sugar and 25% oil.  This is important depending on your container size.
  2. Mix sugar and oil in a bowl or the container if the opening is big enough.
  3. Add a couple of drops of essential oil.
  4. Add dye until you get the desired color.


  • This project only takes about 10 minutes.  If you want to stretch this to a longer program:
    • Teens can make labels.
    • You can provide a plethora of oils, extracts, fruit zests, body glitter, etc for teens to make their own recipe.
    • Teens can make several scrubs for holiday gifts.
  • Out of 27 teens, 8 boys participated.  For some reason, boys wanted to make body scrub to give away to their mothers.

Our makerspace does daily drop in programs for the after school crowd and a longer traditional program for teens who come to the library specifically for the program.  We did these three projects over a course of three days in a week.

As you can see, these activities were very popular among our teens by the attendance we received. I think beauty science is similar to slime because they mixed different ingredients and made one cool thing. They are so proud of themselves for making something and we ask if they use the items they make in the programs and they do!

To make a long story short, we will be hosting beauty science again.

Posted in Makerspace

Pencil Lead Pacman Control

So you have a couple of Makey Makey’s but you aren’t sure how to engage teens.  I’m faced with this every time I go to my storage closet and see a bin of 20 Makes Makey’s that I’ve used twice in two years.

We know that our teens like video games and we’ve discovered that our teens like to compete so we decided to have teens design their own game controller to compete in a Pacman competition.


Budget: $0-$250 (If you already have Makey Makey’s, it won’t cost you anything.)

Age: 7+

Supplies Needed:

How To:

  1. Set out Computers/Chromebooks and attach the Makey Makey, four alligator clips to the arrow inputs on the Makey Makey, and one alligator clip to the earth input.
  2. Cut white copy paper into quarters and have teens draw and shade in their own shapes on the paper.  It must extend to the end of the paper. See above picture for an example.
  3. Attach the arrow alligator clips to the pencil drawings and hold the tip of the earth alligator clip.
  4. Start the game and have teens touch their pencil lead controller buttons to play Pacman.
  5. Make sure you are using a Pacman game that keeps score.
  6. Document every time a teen achieves a high score and the teen with the highest score at the end of the day, wins.  We gave out a big bag of chips.


  • If the controller isn’t working, make sure the lead buttons are shaded in completely.  Also make sure the lead that is touching the alligator clip on the edge of the paper are thick lines.
  • Make sure teens are holding the tip of the earth alligator clip.
  • When teens play for a long time, sometimes it stops working.  This is because they have pencil lead residue on their fingers.  Have teens use hand sanitizer to clean their hands of lead.

Bonus Round: Geometry Dash

We have a big screen TV in our makerspace and we attached a Chromebook to the TV to have our teens compete in a Geometry Dash competition.

How To:

  1. Screen mirror your computer/Chromebook to your TV screen.  If you don’t have a large TV, just use the computer.
  2. Hook up the Makey Makey to your computer/Chromebook.
  3. Find a Geometry Dash game that works with the spacebar only.
  4. On the Makey Makey, attach one alligator clip to the space bar input and one alligator clip to the earth input.
  5. Have one teen hold the tip of the earth alligator clip and one teen hold the tip of the space bar alligator clip.
  6. Teens should clap to make the square jump.

How Does This Work?  Our bodies are conductive

Posted in Makerspace

Adulting 101

Hosting Adulting classes is a new trend in teen library program.  Adulting is a verb that high school graduates use to mean that they are doing something that makes them an adult.  Basically it means that teens these days were never taught basic skills that adults should know. Examples include, calculating a tip at a restaurant; ironing; cooking; sewing, etc.

This year, we are focusing on life-long skills but adulting sounds more fun in the newsletter.  Since we’ll be doing this all year, this will be an ongoing post and so far this month, we’ve hosted two adulting programs-sewing and hammering and nailing.

Cooking (Chopping Onions, Using a Can Opener, Using a Food Processor)


Teens made mini pizzas, salsa, and chocolate bark

Budget: $90/20 teens.  Ask staff for donations to cut down on cost-knives, cutting board, bowls, food processor, hot plate.

Age: 12+

Supplies Needed

  • Crescent rolls or biscuit dough
  • Mozzarella cheese sticks
  • Pepperoni
  • Pizza sauce
  • Onions
  • Canned whole tomatoes
  • Cilantro
  • Chocolate chips
  • Assortment of candy add-ins-marshmallow, M&M’s, pretzels, caramel chips, etc
  • Convection oven/oven
  • Food processor
  • Hot plate, stove top, or microwave
  • Large glass bowls
  • Cutting boards
  • Chopping knives
  • Manual can opener
  • Plates, spoons (plastic and metal/wooden)
  • Parchment or wax paper
  • sheet pans (The link is just an example. We paid $.88 at Walmart and it was fine.)
  • Tortilla chips
  • Lime juice, salt, pepper

How to:

You don’t have to make all three items if you are cutting costs.  The cheapest was the salsa.  You can also look for microwave or no bake recipes if you don’t have an oven.  I searched Pinterest for simple recipes.  Tailor your program based on what you think your teens need to learn how to do. I do strongly suggest in investing in a convection oven because you can do lots with it.

  1. Click the link for the pizza recipe.
  2. For Salsa
    1. Give each teen a small piece of onion and teach them how to properly use a cutting knife.  Do a Google search if you need to.
    2. Give each teen a small can of whole tomatoes and show them how to use a can Bi2hn0nOTFCau9CitVTtGgopener.
    3. Give each teen some cilantro to cut.  They should use the tips they learned when they cut the onion.
    4. I had a mini food processor for individual salsa prep.  You can however use a large one and have teens work in groups to make one large batch of salsa.
      1. Have the teens process the tomatoes first.  They may then add the onions and cilatro.
      2. Have them scoop some salsa in their own bowl and use the lime juice, salt, and pepper to season.
  3. For the chocolate bark
    1. Have teens work in groups of four.
    2. Allow teens to take turns melting the chocolate using the glass bowls, the hot plate, or microwave.
    3. Allow one teen to lay parchment or wax paper on the cookie sheet.jnq734cJQkCLfYAYxShrSg
    4. Allow two different teens to pour the chocolate and spread it on the cookie sheet.
    5. Using a knife, separate the chocolate into four equal sections.
    6. Allow teens to choose their ingredients (marshmallow, pretzel, etc) to press into their quadrant of chocolate.
    7. Place in the refrigerator to harden.


  • Make the chocolate bark first because it needs one hour to harden.
  • Make the pizza next so it can bake while you make salsa.
  • While they are eating, ask teens what they learned and encourage them to make this for dinner for their family.
  • Have teens do their own dishes between dishes.  Cooking includes cleaning.

Sewing a Button

Budget: $0-$50  Depends what supplies you already have

Age: 8+

Supplies Needed:

  • Felt/fabric
  • Thread/embroidery string
  • Sewing needles
  • Buttons
  • Batting
  • Scissors
  • Pusheen Pattern ( We didn’t do the pocket)

We made plush monsters to make it fun. Ours look different but I couldn’t find the online pattern so you can use a Pusheen pattern. Pre cut two Pusheen patterns to save time if you are hosting a drop in.  Let teens trace and cut if you have  1.5-2 hour program.  Have teens choose two buttons; different buttons make it monster-like.  Have teens take one side of the Pusheen and teach them how to sew a button.  They may sew a mouth or nose or just have buttons.


  • Teens had a tough time comprehending the fact that you have to sew diagonally on a four hole button.  I don’t know why.
  • Emphasize that they have to sew it at least four times.  Teens tried to rush and their buttons began falling off.
  • The first picture is a hemming stitch with thread.  Hemming stitches take longer.  I’d recommend the running stitch (2nd picture) if you are doing a drop in.
  • Although embroidery string looks better, we used thread because we wanted to teach the traditional way of sewing.  If you have a longer program, teens can make a second monster with embroidery string.



Budget: $0-$50  Depends what supplies you already have

Age: 8+

Supplies Needed:


  • Be ready to be busy! 99% of the teen participants had never ever used a needle and thread.
  • Teaching teens how to knot their thread was the HARDEST.  Everyone has a different style; I do the roll between index finger and thumb and pull method.  Many teens gave up on my method and did the inconvenient way. Most teens took the time and tried my method and when they did it, I congratulated them loudly, yelled, clapped, and danced. Anything to make them feel accomplished.
  • I used the term, running stitch, when I taught them how to sew.
  • I also taught them to complete the stitch before cutting it.
  • Your life will become easier when teens know how to thread the needle, tie a knot, and begin stitching without your help.

Hammer and Nailing

Budget: $40+/18 teens (Depends on supplies you already have)

Ages: 12+

Supplies Needed

We made an assembly line of supplies-wood blocks, shapes, string. As teens entered, we told them to choose one of each of the above.

Teens began by placing their template on their block and began nailing around the shape then remove the paper.  Using the string, tie a know around one nail then weave around the other nails.  There’s no right or wrong way.  I used this Youtube video to learn how to do it.

If you have a 1.5 to 2 hour program, teens can paint their block first-it dries fast.  You can also have them start with a simple shape then do a second with a shape of their choosing.


  • Watch teens carefully so that they don’t hit their fingers with the hammer.
  • Don’t place the nails too close.  It’s hard to weave the string.
  • Since it’s one continuous string, be careful not the let go because it will all unravel and they’ll have to start again.
  • Choose simple shapes that don’t require nails in the middle of the shape like a donut.  These take more nails.


Stay tuned for more adulting programs.

What adulting programs have you done at your library?

Posted in Big Programs

Murder Mystery Part 3: Party Time!

You’ve picked the perfect theme and cast, you’ve promoted it to get the maximum attendance, and you’ve planned your escape room.  Now it’s time to prepare the party. Our theme was Panic at the Library which was a take on Panic at the Disco’s song, I Write Sins not Tragedies. We chose this theme because our teens like this group and this type of music.  This music group is actually still popular so your teens may also like and you can use our theme.  Or, you can use a basic wedding reception theme if you want to model your murder mystery after ours.

Note: The linked escape room is Harry Potter themed but we used the same concept-we used several locks to open one case.  Teens were placed in groups and searched group designated areas in the library.

The Script

We wrote an original script and you are free to use it.  Please make a copy then make changes on your copy.  This is the sheet staff used to keep track of the event.  Once again, please make a copy then make changes if needed.


Teens really like dark themes, creepy carnival; zombies; Stranger Things; halloween, so our decor has been black and creepy for a couple of years which means we didn’t have to spend a lot on decor.  Since this is a wedding theme, our colors were black and red and we went with wedding type decoration.

  • Centerpieces were from our Valentine’s day decor box, leftover Mason jars and doilies, and ribbon from our craft closet.  A lot of the decor came from our Valentine’s day decor box.
  • Cake-we ordered from Walmart.  It was actually a gender reveal cake and we purchased more cupcakes for a total of $23.  The topper came from Walmart. We already had a cake stand.
  • Wedding napkins came from the wedding section at Walmart.
  • Bouquet-I made the bouquet with gel pens and duct tape roses and ribbon from Walmart.
  • The cast wore their own clothes
  • Guestbook-teens signed the book upon entering. We used this as door prizes (leftover candy) and we will use their addresses to invite them to future programs.
  • Champagne glasses
  • Party hats


The majority of our budget went to food-$100.  You don’t have to have food, you can just have cake and host your party after dinner time.


Party Games and Activities

We Googled wedding games around the world because American weddings are quite boring.  We of course made some variations.

Two Truths and a Lie and musical chairs were the games.  The DJ played Cha Cha Slide, Cotton Eye Joe, and the Chicken Dance.  And of course we had the escape room.

How Did it Go?

We spent about $200 and half of this was food.  The bride’s skirt was $30.  Murder mysteries are quite cheap if you use what you have and don’t serve food.

We had a total of 29 teens.  We had 3 boys, 12 middle schoolers and 17 high schoolers.  We were very happy with the overall attendance.  We would like to see more boys and more middle schoolers.

Believe it or not, the most popular activities were musical chairs and Cha Cha Slide.

We went through the party too fast even though I had it timed out.  I have to remember that teens are okay with music and socializing and they don’t need to be engaged every minute.

Having a DJ was great because teens like music and she helped with the ambiance and the flow of the program.  DJ LMK was our youth services department head and she used the Panic at the Disco Pandora station, and Youtube for requests.


Only two teens guessed the murderer and motive but this is typical.  Teens just don’t pay attention even though I remind them ALL THE TIME and the clues are obvious.  They don’t care about the guessing part anyway, they just like the party and the acting.


Their favorite part was the death scene, of course.  We had an actor who was extremely over the top and outshined everyone else.  I’d suggest getting VERY outgoing teens/staff because that’s what the teens remember-the acting.


I do a verbal evaluation by asking the teens if they had fun.  I ask them to be honest and make suggestions for next time and this is effective.  They are honest. They all said they had fun and one teen suggested it be longer. Um…I think two hours is plenty of time.

Posted in Big Programs

Escape Room

Everybody is talking about escape rooms; even ALA had escape rooms.  What’s the big deal? Escape rooms challenge teens to use problem solving and critical thinking skills, it’s collaborative, teens like puzzles, and it’s cheap.

Here’s our one and done Harry Potter escape room.  You can modify it to make it a traditional small group escape room.

Cheap? Breakout EDU costs $150!! You don’t need Breakout EDU to host your escape room and your creativity can create as many escape rooms as you can think of.

Budget: $50

Supplies Needed: 

UV Light

Invisible Ink Pen

Padlock key lock (You can buy these at the Dollar store)

Combo lock

Lockout Hasp

Storage Lock box (or something similar)

Flash drive

Breakout EDU is charging you to use their curriculum but you’re smart; you can do your own.  I’ve actually never used their curriculum; I’ve done three escape rooms and found it easier to think up my own story.

Here’s How

You can do a one and done escape room for a bunch of teens or a room that requires groups throughout the day.  You can make it any theme you want.

Here’s our one and done Harry Potter escape room.  You can modify it to make it a traditional small group escape room.

Posted in Makerspace

Create Your Own VR World

As programmers we talk a lot about taking a teen consumer and turning them into producers.  Since the popularity of VR and Google Cardboard and Oculus Rift, we have been trying to find a way for teens to create their own world.  Now we can and it’s called Cospaces.

With Cospaces, teens can create outer space , underwater sea life, interactive zoos, and much more.  Teens can code their world to make objects move or interact with the viewer and they can take their own 360 video and upload it into the platform.  Once their world is created, it can be viewed through vr goggles.

Here is my world.

Our project is to inhabit a new planet and create new sources of energy.

Budget: $0-$75-You can use the free version or you can upgrade to the pro version.  With pro, you get access to a larger library of objects, you get more coding options, and if you choose the edu pro site; you can create and share a template for your teens.

I will admit, having the option for creating and sharing a template is appealing because it can cut down on the completion time significantly but I don’t want to pay $75.

Time Needed: This can be tailored to your program.  You can do it in your 2 hour program or for your multiple day program.  It might be a stretch to get it done for your standard 2 hour program; I’d suggest lengthening it to 2.5 or 3 hours and provide a snack.

Pros: Teens do not need a smart phone to play.  You can play worlds on Chromebook, computer, or iPad.  Of course the program is creating a VR world so I’d suggest charging your phone so teens who don’t have a cell phone or don’t have a gyroscope phone can view the fun.

Teens can work in groups.  Of course only one person can work on the device at a time but collaborating on their world falls under life long skills.

It is a STEAM activity.  It includes design, technology, and coding.

Coding is standard drag and drop.

It’s pretty cool that teens can take a 360 view of the library they’re in and place people and objects.  This could be a LAB project for teens to create a library tour for your library’s website.



It’s not like Google Docs; more than one teen cannot work on a world at the same time on different devices.

It can take a long time to complete.


  • Allow teens time to design or outline on paper first so they aren’t constantly changing their minds.
  • Give teens a maximum amount of things they can code-two or three objects.  It can be overwhelming if teens think they have to code EVERYTHING on the screen.
  • Provide a prompt-create a desert island, life on Mars, etc.  It provides focus.
  • Begin as a group.  Have teens work along with you to make their starting point.  If you do a desert island, make the small island as a group to expedite the program.  Teens may then add objects to their island in their groups.
  • Familiarize yourself with the software.  Teens will have questions so I’d suggest making your own world so that you can run into problems to troubleshoot.
  • Tutorials. Have teens take the small tutorial that appears at the start of their project.  It takes ten minutes and it’ll help with basic questions.
  • Camera angles.  This took me a while to figure out; not sure why-LOL.  Familiarize yourself with camera angles because it can be frustrating.  If your world requires walking, point your camera to the starting point of your world.

What’s the Difference Between Maker and EDU?

Edu is designed for educators and you can track your teens’ worlds.  With edu, teens are invited through a code.  I’d suggest using edu if you are doing a long term program.

Maker requires teens to create an account and you cannot track their progress or their world.  I’d suggest using maker if you are doing a one time program so that teens can access and complete their worlds at home.

Have questions? Please feel free to ask.

Have fun!!

Posted in Makerspace

Express Crafts: Shrinky Dinks

Remember Shrinky Dinks from the 80’s? Well I do and apparently it’s still fun as hell. Shrinky Dinks is a craft where you buy special plastic, color it, and put it in an oven for it to shrink into a charm.

What’s So Great About Them?  Teens are amazed that you can color on a thin piece of plastic and it turns into a miniature charm.  They also like to watch the Dinks shrink and flatten in the oven-the amazement on the faces of high school boys was awesome!

Time Needed: 15+ minutes

Budget: $0-$75

ZERO DOLLARS?! Yes, you don’t have to buy the plastic.  You can make Shrinky Dinks using #6 plastic.  Many food containers are made with #6 plastic, especially pastries from the grocery store.  We asked staff to save and donate their #6 food containers.  #6 shrinks and stiffens the best.


You will need a toaster or convection oven and if your library doesn’t have one and you don’t want to buy one, ask a staff member if you can borrow theirs.

Supplies Needed:

  • #6 plastic containers or Shrinky Dink Plastic
  • Sand paper if you use #6 plastic
  • Markers
  • Colored pencils
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch
  • Images printed on paper
  • Toaster oven
  • Jump rings; keychain rings; pinback (optional)

Here’s How

I preprinted popular images and cut them out in squares.  They were about 4×4 inches.  Images included Harry Potter and superhero logos, sports team logos, Pokemon and Super Mario logos.  If you are worried about copyright, Google creative common images or allow teens to draw their own pictures.

Using a Sharpie/marker, trace the outline of the image on the shrink paper and color the image using colored pencil or markers.

  • If you are using purchased paper, trace and color on the rough side.
  • If you are using #6, sand paper one side and trace and color on the same side.
  • If you are making a keychain or necklace punch a hole in the plastic next to your colored image and cut out the image.
  • If you are using purchased paper, follow the instructions on the packaging.
  • If you are using #6 plastic, preheat the oven on 350 degrees.  Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 1-3 minutes.
    • It will begin to curl but don’t panic, it will flatten.  After it flattens, leave in the oven for 30 seconds and take out of the oven.  Lay a book on the Dink to ensure the flatness.
  • Hot glue a pinback to create fun charms.
My Slytherin tie pin made with #6.
Posted in Big Programs

Murder Mystery Part 2: Casting & Promoting

Part 1: Murder Mystery


After we select our theme, we get a cast.  For the past two years, we had teens as the cast. We simple asked our regular teens and if we needed more, we asked for volunteers on Instagram and Facebook.

This year we will have staff as the cast and this is because we are behind in our planning.  However, our first murder mystery featured staff and having staff as the cast can be fun because teens get to see their librarians in a different atmosphere.  At our murder mystery, they will get to see their youth librarian be a goth overhyped wedding DJ-how cool is that?

The Script

Most of the time we let the teens help us write the script but once again, we are in crunch time and we have to write it ourselves.  Yes, we write our own script and it’s surprisingly not hard.

  • You’ve decided on a theme and that’s extremely helpful.
  • Choose thematic games/activities because this will be the bulk of your party and an easy way to involve the cast.
    • Two years ago the theme was a slumber party and the participants played traditional slumber party games-truth or dare; makeovers; hide and seek.
    • This year with the wedding reception theme, the activities include two truths and a lie; musical chairs; and the throwing of the bouquet and guarder.  The first two activities are traditions from other countries because American receptions are just dancing and eating-boring for teens.
  • We usually minimal lines for the cast to memorize and encourage them to improvise and remain in character the entire party.  Each character has a profile so that cast member knows how to behave during the party.  For this party, the cast will be sitting at the head table and may have their script in front of them.
  • We always email the script two weeks prior to the party and ask the cast to memorize their lines. We do dress rehearsals two hours before the party and we feed them dinner.  It’s difficult to get teens together to rehearse but we’ve never had a problem rehearsing immediately before the event.

I will post the complete script in February after our murder mystery.


If you have a library that gets attendance through your newsletter, congrats to you-you can skip this section.  If you are like my library where your patrons do not read their newsletter and you have to promote your programs to an inch of death, keep reading.

We of course do the traditional flyers around the library so the following is in addition to that.

  • We send out personal invitations to your regular teens through the snail mail.
    • We always make our invites fancy and not with the MS Publisher template invites.  They are always on theme so this year, the invites will resemble a real wedding invitation.
      • We place an additional invite for teens to give to a friend.
    • We also pass out invites to teens who visit the makerspace and we use the same fancy invites.
  • We TRY to take pictures of the cast in their costumes to be placed on the flyers and social media.
    • We put each cast member on their own flyer to make them look like suspects.
      • If you have teen actors and you can’t get them to send a pic of them in their costume, ask them if you can take a picture from their social media to use on a flyer.
      • We also use these suspect flyers on social media.
        • One year, we had cast members take some videos in character and
          Social Media whodunit promos

          we posted them on social media.  This is optional but we do this because your social media flyers will eventually get ignored and this way, we are catching their attention.

    • “Chalk” outline in the stacks.
      • We use tape to make a “chalk” out line of a dead body on the floor of the YA stacks and tape a flyer in the center of the outline.  This is a guaranteed way to get teens to see your flyer.
    • Book Display-We create a big thematic book display.

Image 1-12-18 at 10.02 AM

We do a big promotion because this is our winter quarter big event and we often get new faces at the murder mystery that turn into new teen patrons.  You of course do not have to do all of this.


Please visit Teen Services Depot next Friday for a post on Escape Rooms and how we will incorporate one into our murder mystery.


Posted in Big Programs

Murder Mystery Part 1

Every once in a while I see librarians request murder mystery and escape room programming info.  At my library, we do a murder mystery every year and we’ve done two different escape room programs.  It is about that time for our annual murder mystery/escape room party so to give others some ideas, I’ll write an ongoing post about the programming process.


We change the theme every year because we’ve found that choosing a pop culture theme gets the most attendance and since pop culture trends change quickly, our theme changes every year.

2017’s theme was in honor of the popular TV show-American Horror Story.  Here’s the info.

2016’s theme was in honor of the popular TV show at the time-Scream Queens. He’s the info.

We always survey our teens in some way before we choose a theme.  This is done with a paper survey during school visits or through discussions.  When we do a paper survey, we ask one question-what’s your favorite TV show/movie?  We then list a bunch of titles and ask them to circle what they like and we also leave a blank to fill in.  This is strategic because if the survey is too long, they won’t do it.

This year, our survey was done verbally and based on their conversations and responses, we chose the song, I Write Sins not Tragedies by Panic at the Disco.  Our teens love this band and that song-even though it is old as hell.

We changed the name to Panic at the Library and we will follow the spirit of the music video.  The party will resemble a wedding reception where the groom will get murdered for nefarious deeds.  The attending teens will be invited guests and we’ll play traditional wedding reception games/activities.  It’s not just a wedding but a goth wedding with a freak show undertone like the video.  I’ll write about the actual party in a future post.

Based on national pop culture trends, possible theme ideas include Stranger Things, Riverdale, IT, or Pretty Little Liars.

Visit the blog every Friday in January and February for new topics.  Part two-promotion and casting.

Posted in Makerspace

Fidget Spinners Part 2: Hot Glue

Part 2 will focus on making a fidget spinner out of hot glue.  To see how to make a spinner out of paper, please click here.

I made a video of the instructions and below you will see written steps.

Please follow me on Instagram for teen library craft, maker, and recreational programs.

Budget: $50 +

Time Needed: 30 minutes

Supplies Needed:

  • Amazing Mold Putty ($16 for 150 grams)
  • Hot glue
  • Hot glue guns
  • Ball Bearings (You can buy cheaper bearings)
  • Adhesive glue spray (Ask your maintenance department first)
  • glitter
  • Aerosol hair spray
  • Fan (any kind of fan for drying)
  • Paint or nail polish  (Ask staff for nail polish donations)
  • Cheap fidget spinner to make your mold
  • Grease for bearings (Ask your maintenance dept. first)
  • Pennies

How To:

  1. Pre make your molds by following the instructions on the product.
    1. Disclaimer-the 150g box only makes four molds.
  2. Press your real spinner in the clay.
  3. Using a box cutter/Exacto knife, cut off the nibs left behind from your real spinner.
  4. Place your spinner in the center of mold.
    1. The bearings linked above are pre greased.  If you purchase a different bearing, simple push off the cover using a staple.  See if the balls are greased; if not, grease them.  This is optional but grease makes them spin faster.
    2. You can 3D print fidget spinner caps from Thingiverse.  I haven’t done this yet but I will.  Make sure you check the size of your bearings before you choose a cap to be sure it’s the correct size.
  5. Start with the bearing when you begin to hot glue.  Then continue to fill the rest of the mold with hot glue
    1. Tell teens to wait a minute after they insert a new glue stick to allow it to get hot.
  6. Wait a couple of minutes for the glue to dry and remove from mold.
  7. Using hot glue, fill in any holes and valleys.  Glue around the sides to clean it up. Wait another minute while it dries.  Make sure teens hold it while it’s drying.
  8. Spray the spinner with adhesive glue and pour glitter on the spinner over a bowl. Only do one side.
  9. Spray the spinner with hair spray to seal the glitter.
  10. Have teens put their spinner on a drying table in front of a fan.
    1. If you don’t use a fan, it will take a couple of hours to dry.  Ask your maintenance dept. if they have fans.
  11. Once it’s dry, repeat on the other side.
    1. If you want to use pennies as weights, hot glue the pennies to this side and cover with glitter.
    2. Teens can make another spinner or eat snacks while they wait for their spinner to dry.
  12. If they do not want to use glitter, they may use paint or keep it clear.
  13. You do not have to use glitter to make a cool spinner.
    1. Teens can insert gems, sequins, pom poms, etc into the glue before it hardens as decoration.
    2. You can also purchase glitter glue sticks from Amazon, Hobby Lobby, or Dollar Tree.

Using Fidget Spinners to Teach STEAM

See part 1 for full STEAM ideas.

You can use the ball bearings to teach friction and torque.  I got a C in high school physics so I’ll just reference you to an article I found online.


Posted in Makerspace

Fidget Spinners Part 1: Paper

Fidget spinners are perfect for makerspaces because it fits all the letters of STEAM and you can tailor your program to fit the interests of your teens.  Part 1 will focus on paper fidget spinners and next week will focus on glue fidget spinners.

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If you want a beginner fidget spinner program, try the artsy/crafty approach.  

Budget:  $5-$20

Time Needed: 30 minutes-1.5 hours

Supplies Needed:

Cardstock- Assorted colors

Large gems (Walmart or Dollar Store)

Plastic drinking straws

Hot Glue

Glue stick



Standard hole punch


How To:

  1.  Print out a fidget spinner template on cardstock.  Allow teens to choose their own colors.  This is not the one I used in the picture but any template will do.  Here’s a good one.  You can pre cut them or give each teen three sheets and let them choose and cut.  It depends on the length of your program.
  2. Using a glue stick, glue three spinners together-this is for thickness.
    1. Optional-you can use white cardboard or foam core but you’ll have use an Exacto knife to cut cleanly.  If you don’t mind your teens using an Exacto knife, simply give teens a template on printer paper, let them cut it out and trace it on cardboard or foam core, and let them use the Exacto knife to cut out a thicker fidget spinner.
  3. Allow teens time to draw their own artwork on both sides of their spinner.fidget spinner 8
    1. Optional-Take out the glitter and let them go nuts. Crafter tip-after you glitter, use cheap aerosol hairspray to seal the glitter.
  4. Cut a small piece of the straw.
  5. Place a small tab of hot glue in the center of the gem and glue one end of the straw.
  6. Punch a hole through the center of the spinner.
  7. Put the straw that’s glued to the gem through the hole.  The straw should not protrude too far, if it does cut if off. If the straw is too long, it won’t spin evenly.
  8. Hot glue the other gem to the straw and allow to dry.
  9. Trace the penny on cardstock and cut out three circles. Hot glue the circles to the pennies and the pennies to the spinner.



If you want to incorporate design and/or computers, try this approach.

Use computers or iPads to allow teens to design their fidget spinner. Teens can use the free Adobe Illustrator app to draw their own spinner.  It’s important that spinners be symmetrical and the Adobe app will allow you to cut and paste and rearrange to ensure symmetry.  Print their designs and follow the steps above.

Teens can also free draw a spinner.  Once again, symmetry is important so provide rulers.  Print their designs on cardstock and follow the steps above.


  • Change the project sheet to grid.  This will make it easier to draw equal sides.
  • Have teens begin with a circle that’s 3 centimeters or 3 squares. (They can erase it later).
  • Have teens make three sides instead of four.  It was a challenge to use the hole punch with four sides.
  • Upon completion, have teens email their designs to you.  Once you receive the email, copy and paste it into publisher because you can resize it.  Resize the spinner to 3 inches.  Copy and paste three spinners to one sheet and print on cardstock.


If you are focusing on physics, try this approach.

Fidget spinners use Newton’s first law of motion-inertia. An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

Basically, spinners work because of symmetry and you can teach this.

You can pre make a spinner that is slightly unbalanced/unsymmetrical and have teens use critical thinking skills to tell you why it doesn’t spin well.  Have teens redesign the spinner to make it symmetrical.  You can also play with weight.  You can demonstrate the importance of weight, or balance, by placing two pennies on one side and one penny on the other sides.  When it’s time for teens to make their own spinner, give teens weight options-pennies, dimes, washers, magnets, etc.  They can experiment to see which weights spin faster. Here’s a great site for reference.

Ball bearings also contribute to the physics of fidget spinners because of friction.  The above spinners don’t use ball bearings but my part 2 post will.  Stay tuned.


Posted in Uncategorized

Follow Me on Instagram

I’m CONSTANTLY planning, succeeding, failing, and everything in between so follow my journey as I spend hours trying to make fidget spinners and slime and murder mysteries.  I’ll post videos, pics, and how to’s for all my fellow programming librarians.

Click the image below to follow me on Instagram.

Teen Services Depot

Posted in Holiday Programs, Makerspace

Chibi Holiday Cards

I see visions of cardstock, die cut winter shapes, and glue dancing in my head.  It’s holiday card making season which means tables of kids and teens surrounded by a tables of card making supplies.  If you would like to add STEM to your program, add chibitronics.

Budget: Assuming you have the basic supplies-$35-$55

Length: 30 minutes

Supplies Needed:

  • Cardstock of all colors
  • Paint Sample (I took a bunch from Walmart)
  • Glue stick
  • Rulers
  • Scissors
  • Scotch Tape
  • Gem stickers & foam stickers
  • Hole punch
  • Mounting tape or little pieces of cardboard if you are on a budget
  • Stamps (optional)
  • Copper Tape
  • Chibitronics $30/30-Yes, it is expensive!

Here’s How:

  • Cut colored cardstock into quarter sheets.
  • Cut white cardstock into slightly larger sheets.
    • I used white becasue teens used holiday stamps on the back and it’s easier to see on white paper.
  • The Cover.
    • Begin by punching a hole at the top middle of the paper. This is where you will see the light on the chibi.
    • Allow teens to decorate the cover.
      • Have teens cut three triangles with the paint samples.
      • Layer the triangles to look like trees.
      • Stick a gem/sticker on top of the outside trees.
      • I have snow but if you look at the image below, you can precut circles and I’ll tell you how to use it later.

holiday cards 8


  • Behind The Curtain
    • Copy the images below if you prefer.
      • If you prefer to know how it works:
        • Pre cut little strips of paper for the battery holder and tape it to the bottom right.
        • Run to pieces of copper tape paralell (remember to cut the tape in half).  Have teens place one long piece of tape.  Don’t cut the tape; it can break the circuit.
        • The left side should run longer then turn right. The tape should run all the way onto the battery holder.
        • The right side should be shorter before you turn right.  Run the right tape over the top of the battery holder.
        • The chibi can be place either way and your battery should be placed accordingly.  In the picture, the + side of my chibi is on the left and therefore, the left side of the tape should touch the + side of the battery.
          • TIP-If you’ve done your circuits correctly and your chibi doesn’t work, press your copper tape and your chibi down.  If this doesn’t work, try a new battery.
        • Tape the bottom half of the battery.  Be sure the tape doesn’t cover the entire battery because it breaks the circut.
        • When you fold the battery holder down, it should activate the chibi.
  • Complete The Card
    • Place the mounting tape on three sides of the bottom and secure the cover.  Make sure the chibi light shows through the hole.
    • Get your little white circle cut outs and find the battery holder with your finger.  Glue the circle on top of the battery holder.
    • Use a stamp to stamp “Press Here” or write it.
    • Flip the card over and stamp or write a holiday greeting.
holiday cards 6
The white circle activates the light when it is pressed.


All Done!

Do you have teens who just want to make cards?  You can make the card above without the chibitronic. You can also turn your holiday cards program into community service.  Check out this link below for information on how to send holiday cards to incarcerated youth.

Posted in Big Programs, Makerspace, Passive Programs

Slime Party

I know you are afraid, but don’t be. It’s going to be okay.

My teen programming spans 6-12th grade and our attendance has been skewing older and we need to attract 6th graders-SLIME!  75% of our attendance was middle school.

Slime can be expensive. The more teens you anticipate and the more types of slime you make will break your budget.  We had 90 teens over a span of three days and we made five different types of slime and our budget was about $430.00.  DON’T PANIC! You can adjust to fit your budget.  I will break down the price of each type of slime we did and you can pick and choose.

None of our recipes used Borax.  Borax can cause rashes on sensitive skin so I looked for recipes that used other ingredients.  Liquid starch is difficult to find in stores.  We found it at Walmart but I’d suggest purchasing from Amazon and get a lot becasue you don’t want to run out at the last minute like we did.

We bought containers for them to store their slime but you can use baggies too.

slime party 2

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Heat Sensitive Slime-Changes colors when touched with cold hands.

Total Cost for 30 Teens (including glue & liquid starch)-$95

Thermochromic Pigment $20 for one 10 gram container.  I bought four so it’ll be $80.

DISCLAIMER: I didn’t use food coloring.  It affected the pigment.

slime party 1

Magnetic Slime-Moves with magnets. Search Youtube to see how it works.

Total Cost for 30 Teens (including glue & starch)- $70

Magnets  $19.99 for 20.  I bought two packs.  You can search for cheaper but they must be strong.

Black Iron Oxide (Magnetic Powder) $12.99 for one pound.  One pound is enough for 30 teens.

DISCLAIMER: This is messy.  It’s very important for teens to knead quickly and to not get it on their clothes or paper.  It’s also important to wash their hands after playing with it.


Glitter Monster Slime

Total Cost for 30 Teens (including clear glue, starch, glitter, googly eyes, baking soda, contact solution)- $45

DISCLAIMER: This recipe calls for food coloring; we did not use it. Substitute food coloring for googly eyes.

DISCLAIMER #2: We purchased a one gallon container of clear glue and it costs about $27.  Get contact solution at the Dollar Store b/c brand name solution is expensive.


Glow in the Dark Floam

Total Cost for 30 Teens (including glue & starch & glow in dark paint)- $40

Styrofoam Balls– $9.99 for eight packs.  I bought two packs so it’ll be $20.

Fluffy Slime

Total Cost for 30 Teens (including glue, starch, contact solution, food coloring, and shaving cream)-$30

We used about five cans of shaving cream.

DISCLAIMER: Purchase contact solution, shaving cream, and food coloring from the Dollar Store.

slime party 5

STEAM Option

As I was practicing, I realized that you can experiment and add just about anything to make unique slime.  The important ingredients are glue (white or clear) and a binding agent-liquid starch or contact solution.

Set out different materials for teens to create their own slime-sand, sugar, beads, clay, Kool aid, or anything you have laying around.


We had five different slimes but by co worker told me that five may have been too many.  I agree and would recommend three different slimes.  Most teens make slime at school so I wanted to avoid the popular slimes like glitter slime.  That’s why we did magnetic and heat sensitive slime.

  • I had a line of tables covered in paper. As teens entered, I asked their name and
    had a staffer write their name on the paper.  This is where teens stored their completed slime.  You’ll see why below.

slime party 2

  •  I had a staff member at every slime table.  Every table held seven teens.
    • I’d recommend required registration so you know exactly how many chairs you’ll need.
    • The staffer had teens fullfil the steps one at a time.  Example, if the first step is 1/2 cup of glue, the staffer had teens pour glue into their bowls and pass it to the next teen.  She didn’t go to the next step until everyone had 1/2 glue.
  • When teens were done with each slime, they went to the covered table, put their slime in a container, and put it by their name.
    • Teens then go back to their table and wait until the other tables are finished.
  • Once everyone is finished, we rotated tables.
  • After each teen has been to each table, the party was over.
    • You can have snacks or let teens play with their slime when everything is finished.


  • Popscicle sticks for stirring
  • Bowls (You may need bigger bowls for floam)
  • Measuring cups and spoons (enough for two cups/spoons for each table)
  • Containers to store glue and starch for easy pour. (those big gallons of glue are heavy).
  • Table covers
  • Plenty of napkins and wet wipes
  • Baggies or plastic containers
Posted in Holiday Programs, Makerspace

Christmas in the Makerspace

We recently turned out teen room into a makerspace and while we used to decorate the teen room for the holidays, I wanted to do something different for the makerspace.  Instead of simply putting up decor and trimming the tree, teens will make ornaments for our the tree and to take home.  All of my ideas came from Pinterest.  If you’d like to follow me on Pinterest, I have a link to my page on the right of this post.

Ornaments Ideas:

Ornaments with Hot Glue

Hot glue -For some strange reason, our teens love the hot glue gun.  It’s like normal glue is useless because they only want to hot glue things together.  To satiate the love, they’ll make snowflakes using hot glue and nail polish or paint.  Here’s the craft on Pinterest.

Hot glue and Modge Podge Snowflakes

Pipe Cleaner and Borax Snowflakes

Don’t have a tree but have windows? Snowflake Window Cling Snowflake Window Cling

Ornaments with Popsicle Sticks


Tree Tree

Clear Balled Ornaments-  I purchased ornaments at The Dollar Tree for 2/$1

Harry Potter Themed


Teen’s Names

Melted Crayon

Sewing/Yarn Ornaments

Trees & Stars

Yarn Hats

And of course you can’t forget good old 3D printing ornaments.

Happy Holidays!




Posted in Makerspace

Unicorn Party

Yes, teens still like unicorns so we hosted a maker party for these unicorn enthusiasts.

Supplies Needed for Headbands:

Felt sheets, headbands, poly-fit, hot glue, ribbon/string, flowers

Optional Supplies (Craft Closet Cleanout!)

Ribbon, gems, tule.

How to Make Horn Headbands:

  1. Print, cut out, and let teens the stencil on the felt.
  2. I followed this site.  I had teens use hot glue to make the horn instead of sewing because my teens don’t know how to sew and I was by myself and wouldn’t have had time to teach hand sewing.  I would, however, highly recommend teaching hand sewing; it’s a useful skill many teens lack.
  3. Teens could then use anything they wanted to decorate.

Using LEDs

Supplies Needed

Coin battery, battery holder, LEDs, hole punch

  1. This should be done before teens glue flowers to their horn.
  2. Using the hole punch, punch a hole through the center of a flower.
  3. Assemble the LED to the battery holder.
  4. Place the LED head through the flower hole.
  5. Hot glue the batter pack to the horn behind the flower.


Unicorn Shirts

E0fOVUmpSgOJH7OpcRnVGwDisclaimer: I bought t-shirts and screen printed a unicorn on the shirts using a stencil I made with my Silhouette and a cheap screen printing kit.  

If you have a Silhouette, Cricut, or some other vinyl cutting machine, you can make a stencil, have teens sponge fabric paint, let the shirts dry while the make their head band.

If you don’t have a cutting machine, you can buy a stencil and let teens sponge fabric paint.

Teens used puffy paint, fabric markers, and fabric spray paint to decorate their shirts.

We hired a face painter.

Have Fun!



Posted in Makerspace

Quick STEAM: Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead/Dia los de Muertos is November 2.  If you are crafting during your celebration and you are looking to add STEAM to them, check out this chibi mask.

You’ll Need:


Markers/colored pencils

Puffy Paint (optional)

Craft Stick


Copper tape


If you are looking for cheap ideas, the mask in the picture can be printed on cardstock. There are other masks to choose from if you do a Google image search.  You can also purchase masks for teens to color.

I will print the linked masks and blank masks for teens to make their own designs.  You can use puffy paint and markers to add dimension.


How to Add Chibis

I put the chibi on the front of the mask because it shines the brightest.  Please refer to the picture for directions.  Make sure the positive side of the copper tape touches the positive side of the battery and the same for the negative side.  If your chibi blinks or goes out, make sure your battery is taped down tightly.

Posted in Uncategorized

Teen Read Week: Unleash Your Story

Teen Read Week is October 8-14, 2017 with the tagline-Unleash Your Story.  At our library, we are taking this theme literally and will be hosting creative writing activities.  If you need creative writing ideas or you’d just like to see what TRW will look like at the Zion-Benton Public Library, enjoy.

Please find the worksheets mentioned here.

We will be hosting our annual short story contest during the month of October.  I wrote a post on hosting short story contests and you can read it here.

Monday, October 9th-Columbus Day-You Wanna Write Good?

Because students have the day off, we decided to take advantage and do hourly creative writing activities while serving pumpkin spiced treats. There will be a total of eight activities and they include:

  • Fantasy Maps-Many fantasy books include maps and the most exciting map I can think of is Game of Thrones.  To capitalize on map popularity, we will have teens create a fantasy world around a unique map.  To do the map, we’ll give teens plain or graph paper, a pencil, and a handful of gems, rocks (something that won’t roll).  they will drop the gems on the paper and trace around the gems to create their map.  After they remove their gems, they can name their world and the individual land masses, designate bodies of water, mountains, etc.
    • Teens will then begin their world building by filling out the worksheet.  If time permits, teens may begin writing their story.
  • Emoji Storytime-We have a big spinning wheel with removable inserts.  We will insert popular emoji’s and teens can spin the wheel four times and start a story based on the emojis they were given.  If you don’t have a wheel, you can buy large dice and glue emojis or you can print a bunch of emojis, lay them face down, and have teens pick at random.
  • Show Don’t Tell-I found this on Pinterest.
  • The Upside Down-This will be a lesson on writing parallel universes.  I had my coworker draw the picture in the Google Doc.
    • I will explain the definition of a parallel universe and how it differs from time travel and alternate universes.
    • Teens will then fill out the worksheet based on the picture to outline their story.
    • Teens may then begin their stories.
  • Cootie Catcher Fairytales-(We call them cootie catchers but your teens may call them fortune tellers.) Teens will choose a fairytale to reimagine.  They can swap the villain and the hero; turn the hero from a princess to an assassin; swap gender roles; etc.  See the cootie catcher below for instructions.
  • Brown Bag  Time Travel-Teens will choose a historical time period to send their hero/heroine.
    • I’ll make cards containing historic world events and attach the first Wikipedia page of that event.
    • I’ll have three paper bags that contain a genre, a mode of transportation, a mission.  Teens will have to pick from each bag.
    • Teens will then begin to outline their story by deciding the identities of the other crew members; what happens the moment they return from their mission (how has the world changed); and the info from the paper bags-genre; transportation; and mission.
  • Mashed Origin Stories-Teens will work with a partner and play MASH. They will re write their super heroes origin story based on their outcome.  Theywill then redo their superheroes logo.
  • Scary Stories-Teens will learn how to write a scary story
    • We will play Plinko.  If you don’t have a Plinko game, teens can choose from a cauldron, skeleton, or anything associated with Halloween.
    • From your containers, teens can choose a location, hero, or a sentence starter.
    • Teens will then outline their story and begin writing if time permits.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017-Webcomics

Webcomics are short comics that are posted to the web.  A notable webcomic is Cyanide and Happiness.  The graphic novel, Nimona, began as a webcomic.

  • First, you need to find a free hosting site or a free website for teens to upload their webcomics.  We will be using Comic Fury.  Teens will create their own account.  They do not need an email that they have to check to get started which is GREAT!  The website is cluttered but it’s easy to customize.
  • Next we will be working on the comic.  We will not be teaching art because webcomics rely more on story than art.  Teens don’t need to be great artists; they can draw stick figures, etc.  We will be stressing that webcomics are usually short and should have an engaging story.  Teens need to decide the genre-humor, fantasy, horror, contemporary, etc.  We will provide pencil and paper for teens to story board.
  • Once they have an idea, they may begin.  Our teens will use Adobe Draw on an iPad.  They can draw panels, the art and the words.  The advantage of Draw is that you can upload directly to Comic Fury without the possibility of blurry imagery.  You can create on paper but teens will have to scan and upload and make sure their image is at least 300dpi.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017-Animated Shorts

Animated shorts are short animation stories.   Our stories will be under 7 minutes.

  • We will be using the Do Ink Green Screen App and the Do Ink Drawing and Animation App. When purchased together, the cost is $5.99.
    • The Green Screen App is pretty easy to use once you figure out what goes in the foreground and the background.  The green screen tutorial is pretty good. The drawing app has one tutorial on how to animate stock drawings which is easy but doing your own animation was a bit of a challenge.
      • How to do your own drawings:
        • Tap “new drawing” in the new project window (+) and draw your picture.
        • Go back to gallery and tap “new composition.”
        • At the top of the new composition screen, tap the star shape to find and insert your original drawing. Tap your drawing to insert.
        • Watch the drawing app tutorial to learn how to animate.
  • Teens will begin by writing their short story.
  • They will then storyboarding each scene including dialog and animation.
  • They will use the Do Ink Animation app to draw or use stock images to animate.
  • Using the Do Ink Green Screen app, teens will film each scene and then add animation during editing.
  • If there is time, we will have a film festival and watch everyone’s shorts.  If there’s no time, we will post the films on Facebook and/or Youtube.

Thursday, October 12, 2017-Comic Jam

We are actually doing zines but our teens don’t know what a zine is so we changed the name to get teens in the door.

Zines are small magazines about whatever you want. Here is a link on how to make a zine.

Have a great Teen Read Week!

Posted in Makerspace

Quick STEAM: DIY Skull Caps

WINTER IS COMING so nows the time to do winter craft programs.

In October, we are hosting a week of bling where teens will decorate ball caps, skull caps, and will make a cell phone case.  I’ll post that in mid-October but I decided to do a separate post on our skull cap crafts.


Puff Ball

We’ve noticed that our teens do not understand the concept of reading directions.  So we now put paper instructions for most of our craft programs.  Paper instructions are also helpful when you expect a lot of teens but only have one or two staff.  TIP-Use more pictures and less text for your instruction sheet.  As you are practicing the craft, take pictures of each step including the supplies you are using for that step.  Put your pics together to make a step-by-step instruction sheet.

Here are my step-by-step instructions:

LED in Puff Ball

  1. Push the LED through the puff and into the hat.  Always test the LED to see if lights up.
  2. Turn the hat inside out and fold back the prongs into a curl.  Be sure to remember which prong is the + side.  Curl it differently or mark it with a Sharpie.
  3. Using the conductive thread, sew the positive side of the battery holder to the positive prong.  Sew about three loops around the holder and the prong to make it tight.  Make sure your stitches are small, otherwise, your LED may not light.  Cut the thread and repeat on the negative side.
  4. Insert the battery and your all done.
  5. You may want to sew or glue the puff ball to the hat to secure it even more.
  6. If your LED doesn’t work, change to battery, check your stitching, or make sure the threads you cut don’t touch.

Flowers on the Hat

The final step is missing, sorry.  Simply wrap the felt and glue the ends.


Glue gems in a desired shape.  Pom poms could also be used to decorate your hat.

The glue in the picture takes about 15 minutes to dry.  You can use hot glue if you’re in a time crunch.


Posted in Holiday Programs

Halloween Parties

Halloween Parties

It’s the end of August and school’s almost back in session so it’s time to start planning for Halloween.  Tired of your same old Halloween party?  Here are some Halloween themed parties that we’ve done at our library and some horror type activities that could fit for a Halloween party.

Poe Party (Edgar Allen Poe)

Believe it or not, teens like Poe.  Many middle schools and especially high school read his work in class and since teens like anything scary, they usually like Poe.

Please click the link to see our Poe Party.

Sugar Skulls/Day of the Dead

sugar skullsWe hired someone to facilitate this program and chances are there is someone in your community you can hire.  Sugar Skulls is part of Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and you literally decorate skulls made of sugar.  If you bring in a facilitator, they will probably provide a short history lesson and bring all the supplies which is great.

If you want to do them without hiring someone, you’ll probably have to order the skulls and frosting from a speciality store because I don’t think they are available on Amazon.  If you just want to do a Day of the Dead party, you can find ceramic skulls and wooden skulls on Oriental Trading.

If you want to pair with a book, Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier and Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova feature The Day of the Dead.

Murder Mysteries

Murder mysteries are a popular program at my library that we do annually. We do ours in January but one could still do them during Halloween.  The great thing about murder mysteries is that they are cheap but the bad thing is that they require A LOT of staff time.   our murder mysteries always require teen participation (actors) and an original script and these are the time suckers.  If you aren’t worried about that, please click the links below to see our past murder mysteries.

Death at a Slumber Party

Library Horror Story

We had a Medieval Murder Mystery and the actors were staff.  For this program, we had a joke contest, a joust tournament (NCAA style), and they learned a traditional dance.  We also had one of the staffers read a story from Canterbury Tales-Miller’s Wife.  We served fried chicken, potato wedges, and “mead.”

This was my first murder mystery so I didn’t save the script but the characters were a queen, a king, a prince, a princess, and the queen’s maid who was having an affair with the king.  The queen is poisoned and the teens had to guess whodunit.  Everyone had a motive.  The queen’s maid was the murderer because of the affair but we didn’t make their affair obvious to the teens.  If they were paying attention, they would have seen the one clue.  This was actually one of the best murder mysteries simply because the staff really committed to the play.

The following programs we did not do at our library but they are still good ideas that we might try.

Spooky Nails

pumpkin spice 5

This is a bit girly but some of the boys did it for fun.

We asked staff to donate any unwanted nail polish.  We purchased black, white, and purple if no one donated.  We also purchased polish remover and cotton balls.


Not-Quite-Halloween-Yet-Still-Fall-Themed: Pumpkin Spice Party

pumpkin spice 11

Somewhere around the middle of September, everything at the grocery store has a pumpkin spice flavor, thanks Starbucks.  So we decided to turn this into a themed party!

Decorations: We held this around Halloween and we were in our teen room so however we decorated the room, that was our decor.

Promotion: Besides our normal newsletter and flyer promotion, we did a book display of orange/red covered books in a nice fall basket.

Food: Pumpkin Spice flavored hot & iced coffee; pumpkin spice donuts; pumpkin spice Oreos; pumpkin spice popcorn; pumpkin spice cupcakes.

Activities: We made pumpkin spice lip gloss.  Search Pinterest for DIY lip gloss. It’s really easy to make-bees wax, essential oils, pumpkin spice food flavoring, and we did crayon for tint. You can purchase little glass containers at Hobby Lobby or Michaels.


Haunted Gingerbread Houses

Halloween at Hogwarts-You can recreate the Deathday Party Harry, Ron, and Hermione attend hosted by Nearly Headless Nick in book #2/chapter 8.

Jack Skellington Party (Nightmare Before Christmas)

Goosebumps Party (for younger teens and if your Goosebumps books still go out)

Breakout EDU-The kit costs $200 and Google provides step by step instructions for several escape room ideas.

Posted in Big Programs

Teen Read Week: Short Story Contest

The theme for Teen Read Week 2017 is Unleash Your Story which makes it the perfect time to host a short story contest for your teens.  At my library, we run an annual short story contest and 2017 will be our 5th annual.  If you are interested in hosting a contest at your library, here’s how we organize ours-ZB Inked Short Story Contest.

What Should the Rules Be?

Rules are IMPORTANT for your participants and your sanity.  Make sure your rules are appropriate for your demographic and something you can handle.  Here are our more important rules:

  • Stories should be no longer than 4 pages.  You may be inundated with hundreds zb inked 2of stories and to maintain your sanity, limit the number of pages.  In previous years, it was a three page max but our teens complained and we increased it.  We also have the rule…
  • Teens may submit up to two stories.  Once again, please be mindful of your sanity.  We did this because our contest is not themed and our teens were conflicted between what story to submit.  One teen also found this as a loophole to the 4 page limit.  He was frustrated because he couldn’t condense his story so he submitted chapter one and chapter two as two separate stories.  He won first place that year.
  • The contest is only open to teens in our district.  Some libraries open their contest to anyone but we live in a lower income community and some of our submissions are good stories but poorly executed.  We also live in one of the wealthiest counties in the state with the best schools and many, not all but many, of our teens can’t quite compete.  We want the teens in our district to have a shot at winning. I know that sounds like we have no faith in our teens/schools but in previous years, teens in neighboring districts took all three awards so we decided to limit the contest.  We occasionally get the teacher who lives out of the district and asks if their kid can participate but we sadly decline their submission.
  • We only allow emailed submissions.  This is actually a new rule for this year.  We create an anthology of the winners and it’s easier to print from email than copy from paper.  If you are opening your contest to younger teens, 4th-5th grade, you may consider paper submissions as younger teens don’t have computers or email at school.
  • Grammar Counts.  We have a strict grammar rule and since then, the submissions have been thoroughly proofread.  We also tell our teens they will be judged on creativity, originality, and use of characters.
  • We have two grade categories: 6th-8th & 9th-12th. If just isn’t fair to make a 6th grader compete with a 12th grader.
  • Not all prizes are guaranteed.  In other words, there might not be a third place winner.  On low submission years, we didn’t have good stories but we said there would be 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes awarded.  This year, we will not award bad stories.
  • We don’t sensor the teens.  We do ask that they use family friendly language but they may write about abuse, LGBTQ, violence, gore, mental health, etc.   We have received submissions about abortion and gay characters and we’ve never received any complaints from parents.  We do however, put a disclaimer on those stories in the anthology.
  • Other important rules: Have a clear cut of date and time for submission deadlines.  9pm to midnight is best because teens tend to work late into the evening.  Have one email for submissions and questions.  Express an acceptable type font and size-we do Times New Roman/12/double-spaced.  Express the date when you will announce the winners otherwise you’ll have teens asking every day. Give yourself two to three weeks to judge.

ZB Library Short Story Flyer/Rules


zb inked
Contest winner with Stacey Kade

Prizes are up to your budget but whatever your prize, list it on the flyer.

  • We host an author visit every Spring and one of our contest prizes is to have dinner with the author.  Teens enjoy this because the dinner is usually limited to 10 teens and they can ask all the questions they desire.

Get The Word Out-CHEAPLY

We live in a community where we have to jump through hoops to promote our programs and services.  If you work at a library where people actually read their newsletter, congrats and you can probably skip this part.  If you aren’t so lucky, here’s what we do:

  • Schools. We usually just send flyers to English/reading teachers and librarians but this year we will also send free books.  We received a large donation from Scholastic and we will be giving out approx. 500 books.
    • Asking Publishers for Book Donations.  We simply visit all book publishers, find the school/library marketing contact, and ask for donations.  We always describe our program and intent with the books.  You’ll receive lots of no’s but you may get lucky like we did.
    • Teachers.  Ask a teacher, librarian, or principal from each school to judge the contest.  They will be invested in the contest and encourage their students to enter.
      • At our library, our teen staff chooses the top six finalists and we have teachers judge the finalists.  Teachers are busy so don’t give them more work.
  • Social Media.  
    • Try a Facebook or Instagram boost.  Boosts are cheap ($7-$20) and they reach hundreds of patrons IN YOUR COMMUNITY.  When you post on FB, you’ll see a blue button that says, “boost.”  Click it and follow the directions.
    • Weeks leading up to the deadline, I post creative writing tips.  This is a different way of reminding your followers of the contest without being annoying.
  • Wattpad
    • Wattpad is a website where people publish their short stories and novels.  LOTS of teens read and write on Wattpad so this year we will include it in our contest.
      • We’ve created an account and teens can easily share the story with us on Wattpad and it will count as their entry.


We use a rubric that you may use below.  We also deduct points for not including a full name, grade, and school.  We put this on the rule sheet.  We do this to make teens accountable for life.  In life, you have to put your contact info; might as well start now.

We take the average from every judge to determine our winners.  We also encourage judges to make comments.

Judging Rubric

When you’ve chosen a winner, take a picture and see if you can get it in your local newspaper so that your patrons will look out for your contest next year.

zb inke


Posted in Makerspace

DIY Smashbooks

Smash books are a type of journal that includes one’s interests.  For example if you are a theater buff, you can put all your stubs, playbills, pictures, etc in your smash book.

Smash books are an inexpensive program which gives your teens an opportunity for expression while allowing you to clear out your old craft supplies.

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Supplies Needed:


  • Binder Ringssmashbook2
  • Cardboard for front and back cover
  • Scissors
  • Glue/glue dots
  • Paper Inserts


  • Envelopes to hold concert tickets/stubs, etc
  • Hole Punch to add additional decorative paper and envelopes.
  • Gems
  • Washi tape
  • Magazines for cutting pics and words
  • Decorative paper
  • Fun Stickers
  • Anything decorative you have in your craft closet

How to Smash Book

  1. Pre hole punch your cardboard and paper inserts.
  2. Give each teen two pieces of cardboard, paper inserts, and three binder rings.
  3. Set out all the supplies in the middle of the table.
  4. Have teens decide the theme of their smash book first so that they can choose their pictures, stickers, and decor accordingly.
  5. Let teens create.


The Smashbook program was organized and facilitated by my co-worker, Elise.

Posted in Makerspace

Terrariums & Fairy Gardens

Terrariums are a great, albeit expensive, way to introduce the S in STEAM and fairy gardens are a great way to introduce a new A in STEAM.

Disclaimer: Both programs were created a facilitated by my co-worker, Elise

Terrariums-garden science is actually quite popular among a specific group of teens.  These teens like planting and if you are unable to create a garden at your library, terrariums can be an alternative. 

Each layer in a terrarium has a purpose and this is where you can incorporate science.

Supplies Needed:

How To:  We made an assembly line with instructions.  FYI, this is a drop in type program and will take no longer than 15 minutes to complete.  

Layer One: one to two inch layer of pebbles for drainageterrariums 5

Layer Two: a thin layer of charcoal to prevent bacteria and mold

Layer Three: an inch or two of potting soil

Layer Four: Place the Succulent

Layer Five: Add figurines

Caring For the Terrarium: We gave each teen a sheet with care instructions

  • Keep terrarium in indirect sunlight
  • Lightly water each week with a spray bottle


Fairy Gardens are decorative and are more about an expression of art than science.  The folklore of fairy gardens is that they bring good luck. 

Supplies Needed:

  • Container- (we found random shallow boxes from Walmart, Target, and Dollar Store.  I’ve seen fairy gardens in tea cups.) terrariums 7
  • Bird Houses
  • Pebbles/Polished gravel
  • Moss (we used loose moss but it was messy and difficult to glue)
  • Figurines
  • Glue (E6000, hot glue, rubber cement)
  • Twigs (Picked from outside)
  • Pine cones (store bought or outside)
  • Craft sticks or other random craft supplies from your closet. (small plastic flowers, sea shells, fake leaves, butterflies)

How To: We put the house and the base on the main table and we laid out all the extras on a different table.  We gave each teen a plate to “shop” all the extras-grab what they liked to add to their garden.

Tip: Leave out pictures for inspiration and provide a couple of minutes for teens to design their garden on paper.  If you want to turn this into a design class, you can teach the basics of city planning.



Posted in Makerspace

Quick STEAM: eTextiles

Looking for a quick LED project on something other than paper? Try sewable LEDs on a t-shirt.



How To:

  1. Test your LED sequins first with alligator clips.
  2. As you can see from the picture, I used the pocket of the t-shirt.  If you are working with novices, I’d recommend you not use the pocket because it got a bit tricky avoiding sewing the pocket shut.
  3. Have teens design a picture on paper to plan where they are going to place the LED.
    1. Keep in mind that one side of the LED must connect to the positive side of the battery holder and the negative to the other side.  This means two different tracks.  I found using one sequins is best for novices.
    2. TIP-It’s best to draw a picture that has a mirror image and then place the sequins in the middle.
  4. Have teens lightly pencil draw their picture on the t-shirt.  This is to keep their sewing straight.  Remember to hold a place for the sequins.
  5. Thread your needle.  Don’t double thread like you do traditional sewing thread.  It will be too thick.  In other words, don’t pull your thread through the eye of the needle to create two strands of thread like traditional threading.
  6. On the under side of the t-shirt, secure one side of the batter holder by looping through three times.
  7. Sew your track to your sequins.
  8. IMPORTANT!!! Make sure the positive side of the sequins faces the positive side of the battery holder.
  9. Begin a new line of thread for the other side of the battery holder and repeat.
  10. Insert the battery and cross your fingers that it works.




If your LED doesn’t work:

  • Make sure you have a good battery.
  • Be sure your threads don’t touch.  This is usually the problem.
  • Make sure your sequins +/- lines up with the battery.


Posted in Makerspace

3D Print Your Own Fidget Spinner

Being a programming librarian basically means that we have to always be ready for the next trend.  Last summer it was Pokemon Go and this summer it has been fidget spinners.  How can libraries capitalize on the fidget spinner craze before they go out of style?  3D print them.



Disclaimer: this program was created a facilitated by my co-worker Elise and I was a mere helper.



  • Elise began by determining the dimensions of the center ring (where the ball bearing sits). We have a Lulzbot Mini and we use Cura to print.  The center ring dimensions are: 24.5×24.5×8 (circumference-24.5 and height-8).

If you are using a different printer, you can use the dimensions of the ball bearing you purchase and go from there.  We ran into issues with this method because Cura changed the dimensions when it printed.  We don’t know why and poor Elise had to print about 8 rings until she found the correct dimensions.

  • Soak your ball bearings in rubbing alcohol to clean them.  A clean bearing spins better.


Before the class began, the teens were told that their spinners would not be printed by the end of program.  We had teens write down their address and they were told that their spinners would be mailed to them the following week.  This eliminates the highly likelihood of them coming into the library every hour asking for updates.


  • We use Tinkercad to teach the basics of 3D printing design.  All attendees who have never 3D printed had to take six basic lessons on Tinkercad.
  • Next, we had teens begin with the ring shape and had them change the dimensions to 24.5×24.5×8.
  • Teens were then instructed to design around the center ring.
  • Tips: Everything must be the same height and touching.


  • We were able to print two spinners during the program.  Teens used a hammer to secure their bearing.
  • We informed teens to apply grease to get a longer spin.
Posted in Makerspace

Conductive Music and Art

 You can make a piano, a guitar, or a complete band.  OR teens can create a comic/visual story and add sound effects.

Here’s How:

Supplies Needed:

  • Conductive paint
  • copper wire
  • Foam board
  • Paint brushes
  • Drawing utensils (pencils, markers, rulers, etc)
  • Touch Board / touch board kit (I prefer the touch board to Makey Makey b/c there are no wires)
  • Speaker (if you don’t buy the touch board kit)
  • Alligator clips
  • A computer(s)


To make a piano:


  1. Using conductive paint to paint large squares on the foam board to make keys.   The touch board allows for 12 sounds/notes.  As you see in the picture, we made big squares so we used two boards.
  2. Using copper tape or conductive paint (I prefer tape b/c it isn’t as finicky as paint), connect your squares/keys to the other side of the board. In the picture above, you can see the lines leading from the squares to the edge of the other side of the board.  You can use tape instead of paint for the lines.
  3. Follow the instructions in the packaging to add sounds to the touch board. It’s very easy.  We used zapsplat.com to get free sound effects/notes.
  4. Put the touch board directly on the board and use tape to adhere it better. I found it easier to use copper tape to attach the touch board to the foam board. The picture below shows the tape on top of the touch board.


You can make other instruments the same way just download different notes.

You can also put the piano on the floor and let patrons step on it in their socks.

If you can only afford one touch board, you can use the the same touch board for different instruments b/c the board provides 12 sounds.  Simply put all the instruments on the same board or tape several boards together.  You can draw lines with paint or tapes to the touch board.  See all my lines with the picture below.  (This is our interactive mural.  Click here to see the video.

This is our interactive mural.

To make art/comic:

  1. Ask the teens to draw something that has a lot of sound.  We used an example of beach scene or a house.
  2. The touch board holds twelve sounds.  If you have one board/teen that’s great but if you only have one board for multiple teens, divide the sounds among them.  For example, we had six teens and three touch boards so each teen could have an art img_3045piece that could have six sounds.
    1. Have the teens decide what sounds they are going to incorporate before they begin drawing.
  3. Have teens draw their picture and draw their circuit lines.  The lines should extend to the border of the paper.
  4. Use conductive paint or copper tape to cover their hand drawn circuit lines. We used conductive paint. The advantage to copper tape is no drying time and it’s less finicky.
  5. Use alligator clips the attach conductive lines to the touch board.  This way, more teens can use the same board.

If the video below, you can see that we made interactive art on our wall.  If you have a teen room and can paint on the wall, go for it.

Posted in Makerspace

Smoothie Smash

Our teens love food programs and yours probably do too.  For the smoothie smash, we didn’t just follow a recipe, teens created their own recipes thus learning how to properly make a smoothie.

Budget: $35 (Frozen fruit, fresh bananas, milk, yogurt, orange juice, coconut flakes, and flavorings.)  We borrowed blenders from staff

  • Teens sat in groups of two to four and each group received a blender.
  • They saw a very short slide show on the smoothie making process and how to use a blender.
  • To make sure they were paying attention, they played a Kahoot game.  Kahoot is an online trivia platform where you can create the questions and the teens use the smart devices to log in and play.  ALL of our teens LOVE Kahoot and it’s free.  If you haven’t used it and you do lots of trivia games, I HIGHLY recommend it.
  • They were given a recipe for practice and they were given tips as they made it.
  • They tasted their smoothie and they were asked to evaluate and adjust by adding fruit.
  • They were then allowed to go to the ingredients table to make their own recipe.  They were given recipe cards and had to record the exact measurements-1 cup of yogurt, etc.
  • They blended their recipe and tweaked it.  Once they were satisfied, they wrote a fresh recipe card and named their smoothie.
  • They poured enough for the entire group to taste test and we then voted.
  • The winning group received a water infuser cup.  All teens received a page of smoothie recipes.

They really enjoyed the program of our course they provided more food program ideas like a soup competition.

Posted in Makerspace, Unboxing

April Unboxing: Moss Robot

Moss Robot from Modular Robotics

  • $200-$349
  • The box says ages 8 and up but if you don’t have advanced teens, I’d say 10 and up
  • One box can accommodate 4 students

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If there’s a product that you are thinking about and would like for me to unbox, leave it in the comments below.

Posted in Big Programs, Makerspace

Don’t Just Play Games; Make Them

We live in a community where teens play A LOT of games but they don’t know much about making them so we decided to create a day long game making bonanza and we called it Challenge Accepted.

Attendance: 84 (6th-12th grades and adults)

Budget: $500 (Game Truck, lunch, dinner, snacks)  We shared the cost of the game truck with the youth department.  You can save money by only offering snacks.

11am-1pm: Create Your Own Super Mario Bros Level or Minecraft Mod

Teens STILL love Super Mario Bros and we used that to hook them.  We used two different programs-Gamestar Mechanic and Pixel Press.



  • Gamestar Mechanic is done online through a website where teens play levels, similar to the game they are going to design, to acquire characters; obstacle; villains; etc.  Teens can go through a tutorial to learn the basics if you are not comfortable teaching game design.
    • Game Mechanic costs $2/student and you can receive a free trial to test.
    • The teens really liked Game Mechanic and I highly recommend it.
  • Pixel Press-Adventure Time is an app that allows the gamer to add coins, obstacles, and levels.
    • The app is $2.99 and you can upload it to multiple iPads.
    • This game has a steeper learning curve than Gamestar and I would say it’s more appropriate for an intermediate gamer/coder.
Pixel Press Adventure Time

Minecraft Mods

  • Tynker is an app that allows gamers to make their own worlds.
    • Tynker requires a subscription.
    • You have to have your own Minecraft server which is difficult for a library.
  • Kano is a arduino that can do the same as Tynker. We used Kano because we already purchased them with grant funds.
    • You have to purchase Kano kits for $150-$350/ea
    • Kano provides step by step instructions which is great for librarians who are Minecraft novices.
Making Minecraft Mods with Kano

1pm-3pm: Laser Tag/Game Truck

Game Truck is a big green truck that come to you to lead games.  We wanted to do laser tag on the library’s lawn as a energy release from sitting behind a computer all day.  It rained that day so we did video games instead.  Teens REALLY loves Game Truck even though it’s just gaming in a big truck.  I highly recommend it if you have it in your area.  You get it for two hours and it costs about $400.

Inside the Game Truck

3pm-5:30pm: DIY Board Game and 3D Print your Pawn/Die

Cooperative games are all the rage and I wanted teens to learn how to create their own board game.

  • I printed a blank game board from Google Images and stapled it to foam board.
  • I added space for cards like Chance cards from Monopoly.
  • I included space for title; description; objective; rules; and place to design pawn or die

Game Day

  • Teens were divided into groups of three or four.
  • Each group was given a game board, scratch paper, pencils, and colored pencils.
  • I allowed between 5-10 minutes for each item
    • Teens were asked to decide on the description; objective; rules; cards; die design; and title.
  • Teens were then allowed the rest of the time to create their board game.
  • One person was designated to design their pawn or die in Tinkercad-3D printing website.
    • We were able to print one pawn during the program and we told teens to return to pick up their piece.
      • We will print a pawn or die for each member of the group.

6-8pm: Dungeons and Dragons

We do not know how to play so we asked a staff member to be a dungeon master and to teach the basics of the game.  Since libraries are full of nerds, chances are you have a D&D player among your co workers or you can ask one of your teens.

Posted in Makerspace

I Just Got A Grant for a Makerspace! Now What?

I’ve seen this thread on Facebook several times.  Libraries are super excited to have a makerspace or maker activities and they apply for grants. When they receive the grants, library workers are told to purchase maker supplies but the librarian/library worker is new to the maker movement and doesn’t know where to begin.  If you’ve asked this question on Facebook or you are developing maker activities and don’t know where to begin, I’m here to assist you.

My library was tasked with developing a makerspace last year and we had to purchase equipment so I’ve been in your shoes. Here’s a breakdown of budget constraints and what to purchase to make the biggest impact.  This post will focus on equipment and not craft type making.  This post will also focus on equipment appropriate for ages 8 and up.

Tip #1: Avoid consumables.  Try to purchase equipment that can be used for months or years and avoid the one and done.

Tip #2: Always consider the number of teens you are serving.  Avoid purchasing a robot that only 2 kids can use at once when you are serving 20.  You can create centers/stations to accommodate a large group with a small number of equipment.

Tip #3: Consider “In App Purchases.” In other words, when budgeting, consider the cost of consumable supplies.  For example, if you are buying 3D pens, you’ll have to continuously  buy plastic and it can get expensive.

Budget- Under $250

  • Ozobots-$54/ea
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 8 and up
      • Ozobots are great for novice to advanced coders.
      • You can code the Ozobot Bit using a free app.  (We could not get it to work on a chromebook but you can use a computer.)
      • You can download lesson plans on the website.
      • Doesn’t violate TIP #3. All you need is paper and markers.
    • Cons:
      • Violates TIP #2-Only one to two teens can use it at once.
  • LEGO Edison-$50/ea
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 10 and up
      • Edison is great for novice to advanced coders.
      • You can code Edison using a free app or computer. (We could not get it to work on a chromebook but you can use a computer.)
      • Edison connects through the sound jack so you don’t need wifi or bluetooth.
      • You can download lesson plans on the website.
      • Doesn’t violate TIP #3 unless you want to buy Legos.  You don’t have to use Legos.
      • If you have Legos, you can use them to build on the Edison.
    • Con:
      • Violates TIP #2-Only one to two teens can use it at once.
  • Makey Makey-$50
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 8 and up
      • Makey Makey is great for beginners and advanced teens.
      • Makey Makey can be project based and can accommodate several teens at once.
      • You can use a Chromebook!!!
      • Makey Makey can be coded using Scratch.
    • Cons:
      • The website does not provide a lot of lesson plans.  I’d suggest searching Youtube.
  • Snap Circuits-$35
    • Pros:
      • Lesson plans come in the box. No need to teach anything.
    • Cons:
      • The $35 kit only has 100 lessons.  The more lessons you want the more expensive it gets.
      • It may not keep your advanced teens busy or challenged
      • Batteries die quickly.
      • The clean up.  Teens never put it back correctly and it’s annoying!
      • Violates TIP #2-It will only accommodate one teen.
  • Drones-$50-$75/ea
    • Pros: We used Parrot Mini Drones and they cost about $50/ea.
      • Great for ages 9 and up.
      • Great for beginners and intermediate teens.  Advanced or older teens may get bored quickly and I’ll explain in the con section.
      • Teens can fly them or code them.  We used the Tynker app.
      • The drones we used can do video and pictures.
      • They are tough and survive many falls.
    • Cons:
      • Violates TIP #2-One teen/drone
      • Violates TIP #1-you will have to replace propellors and wheels.
      • The cheaper drones should not be flown outside.  The breeze might affect the flight.  We flew ours in our maker space.  Teens took turns flying them.
      • Short battery life. Batteries only last about 5 minutes before a recharge.  We had to buy 20 batteries to sustain a two hour program.
      • There’s only so much coding with drones.  Advanced teens might get bored with a drone like Parrot.  If you have advanced teens, I’d suggest purchasing a more expensive drone that can be flown outdoors.
  • Makedo-$50-$125
    • Pros:
      • Great for 10 and up
      • The tools and connectors are reusable.
      • The toolkit includes a safe box cutter!
      • All you have to add is cardboard and if you work in a library, there’s cardboard-a-plenty!  You can purchase cheap cardboard boxes at Walmart/Target.
      • You can download their free app for challenges and instructions.
    • Cons:
      • The connectors can be difficult to remove and this is why I say ages 10 and up.  You need muscle to remove them.
  • Crayola Air Sprayer-$30/ea
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 8 and up
      • You can use any markers so it doesn’t quite violate TIP #1 (consumables).
    • Cons:
      • The sprayers get clogged so have wipes and paper clips ready.
      • It’s loud.
  • Google Cardboard-$15/ea
    • Pro:
      • Great for ages 8 and up
      • Great for all levels
      • Most apps are free
    • Cons:
      • Teens will have to bring their own phone.  If you live in a poorer community, some teens may not be able to participate if they don’t have a compatible phone.
      • Drains phone batteries quickly.
  • LEDs-$35 +
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 10 +
      • Great for beginners and advanced teens
      • LEDs are versatile.  Here’s my blog post about three ways to teach LEDs.
      • It only violates TIP #1 if you let teens take their projects home and you probably do.
        • $35 will accommodate ten teens and that’s pretty cheap.
    • Cons:
      • Some projects require hand sewing and many teens don’t know how so you will have to teach it.
  • Green Screen-$25-$50
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 8 and up
      • Great for all levels
      • We use the Do Ink app for $2.99 and we like it.
    • Cons:-Nothing

Budgets Under $500

If you have a $500 budget, you can purchase anything from the $250 list.  The following list includes more expensive equipment.

  • Sphero-$80-$130/ea
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 8 and up
      • Great for beginners and advanced teens
      • Teens can drive or code the robot.
      • You can download the free app for challenges and coding instructions.
    • Cons:
      • Violates TIP #2-only one to two teens can use one robot at a time.
  • 3D Pens-$30-$100/ea
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 8 and up depending on the pen you purchase
      • Great for beginners and advanced teens
    • Cons:
      • It takes some time to get used to it.
      • They can clog
      • Violates TIP #2-One teen/pen
      • Violates TIP #3-You’ll be buying filament for the rest of your life.
  • Raspberry Pi-$40/ea
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 13 and up
      • Great for intermediate and advanced teens
    • Cons:
      • To get the full education benefits, teens should install the operating system and software.  This takes time for staff to learn to be able to teach. This also takes time to do for a program. It’s also a lot of waiting around for it to download.
      • Once everything is downloaded, it’s basically a comupter.  The educational part is the first bullet.
    • Suggestions-If you do a Raspberry Pi program, try to attract people who are familiar with arduino and not beginners.  There’s an arduino that’s good for beginners called Kano and it’s the next bullet.
  • Kano-$150/ea-For this price, you only get the arduino and keyboard and will have to supply TV screens.  $350 will get you a screen but if you only have $500, I wouldn’t suggest getting Kano.
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 8 and up
      • Great for beginners and intermediate coders.  Advanced teens might get bored.
      • Kano provides clear step by step set up instructions will little assistance from staff.
      • Teens can create their own Minecraft mods and use drag and drop to code music, art, and games.  All of this is self directed.
    • Cons:
      • If you don’t buy the screen kit for $350, you’ll have to get TV screens.
  • Chibitronics-$30-$150
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 8 and up
      • Great for beginners to advanced teens.
      • The website provides lesson plans
    • Cons:
      • Violates TIP #1-Chibis are consumable and expensive.
  • Screen Printing-$75-$100. You don’t have to buy a kit.  You can get a screen and a base and clamp it to a table.  You can buy fabric paint, a squeegee, and stencils separately.
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 8 and up
      • Great for all levels.
    • Cons:
      • Violates TIP #1-Paint makes it consumable
  • Teacher Geek-$100-$300
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 8 and up
      • Great for all levels
      • The website provides WONDERFUL lesson plans and Youtube videos
      • It covers science, engineering, and art
    • Cons:
      • Violates Tip #3-Some of the items are consumable but it’s inexpensive to replace.

Budgets Under $1000

If you have a $1000 budget, you can purchase anything from the $500 list.  The following list includes more expensive equipment.

  • Little Bits-$300 + Little Bits seem cheap but you have to purchase several kits to accommodate ten students.
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 8 and up
      • Great for all levels
      • The website has an extensive library of lesson plans
      • Encourages creativity
      • You can use all your craft supplies to supplement-cups. craft sticks, paper towel rolls, etc.
    • Cons:
      • Sometimes the little wires break and you have to replace the bit.  Tell teens to be careful.
  • Silhouette Cutting Machine-$200-$300. I’d suggest spending the extra $100 for the better machine-it does more.
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 10 and up
      • Great for all levels
      • Teens can create their own stencil for the screen printing.  They can also make: vinyl decals/stickers; 3D shapes; etc.
      • Teens can create their own decals. We use the free Adobe Draw app.
    • Cons:
      • Violates TIP #3-You’ll be purchasing vinyl for the rest of your life but it’s not that expensive.  Transfer paper is what’s expensive.
  • Moss Robotics-$200-$350-I have a Moss but I haven’t used it yet so I don’t have any further info but it looks cool and that’s why I bought it.
  • Lego Mindstorms-$350/ea
    • Pros:
      • Great for ages 12 and up
      • Great for intermediate to advanced coders
      • Lego provides software on a computer or an app.
      • Teens can assemble the bot in the instructions and once they understand the motors, they can create their own bot.
    • Cons:
      • I suggest assembling the bot before your program because that can take more than one hour.
      • Violates TIP #2- I’d suggest three teens/bot

Budgets of $5000 +

If you have a $5000 budget, you can purchase anything from the $1000 list.  The following list includes more expensive equipment.

  • 3D Printer-$1300-$5000-I’m not an expert of 3D printers so I won’t recommend one.  We decided on the Lulzbot after surveying many librarians.  We actually have the Lulzbot mini because we had a small budget.
    • We’ve had it for one year and so far it’s been good.  We did have to replace the extruder one time.  It does clog sometimes but we’ve always been able to fix it.  We are novice 3D printer enthusiasts and we’ve been able to figure it out.
    • I will recommend Lulzbot products.  We use Tinkercad to teach 3D printing and we have teens follow the instruction booklet and they do it with ease.
    • The filament lasts a long time.
    • The only potential issue is that our Lulzbot isn’t enclosed but we watch it very carefully and so far teens don’t touch it while it’s going.
Posted in Makerspace

Teacher Geek

Teachergeek.com is a maker company that sells kits and individual pieces to inspire innovation.  You can find ideas for science, technology, and especially engineering.

Teacher Geek is great because it’s inexpensive and they provide free curriculum with easy to follow instructions.  On first sight the product seems to be geared toward early elementary to middle school but the product can challenge your most advanced makers.  For your advanced makers, set out various pieces along with tape; cups; rulers; cardboard; etc and give your makers a directive without instruction.

Another pro is that the possibilities are endless.


Posted in Makerspace

Egg Drop Challenge

Easter is a challenging month for teen programming because the holiday is geared toward children. We try to avoid egg dying or egg hunts and do something unconventional with eggs.

This year we did an Egg Drop Challenge.  We set out straws, cardboard, cotton balls, tape, cups, popsicle sticks, and felt.  Teens began with placing their egg in a plastic baggie to protect our carpet and they had to use at least four materials.

When they were confident, staff dropped the egg from an 8-foot ladder because our insurance doesn’t cover teens on ladders.

Teens were given two tries/two eggs and everyone succeeded.

Posted in Makerspace

Kano: Intro to Arduino

Think of Kano as Raspberry Pi Lite.

It’s a kit that you can buy with or without a screen.  The kit without the screen costs about $150 and you can plug it into a computer/TV screen via HDMI.  The kit with screens costs about $300.

After the teens set up the Kano with the easy to follow instructions, they can code games; make their own Minecraft mods, and share games globally.  It’s a computer so it also has internet access.

kano 2


  • It’s for grades 6+
  • It’s easy for kids/teens to set up right out of the box.
  • Kano requires minimal teaching from staff.  All the games provide coding tutorials.
  • The games use a simple drag and drop coding method.
  • Our teens were entertained for 1.5 hours.
  • It’s a great intro to Raspberry Pi because they are building a computer.
  • There are lots of Youtube videos.




  • It’s expensive.
  • Although it claims it’s for 6+, I would say a coding savvy 8th grader would get board very quickly.  If you have a lot of novices, Kano would keep middle and high schoolers entertained.

kano 3


Posted in Big Programs, Makerspace

Polymer Clay

Polymer Clay is used to make small figurines or jewelry and requires baking to harden.  For our polymer clay programs we advertise it as making mini foods because they are so cute but feel free to do whatever is popular in your community.   We use a convection oven to bake.  If you don’t have a convection oven, ask staff if they’d be willing to donate theirs for the day.


  • Provide pictures or videos if you have a big screen TV in your teen room.  Sometimes teens need a visual to get started.
  • Provide utensils for cutting and designing.  We put out toothpicks, plastic knives and forks.  If you purchase a kit, they provide utensils.
  • Provide hand sanitizer and napkins because if teens use red clay and then use white, the red clay on their fingers will ruin the white.  Inform teens to clean their hands between clay and the utensils.
  • If teens are making jewelry, the metal pieces can be baked.
  • Bake all the figurines together.  Bake at 275 degrees for 15 minutes.
  • Purchase the glue and gloss that’s made for polymer clay.  The glue is for the jewelry pieces and the gloss is to make it shiny.

Have Fun!

Posted in Makerspace

Advanced Coding with Lego Mindstorms

If you have teens who need a challenge, place a Lego Mindstorm in front of him. Lego Mindstorms provide instructions to build several types of bots including a robot, spider, and a viper.  Teens are tasked with coding different motors using an iPad or a computer.  Mindstorms run on bluetooth or wifi.

The Drawback:

  • They are $450 each.
  • It’s time consuming.  It takes a long time to build them and it takes a while to get the hang of coding them.  If you are having several programs, then you should be okay.  If you hare trying to do a two hour program, I suggest asking a teen to assemble your Mindstorms before class so you can focus on coding during class.

The Upside:

  • Once teens get the hang of the motors, they can make anything they want.
  • It’s endless hours of entertainment.


Posted in Big Programs

Murder Mystery

We do a murder mystery once a year because the teen love it and it’s cheap.  It does, however, take a lot of work.

Every year we change the theme just to keep it fresh.  The 2016 theme was a Pajama Party and this year’s theme was Library Horror Story. We chose this theme after a recent survey at school visits.  One of the most popular TV shows among these teens was American Horror Story.

Budget: $175 (All of this was the cost of pizza, chips, dessert, and beverages.  You don’t have to serve food.)

Attendance: 32 (Mostly high school)

Theme: We marketed the murder mystery as Library Horror Story but the actual theme was And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie.  We did not tell teens it was based on the Christie novel but our teen actors were aware.

We stuck to the overall premise of the Christie novel.  We sent out invitations to our teen regulars and included additional invites to give to friends.  In the pictures below is a character card where teens could come dressed in character and they were asked to stay in character the duration of the party. Of course this was optional.  The invite also included one clue.

The Party

It was marketed as a dinner party.  We began with dinner and the remainder of the party was traditional party games-charades; celebrity; sardines (hide and seek).  The party ended with the guessing of the killer and the motive.

The Script

If you are familiar with And Then There Were None, great.  If not, it’s difficult to describe so I suggest you watch the movie or the recent two part tv movie.

We had seven teen volunteers and five of the teens were suspects.  The other two teens were the wait staff.  Each suspect had to stay in character for the duration of dinner (3o minutes).  After 30 minutes, we played a recording-very similar to the novel.  FYI-we created a perfectly timed playlist on Youtube and the recording was part of the playlist.  We played the playlist through dinner and the wait staff informed our suspects when to sit to get ready for the recording.

During each of the party games, the suspects were being killed off one by one.  If you are familiar with the novel, you know that all the suspects die but one faked their death.

Here’s the Google Doc to the script. Here’s the Google Doc to the minute by minute outline that staff used.   Feel free to use them.  If you decide to change them, please save a copy in your own Google Drive first before you edit. Thanks.

Here’s the recording that’s played after dinner.  Excuse the All The Bright Places book cover.  You can’t add an MP3 to iMovie without an image.


Here’s a summary video



Posted in Makerspace

Coding Robots

Everyone loves robots, right? If you are looking for an introduction to coding robots that also happens to be cheap, try Lego Edison Robots.

Lego Edison bots cost about $50/ea and you can code them; they respond to sound and light; and you can use Legos to build on top of them.

lego-edisonThe advantage to Lego Edison is that it’s simple to code.  You can code them on a computer or an iPad through the headphone jack. Edison uses a VERY simple drag and drop method but unlike Scratch which some teens find daunting because of all the options, there are only about 20 codes you can use interchangeably.

Edisons are also great for a lesson in problem solving and they fulfill the math portion in STEAM.  You can design your curriculum to incorporate geometry.

Edison comes with lesson plans but I designed the maze seen in the video.  You can easily design a maze large or small.

Posted in Big Programs, Makerspace


Everyone knows what drones are but I’m sure you have lots of questions before you add them to your programming.

  1. Are they expensive? That depends on what you consider to be expensive.  We used Parrot Minidrones-specifically the Rolling Spider and they are $50 each on Amazon.
  2. Are they safe for teens? Yes. The youngest teen in our program was 10 and she picked it up very quickly.
  3. Can you do more than fly them? Yes.  We used the Tynker app to code our drones.  Teens were given code and they were able to write their own code.  The Rolling Spider can crawl up walls and across the ceiling. It can also takes pictures and videos.
  4. Can you fly them indoors? Yes.  The Rolling Spider is lightweight and if the wind gets it, it will fly away.  We also have a 10 foot ceiling at our library so you may want to test it if you have low ceilings.
  5. Do drones break easily?  No. Our teens crashed their drones all over the place and the worst thing that happened was a bent propeller.  You can purchase replacement parts.  We also kept the wheels on and that served as a buffer.
  6. How long do the batteries last?  For the Rolling Spider, the batteries only last 5-10 minutes and it takes about 20-30 minutes to recharge.  The only way to fix this is to buy LOTS of batteries.  We have five drones and twenty batteries and this worked out well.

Drones are an investment.  We spent @$350 for five drones, twenty batteries, five battery chargers, and replacement propellors and body parts.  It is expensive but you can use them for several programs so if your library has a strict per person budget system, repeating the program several times is cost effective.

Posted in Big Programs, Makerspace

Coding with Cardboard

Coding with Cardboard-Hummingbird

Participants can create whatever their hearts desire with cardboard-cars, robots, Harry Potter.  They decide how the want it to move.  Their creation can blink or swing.  It can move with a voice command or a motion sensor.  Then, they attach a servo and lights and code it using drag and drop.

Budget-$200-$1000 (Yeah, it’s not cheap)

Materials Needed:

  • Cardboard
  • Hot Glue
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Hummingbird Kits-Two to three teens can work in groups to cut costs.
  • Computer

Time Needed: Minimum-4 hours

  1. Have participants decide what they are going to make and how they want it to move. For example if they make a car, does the door swing open? Do the headlights blink?
  2. Have the participants make their creation out of cardboard.  This will take about two hours.
  3. Have the participants attach the LEDs and the servos (the gear that makes something swing).
  4. Download the offline version of Scratch or Snap.  There are video tutorials on the Hummingbird site to help you.

It seems easy but it’s challenging enough to keep your advanced makers engaged.



Posted in Big Programs, Makerspace

Putting the A in STEAM: Interactive Mural


If your teen patrons/students are anything like the ones in my library, you probably have a group of teens who are into anything tech and then you have a group of teens who sit and draw for hours.  All of your tech teens are planted behind a computer coding and 3D printing and you can’t pay your artsy teens to attend any of your tech programs.  What’s a teen library worker to do?  Combine tech and art with interactive art.

Electric Masterpiece

Time Needed: 2 hours

Materials Needed:

  1. Ask the teens to draw something that has a lot of sound.  We used an example of beach scene or a house.
  2. The touch board holds twelve sounds.  If you have one board/teen that’s great but if you only have one board for multiple teens, divide the sounds among them.  For example, we had six teens and three touch boards so each teen could have an art img_3045piece that could have six sounds.
    1. Have the teens decide what sounds they are going to incorporate before they begin drawing.
  3. Have teens draw their picture and draw their circuit lines.  The lines should extend to the border of the paper.
  4. Using conductive paint or copper tape to cover their hand drawn circuit lines. We used conductive paint. The advantage to copper tape is no drying time.
  5. If you are using the touch board: (We purchased the kit which came with paint, touch board, alligator clips, and a speaker.)
    1. Have teens find MP3’s that represent their sounds.  We used zapsplat.com for free MP3 sound effects.
    2. Insert the mini SD card the add tracks. Name each track as Track000; Track001, etc. (The touch board will provide downloading instructions.)
    3. Replace the SD card into the touch board and test by touching each number.img_3053
      1. Troubleshooting: if your touch board isn’t working:
        1. Make sure the speaker is turned up.
        2. Make sure you are using MP3’s.
        3. Turn the touch board on and off.
        4. Press the reset button.
  6. If you are using Makey Makey: (Makey Makey can only hold up to six sounds)
    1. Download Soundplant on your computer.
    2. Find sound effects. You can use zapsplat.com.  Assign the desired sound effect to the Makey Makey.
  7. Use alligator clips to connect the touch board/Makey Makey to the art piece.
  8. Touch the conductive paint/copper wire to make the art piece come alive!

Interactive Mural

Time Needed: 4-4.5 hours

Materials Needed:

  • Conductive paint
  • Drawing softwareimg_3146
  • iPads or computers
  • Cutting machine 
  • Microphone
  • Computer
  • Recording software
  • Vinyl
  • Touch board
  • Speaker
  • Flash drive plug

Please make sure you can paint on the walls before you can begin.  It’s not permanent because you can simply paint over it.

  1. Have teens draw a picture digitally.  We used iPads and the free Adobe Draw app.
  2. Use a cutting machine to turn their picture into a vinyl stencil.
    1. We used a Silhouette machine but you can use Cricut
    2. If you don’t have a cutting machine, you can have teens cut a design onto stencil material.  This requires an Exacto knife so perhaps this can be done with older teens.
      1. You can also use precut stencils and allow teens to create a mural with stencils.
  3. Press the stencil onto the wall.
  4. Paint the stencil with conductive paint.
  5. Allow 20 minutes to dry.  We used fans to speed up the drying process.
  6. Draw lines with a pencil from the stencil to the touch board.  Make sure the touch board in near an outlet.
  7. While the wall is drying, have teens record their own MP3 sounds or phrase.
    1. We used the voice recording software that came with the computer.
    2. Make sure your recorder uses MP3 files because the touch board only uses MP3’s.
      1. Our voice recorder used MPA and I had to use an online file converter to change them into MP3’s.  I used Zamzar.com.
      2. Assign the sounds to a number on the touch board. Make sure the numbers/circuits won’t cross lines on the wall.
  8. When the stencil is dry, peel it from the wall.  Pick out the insides.  We used the pick 20161217_114434utensil that came with the Silhouette.  You can probably use tweezers.
  9. Use conductive paint or copper tape to make your circuits.  We used copper tape because there’s no drying time and it was easier to connect to the touch board.
  10. Mount the touch board.  We used Command strips.
  11. When you mount the board, it will be raised from the wall and won’t touch the copper tape to complete the circuit.  I put copper tape on top of touch board. It looks messy but it will work every time.
  12. Test your circuits!
Posted in Uncategorized

Faux Screen Printing

screen-printing-3Graphic Tees are very popular because it’s a way for teens to express who they are, their fandom, or their favorite band.  DIY graphic tees are a great way to turn consumers into producers.

Curriculum:  art, graphic design, career exploration

Budget: $10-$300

Expensive/Advanced Faux Screen Printing 1


Materials: Silhouette Cutting Machine, vinyl, fabric paint, t-shirts, Adobe Illustrator Draw app

If you have a larger budget or you own a cutting machine (doesn’t have to be a Silhouette), screen printing can be a fairly easy project.

  1. We had teens design a picture with the free Adobe Illustrator Draw app.
  2. Teens emailed their design to staff.
  3. We uploaded their design to the Silhouette software and printed it on adhesive vinyl.
  4. Teens placed the vinyl on the shirt and sponged fabric paint over the stencil.
  5. When it dries (use fans to speed up the drying process), teens pealed off the vinyl stencil.

screen-printing-2To make this a career exploration program, talk to the teens about logos/branding.  Have teens create their own company and ask them to design a logo for their new company.

Faux screen printing can be a program in graphic design for all skill levels by teaching the Adobe Illustrator app.

Expensive/Advanced Faux Screen Printing 2

Repeat steps 1 & 2.  Instead of cutting on vinyl, cut on stencil material. To give teens real life experience of screen printing, you can purchase a screen printing board.  This does get a little messy but messy is fun, right?

Intermediate Faux Screen Printing

If you don’t have a cutting machine, you can purchase stencil material on Amazon.  Teens can draw their design on the stencil and use an Exacto knife to cut it out.  Tape the stencil on the shirt and sponge fabric paint.

Easy Faux Screen Printing

If your library has a die cut machine, pre cut shapes or letters to use as stencils.  You can also purchase stencil designs.

Posted in Big Programs

Murder Mystery: Death at a Slumber Party

The Cast

We have found that teens love murder mysteries so that’s why we do one every year.  To keep it fresh, we do a different type of mystery every year.

There are several advantages to a murder mystery program.  They are incredibly cheap to host.  You can purchase a kit but if you have the time to write your own scripts, you can save a lot of $$$.  Our murder mysteries run between $50-$100 and this is food and supplies.

The Script

Tiffany & the jealous bestie

Teens like to perform and chances are you have thespians among your regular teen members.  Get your teens involved in the writing process.  We either have one teen write the entire script on Google Docs or invite teens to assist.  Once we have the script completed, we get our teen cast together and give them a script and tell them to learn all their lines.  We made the script open to improve so that teens didn’t have to learn their lines word for word.  This takes the pressure off to be perfect. We have a dress rehearsal two hours before the event because teens are busy and flaky and if you have too many rehearsals, you are running the risk of no shows.



The Theme

By the title, you can tell that this year’s theme was a slumber party.  This was during the

Tiffany & the hot jock BF

time that the TV show Scream Queens was on air so we wanted to capitalize on the trend. We presented it like a real slumber party thrown by the stereotypical popular mean girl, Tiffany Van Luxe.   The cast included the hot jock boyfriend, the emo sister, the jealous best friend, the creepy neighbor, and the wannabe.  The activities were that of a traditional slumber party including hide and seek, truth or dare, make overs,  and lip sync battle.


We had our main character, Tiffany, come in costume a couple of weeks prior to the event to shoot promo pics and videos.  We then promoted the event with her pics on our social media accounts.  We also asked our other cast if we would take an image of them from their social media to use as posters to place around the library.  The post featured their face and a tagline that asked if they were the murderer.


We snail mailed invitations that resembled a real slumber party invites to all our regulars.  Mailed invites are where we always get the majority of our attendance.

We had a book display promoting the event with the preverbal “chalk” outline in the stacks.

During dress rehearsal, we took pics that could be motives.  These pics were put on Instagram through out the party.  During the party, we told teens to check our Instagram account for clues.

Tiffany Takeover.  We had “Tiffany” take over our Instagram for the week with her snotty comments and pics.

During the party, we told teens that if they take a selfie with Tiffany and post it on their social media, she would give them candy.  This is a great way to spread the word about your parties through teens.

The Party

murder-myster-14Of course teens were encouraged to come in PJs by announcing that the best PJs would win a cash prize.  We of course rigged the contest so that our mean girl host chose herself (Yes this was a bit mean but also funny).

After we figured most teens were in attendance, we welcomed them by introducing the cast and their bios.  We told them that from now until the end of the party, the cast would be in character and that one of them is going to murder Tiffany, the host.  Their job is to pay attention and to try to guess the murder and the motive.  We also told them to check our Instagram for a vital clues through out the party. (This is a great way to get teens to check/follow your social media account).

The party began with dancing.  The cast went around to all the guests in character.  I

Bro Overs

included a link to our script at the end of this post.  We then did all the activities listed under “theme” and Tiffany was murdered during the lip sync battle by a someone in costume just like Scream Queens.  Teens were then given a sheet of paper asking them to name the murderer and the motive.


One group guessed the murderer but not the motive because as you can guess, teens were caught up in the party and not paying attention to the clues.  Even though no one technically go it right, which no one ever does at our murder mysteries, they still had a great time.  Check out our script on Google Docs.

Most popular activities: hide and seek and truth or dare.

Attendance: 28 teens and a budget of $60

Food served: donuts, potato chips, and flavored water and Tiff Clique Punch.


Posted in Big Programs

All Cons Don’t Have to be Comic


whocon7Comic Cons are all the rage but who said you have to limit a con to comics?  You can taylor any con to your demographic.  If you have a large community of writers, you can host a NovelCon.  If you have a community of filmmakers, you can host a FilmCon.  If you have a community of fanboys/fangirls, you can host a FandomCon.  We have a lot of patrons who are into Doctor Who so we hosted a WhoCon.  The possibilities are endless.



Why a Con?

Cons are popular nationwide and they aren’t limited to comics.  There’s GeekyCon for Harry Potter fans and VidCon for Youtubers but these cons are usually in large metropolitan cities and can be very expensive.  Bringing the con experience to your library provides free fun for the entire family.

The Pros of Cons

The great thing about the term is that you can attach “con” after any word and patrons will instantly know what type of program you are offering.

Cons have the potential to attract new patrons to your library.  Many people still believe the library is only for checking out books and being quiet.  Holding a MinecraftCon, BakerCon, CraftCon, or a DroneCon will bring in different citizens and will ultimately get you new cardholders.

Waiting on their Gallifrey Button

When you attract new patrons and cardholders, you can promote all your special services and collections.

Con Activities

Con means convention so patrons expect to see a variety of activities including crafts, cosplay/costume contests, games, and prizes.  Cons can be as long as you want.  Some cons are the typical two hours and some cons last two days.

  • You can invite local business and organizations that fit your theme.  If you know you’ll have hundreds of patrons, you can have business rent tables and proceeds can go to prizes.
  • Balloon artists and face painters are always a big hit at any event.  They can be costly but it’s a crowd pleaser.
  • Photo booths are also very popular.  You can pay to rent a photo booth from a local company.  This can cost $300 and up but the company does all the work and patrons leave with a picture of your event with your library name and social media contact info.


An Evening with Van Gogh
  • Artist Alleys are usually found at comic cons but if you have any type of artsy or fandom based con, you can include an artist alley.  An artist alley is a cluster of tables where local artists sell their work.  Once again, you can have artists rent a table and it can go towards a prize.
  • Food.  You don’t have to have food especially if your library is surrounded by restaurants.  The drawback to no food is that patrons might leave to eat.  You can ask a local food truck to park outside your library, you can ask for sponsors from local restaurants, you can use table rental proceeds towards pizza.  We usually ask our local boy scout troop to provide hot togs and chips.  Boy scouts usually come with a license to serve food and they do every thing which is great.


Challenges of the Con

  • The greatest challenge will probably be your administration and staff.
    • You may have to do a lot of convincing to your board and administration to host a large library-wide con.  Your best argument is that it will attract new patrons and cardholders.  It can also get your library in the newspaper if you invite your local press to take pictures- free advertisement!!
    • Hosting a con takes a village and getting several staff on board can be daunting. The staff most likely to help are the ones who are fans of your theme.  Look for the geeks.
    • A con takes lots of planning and this can also be exhausting.  If you are interested in hosting a con, make sure you have lots of time and patience.



As I stated earlier, we have a large community of Doctor Who fans.  How do I know this?  During our regular school visits, we asked teens to fill out a short survey.  We listed every popular fandom including Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Supernatural, and anime/manga and we asked teens to circle their favorites.  Doctor Who was the most popular after Harry Potter.


  • Life Size Guess Who-We printed out Doctor Who characters and played the game like the board game version.
  • An Evening with Van Gogh-Recreating a Starry Night with the TARDIS-Participants had to recreate the Starry Night painting from the Van Gogh episode.
  • Gallifrey name buttons-We used a name converter website and made the conversions into a button.
  • Green Screen Photos-Participants chose between two preselected pictures to use as
    Green Screen

    their background.  Their pictures were printed for them to take home.

  • The Silence Scavenger Hunt-We hid pictures of The Silence all over the library.  Participants received a five-clue sheet and were told to take a selfie with each Silence they found.  They showed the activity leader their five pictures to receive Jelly Bellies.  You can also have teens tally their arm for every Silence they find for added affect.
  • Doctor Who Trivia with Kahoot-We created two 20 question trivia games on Kahoot.
  • 10 Different Ways to Wear a Bowtie Craft-Simple bowtie craft with felt.  Participants were given key chain holders, earring backs, and pin backs for crafting.
  • Costume Contest -A picture was taken of all participants.  All other program goers were encouraged to vote with stickers.


The most popular activities were the Gallifrey buttons, Kahoot, and An Evening with Van Gogh.

Stats:  75 participants, $120

For more information on Cons, please visit our 2016 ALA Annual Presentation


Posted in Makerspace


LEDs are a simple, cheap, and fun programs for grades 3-adult.

We use LEDs to teach teens about  how they are used in the world around them and circuitry.

Tip- Many teens do not know how to hand sew so you’ll have to teach them how to tie a knot, how to do a running stitch, and how to close a stitch.

EASY – LED Origami ($100 for 20 teens)

Materials: Origami paper, LEDs, tape, scissors, coin battery (We purchased batteries, and LEDs from Adafruit)

We found origami videos on Youtube and set out iPads.  We found that it’s easier for teens to follow origami on video than in a instructional booklet. We did a heart origami and showed teens how to insert the LED in the fold of the heart with tape.


Intermediate-LED Hoodie & Backpack ($60 for 20 teens)

Materials: Hoodie, thread, needle, EL Wire

Have teens bring in a hoodie.  Have teens begin sewing the EL wire on one side of the zipper.  They should sew the wire in small increments all the way around the hoodie to the other side of the zipper.  They should then cut a small hole on the inside of the pocket on the side with the slack.  String the slack through the pocket, connect the battery pack and that’s it.

You can use hot glue on the EL wire.  The backpack was made but hot gluing the wire.  This also looks cool on baseball caps.

Intermediate-LED Wristbands ($75 for 20 teens)

Materials: Felt or fabric, conductive thread, LED, snaps, coin battery (We purchased everything except the fabric from Adafruit)

Please see the diagram from instructables.

When teens snap the wristband shut, the LED should come on.


Posted in Uncategorized

Turning the Teen Room into a Makerspace: Week 7

Last time on Turning the Teen Room into a Makerspace: Week 5 & 6, we played with our new toys and our maintenance staff was assembling the furniture.

Now that you’re caught up:

The furniture is finally assembled and now it time to arrange the room.  Here’s how we arranged The Hive:



Since we have an overwhelming demographic of artistic teens, half of the makerspace is dedicated to art.  The paintings on the wall were created by our staff member who also teaches our weekly art classes.  We will add teen created artwork to the wall.   The letters were purchased at Walmart


We have all types of artsy supplies.  Supplies include watercolors, all types of pencils/markers, plain/graph/comic paper, and coloring sheets.  There’s an art notebook for teens to fill pages.  The shelving unit was purchased at Ikea.

There’s a dry erase wall from floor to ceiling.  If you are able, I suggest investing in a dry erase wall-teens love it.  I’ve seen comic strips and a list of their favorite bands that took up the entire wall. It’s great for passive activities such as polling, listing faves, or program suggestions.

We hung a guitar for teens to remove on their own and play.  The guitar hanger and pick holder was purchased on Amazon.

There’s pillows and rugs for teens who like to create/make on the floor.  We have clipboards available for use.  We will also have a quarterly anthology where teens can submit their short stories, poetry, and artwork.  Our Creative Writing Club will organize and assemble the anthology for teens to look through while their in the room.

For the techy side of the room, we mounted three iPads.  You are able to restrict adding and removing apps, and getting on the internet.  We want to encourage teens to explore apps and not watch videos on Youtube or check in on Facebook so we restricted our iPads. iPad mounts were purchased from Amazon.

The Silhouette pictured is old and our new more awesome cutter will arrive any day now!!  When it arrives, it will be housed on this table.  I talked about the cutter and the certification in my previous post.  See the above link.

Our 3D Printer is the Lulzbot and we purchased the cart on Amazon.  Once again, teens will be required to be certified before they may use it.  We set up an account through Tinkercad and Projectignite.autodesk.com.  You can have teens set up accounts with your email, set up lessons, and track progress.  Teens can log on anytime, at the library or at home, take five hours of lessons and then we will teach them how to send their designs to the printer. Once they are certified, they can print on their own.

This shelf contains robotics and maker crafts such as Ozobots, rubber band looms, and Lego Mindstorms.

We have two tables down the center of the room for making.  We covered the tables with chalkboard paint.  Tables were purchased at Ikea.

We have a book for each piece of equipment we own so that teens can learn on their own during open lab.  We also have crafting books in the art corner.  The books are reference books and they will stay in the room.



We are trying to stay away from paper flyers because they take up valuable table space.  To alleviate this, we have dry erase boards on the walls and a large screen in the front of the room.  All digital flyers are created on Canva. Canva is great because you can set your own dimensions to fit any screen.  The screen will feature upcoming events, completed projects, and a leaderboard of teens who complete challenges.  We have a sign outside the door displaying what’s going on in the room for the week.



Yay, storage!  We kept our TARDIS because it’s a storage shelf that looks like a TARDIS. In it, we keep supplies that need to be replenished and techy equipment that only comes out on special occasions such as the Google Cardboard and the Makey Makeys.

The other cabinet stores our Chromebooks and iPads.


As you can see, we don’t have a lot of decoration on the walls.  We have two painted guitars. The teens massacred the strings so we just removed the strings and turned them into wall decor.  And the only other thing we have is a clock.  We plan to fill the walls with teen created artwork.


We open Tuesday, September 6th and we’re excited for all the new amazing projects our teens will create.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at dabron@zblibrary.org or leave a comment below.


Posted in Makerspace

Turning the Teen Room Into a Makerspace: Weeks 5 & 6

Previously on Turning the Teen Room Into a Makerspace Month 1, we removed all the old furniture, ordered new furniture, and planned September.

Now that you’re caught up…

New Furniture

It has been a slow week by way of furniture.  Our maintenance department is responsible for the assembly but they have been moving rather slowly so we only have two new tables in our room.  We purchased most of our tables from Ikea and the great thing about Ikea is that they make extendable tables.  We have four extendable tables that can accommodate four to six people.  Often times we plan a program for ten and fifteen show up.  That’s the beauty of these table, you don’t have to have haul in more tables, just extend it.

Playing With New Toys

Makerspaces always incorporate technology and if you are like us and don’t know how to use anything, you have to teach yourself before you can teach others.

We took a couple of hours every day to sit down and teach ourselves how to use the Ozobots, Makey Makey, Silhouette cutting machine, Google Cardboard, and wearable LEDs.

Ozobot-This is a small bot that you code with color. The bots are $50 each and all you need is paper and chisel tipped markers (red, black, blue, green).  You can code the bot to spin, speed up, turn left, etc.  It’s great for all ages and all levels.

Makey Makey-Use everyday items and turn them into game controllers.  The kits are $50 each. It sounds basic and beginner level stuff but you can make life size games by turning people into the controller.  Once you get the hang of it, you and your teens can have lots of fun.  Check out the videos on the Makey Makey site.  This is our favorite.


Silhouette Cutting Machine

This machine can range in price depending on the machine you want.  The Cameo 1 and the Portrait (pictured below) cost $220 and $179 respectively.  The Cameo 1 looks fancier but they do the same thing so purchase the Portrait if you’re on a tight budget.


These machines cut paper, vinyl, fabric, and stencil material.  You can make any decal your heart desires.  For example, one of my teens wanted a vinyl decal of the Mockingjay symbol to put on her cell phone.  Of course this is copyright infringement but I copied the image from Google Images, uploaded it to the Portrait, and cut it out.  I don’t have a picture but it looks like she purchased it in a store.  You can use the machine to make stencils for logo/t-shirt graphics, you can cut fabric to sew on clothes/pillows, etc.  In the picture below, my co worker likes jackolopes.  She drew it in the Silhouette software and cut it out using the machine.  As you can see, teens can design their own pictures. Designing in the software can be difficult (It took my coworker Elise about an hour) but you can have teens design in Adobe (we the used Adobe Illustrator app on the iPad) and they can email it to you and you can upload it to the Silhouette software.  I designed a TARDIS this way.


New advancements to Silhouette:

  • You no longer have to move the cutting machine to a computer to print.  You can download the new software to create a cloud. Teens can save to the cloud and can print from one connected computer.
  • You can purchase the Cameo 3, coming in September, that will be Bluetooth!  No wires needed!!
  • If you subscribe to Adobe Suite or Corel, you can design there and send your designs through the cloud.

Google Cardboard

Google Cardboard costs $15 each.  They are VR (Virtual Reality) goggles made out of cardboard.  You download free apps or purchase apps and insert the smart device into the goggles.  This is by far cheaper than all other VR goggles and does a great job for the price.

You’ll have to purchase iPods, have your teens use their own phone, or trust teens with your phone.  That is the drawback.  Google Cardboard says it can hold any device 4-7″ and the video below was used with an iPhone 6S.

LED Wearables

We obtained our ideas from Adafruit.  Beware, Adafruit is a tough website to navigate.

September will focus on LEDs.  See our programming section further down to view our curriculum for the month.

We taught ourselves Chibitronics, coin battery LEDs, and lastly Gemma (programmable LED through Arduino). If all those words scared you, don’t worry; it sacred us too.

Superhero Logo

Processed with MOLDIV
Easy LED Wearable

LED Circuits

This craft was made with the above battery holder and snaps to complete the circuit.


Gemma requires sewing and programming.  You have to download the software from Adafruit.  We couldn’t download to our work computers because of the firewall so I had to bring my personal Macbook.  All you have to do is copy/paste the code from Adafruit.

In the video, the LED is blinking fast and I coded it to blink slower.  You can add several LED sequins and code it to blink however you like. Adafruit’s Youtube channel is full of wonderful ideas.

September Programs

Nectar Collective September

Mondays & Wednesdays-LED workshops that include Chibitronics, LED superhero logos, LED origami and cityscape, LED Hoodie using EL Wire, and Gemma hats.

Tuesdays-Appy Hour.  Teens will lean how to make videos using Magisto and Stop Motion. Teens will create animation using Animator

Thursdays-Creative Writing Meetup.  This is a teen led creative writing group.

Thursdays-Let’s Draw Something.  Teens will learn different drawing/painting techniques or they can free draw.

Saturdays-Open Lab.

Monthly Challenges-There will be a new challenge every month.  All the materials will be set out and teens will be given minimal instructions.

Makerbees-This is basically a frequent maker card-Makerbees level 1.  There will be five activities that teens can complete.  Levels increase in difficulty as teens complete them.

3D Printing-Teens will have to be certified before they may use the 3D Printer.  We set up a teacher account on Tinkercad.  Teens must complete 5 hours of lessons and take a class with staff before they may print on their own.

Silhouette Cutting Machine-Teens will have to be certified before they may use the cutting machine.  To become certified, teens must attend two workshops.

That’s all for the past two weeks.  Next week we will hopefully have our furniture assembled and we can get our room ready.  We will also learn how to screen print.  The Hive is supposed to open on September 6th but it’s still a construction zone and I don’t think that will happen.


Posted in Uncategorized

Turning the Teen Room Into a Makerspace: Month 1

In May 2015, we turned our computer lab into a teen room and we were excited!  All the usual suspects were there: gaming, crafting, dry erase wall, lounge furniture, pub tables and chairs, and computers.  We were averaging about 500 teens a month.


Why are we changing in just over a year?  We found that our teens weren’t using the room as it was intended.  Teens were using it as a hang out and hanging out is fine but when it incites fighting and bullying, we had to find a solution.

Our solution, mostly our director’s solution, was to provide a space that encouraged teens to engage in constructive activities.  Simply placing Little Bits on a table was not enough to  get their attention but hosting month-long workshops with Little Bits may get their attention.

hive 4


So our journey began in Mid July and the makerspace is slated to open September 6th.

Month 1:  Finding Furniture on a Budget.

We were given $3000 for furniture and since one table costs $3000 from Demco, we turned to Ikea and Worthington Direct.  Ikea’s wood tables are pretty  sturdy so that’s what we purchased from Ikea and we kept our Demco chairs from the old teen room (Always get library grade chairs).

We decided on tables, chairs, mounted iPads, and shelving to hold crafting and maker tools as our room layout.  We will have raised tables for people who like to make while standing. We will have shorter tables for small groups and picnic style tables with benches.

What Equipment Should We Get?

Once again we have a modest budget of $5000 so we chose to focus on coding, 3D printing, and circuitry.  Here’s our list of equipment. (Please note-we already owned a 3D printer)

* Little Bits     * Snap Circuits     * Ozobots      * Sphero     * LED     * Makey Makey

* Google Cardboard      * Lulzbot     * Screen Printing     * Raspberry Pi     * Makedo

*  Lego Mindstorms     *Arckit



We will have themed months and September is Electricity. We decided to do activities everyday to cut down on the “I am doing something” but they’re really just scribbling on a piece of paper and being loud.


Our room is called The Hive (our high school/town mascot is a bee). Our programming is called the Nectar Collective.  We are planning a brochure to send to schools, we will make a monthly activities calendar to give to patrons who use the room, and we’ll get some business cards for community/school visits.


This has been a long and exhausting month.  The teen room remained open and the summer reading club was in full swing during the entire planning process so that added to the pressure but my co worker and I tried to come to work with the realization that we are going to start the school year with a new room.  We will be able to provide educational yet exciting programs to our teens.

Next week: Repainting the room and assembling the furniture.


Posted in Big Programs

Harry Potter Escape Room

This is a one and done escape room for a large group.  If you are having a 2 hour program and you need an activity, this type of escape room is good because it can accommodate a lot of teens.

The escape room is not going to take two hours so you have to have it as one activity in your Harry Potter party.

Potter After Hours /Yule Ball/ Harry Potter Night

My program was called Potter After Hours so this post will be about that party.

Activities: Sorting, Quidditch Pong, Ollivander’s wand making, Potions with Professor Snape, trivia, and escape Azkaban.

Budget: ? (depends on you)

Quidditch Pong

  • To make the rings we used cups, skewers, pipe cleaners to make the hoops, and lots of tape.
  • We used regular ping pong balls.
  • You can make your own rules.
    • Rule Example: Assign points to the hoops and teens receive points for making it through the hoop.  You can eliminate the cups if you do it this way.
    • Rule Example We Used:  The hoops were decoration.  The cups were assigned points and one cup was the snitch.  When you got it in the snitch cup you received 150 points and the game was over.


Ollivander’s Wand Making

  • We did the traditional skewer, hot glue, paint method. Please see this Pinterest post for instructions.
  • It only takes about 15 minutes but you’ll have to supply a drying table for teens to put their wands to dry and retrieve at the end of the party.

Potions with Professor Snape

  • We provided recipes for a love potion, liquid luck, and dragon pox remedy.  Feel free to make up your own recipes.  Teens can also make up their own recipes for their own potions.  It’s up to you.
    • We purchased the following essential oils-lemon, lavender, orange, 12345628_10153716828872349_6832605103835816827_n
      peppermint, eucalyptus, and almond oil as the base.  You can provide whatever you want.  Our oils were topical but if you want them to be edible, use honey as the base and provide extracts instead of essential oils.
    • We provided funnels for the base and told teens to only use one drop of oil because it’s expensive.
    • We also pre-made tags that said love potion, liquid luck, and dragon pox.  Teens can also use Sharpies to draw on the bottle.  It depends on your time limits.

Trivia-You can find our trivia here.  This is a traditional style team trivia.  The answers are included in the slide show.  If you want to edit this trivia, PLEASE copy it first and edit your copy.

How We Organized the Party

  • Teens probably know their house before they arrive but for the sake of equal team trivia teams, we did a sorting hat ceremony upon arrival.
    • Teens can pull house colored candy from a cauldron.
    • Cupcake method-Bake cupcakes, carve out the middle and fill with house colored frosting, frost the cupcakes.  When teens bite or pull open cupcakes, their house will be revealed.
  • The first 45 minutes, teens did the wands, potions, and quidditch.
  • Escape room (See below)
  • Trivia-Teens sit in the house they were sorted into

Escape Room

Objective: Escape Azkaban before the Dementor’s Kiss

Group Gryffindor with Hufflepuff and Slytherin with Ravenclaw to form two groups.  You will be using the locking system pictured below for this game.


As you can see, there are three locks on each side of the lockout hasp.  Team Gryffinpuff will get clues to left side and Team Slytherclaw will get the same clues but it will be for the right side of the hasp. Inform each team to search for clues in their designated area.  For example, tell Griffinpuff to search for clues in the youth department and Slytherclaw is to search in the adult department.

To begin the game, tell them their objective is to escape Azkaban before the Dementor’s Kiss.  The spell to escape is in the box.

  • Clue #1
    • Read to the entire group: Oh what a puzzle you’ll be in if you use the unforgivable curses.
    • Give both teams an envelope that contains a paper puzzle piece of the words AVADA KEDAVRA. The envelope should also contain the clue you read.
    • Tell the teams to search their depts. for the other puzzle pieces. When the teams return, they can input the combo in one of the locks.
    • They then wait for the other team
      • Prep before the party
        • Cut out the puzzle pieces and write a piece of the combination to one lock on each puzzle piece.  For example, if the combination on the hasp is 345, write 3 on the back of one puzzle piece; 4 on the back of a puzzle piece; and 5 on the back of the last puzzle piece.
        • Hide two puzzle pieces in plain sight in each department.  Teens should be able to find the pieces but it shouldn’t be too easy.
  • Clue #2
    • Although we ruined the celebration for the winning team of the Quidditch World Cup, maybe this polyjuice potion will help us escape Azkaban.
      • Give each teen a small cup of juice and the team the clue you read.  The Irish team won the Quidditch World Cup and that’s their clue.  Teens can use their phones to Google the answer. (Don’t tell teens before hand that they can use their phones; let them figure it out.)
    • When the teams return, they can input the combo in one of the locks.
    • They then wait for the other team.
      • Prep before the party
        • Write one letter on the bottom of seven cups to spell IRELAND.  On the bottom of three cups write, “find the flag.” One cup/word. The remaining cups will have no letters.  Do this for each team. As they drink, they should notice letters on the bottom of some of the cups and they will begin to arrange the letters.
        • Place several varied world flags around each department including the Irish flag.  On the back of the Irish flag put a QR code.
          • To make a QR code: I took a picture of a written trivia question, “I created SPEW in this book” and I put the picture on Instagram.  You can do your library’s IG or your personal. Go to that IG account on a computer, pull up that post, and copy the URL.  Go to QR generator site and click URL at the top of the screen. Paste the URL, save it, cut it out, and tape it to the back of the Irish flag.  One teen will have to download a QR reader.  You can tell one person from each team to download it before the escape room or you can let them figure it out.
        • This will lead them to the book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  Keep the book on the shelf where it normally should be.  Inside the book, tape a key that opens the lock on the hasp.
  • Clue #3
    • Before the party, we made two dementor pinatas.  We purchased two batman pinatas from Walmart or Amazon. Get the pull string piñata. We covered them with lots of black streamers.
    • Have each team go to their piñata. One teen pulls the strings one at a time.  When the piñata bursts, they should look for their next clue and UV flashlight. You can also have candy in the piñata and teens can come back to get candy after they escape.
    • Clue: Find all your answers in the Room of Requirement
    • When the teams return, they can input the combo in one of the locks.
    • They then wait for the other team.
      • Prep Before the Party
        • Designate an area in each dept as the Room of Requirement and put a nice big sign so the teens know this is where they should be.
        • Using the pen with invisible ink, on a sheet of paper taped to the wall write “This is the year Azkaban was first used as a detention facility.” The answer is 1917 and this is the final combo.
        • On other sheets of paper, write ZONKO.  Make a lot of ZONKO papers and tape them to the wall.
        • Teens can use their phones to find the answer.
  • Inside the Lockbox
    • Write any spell on a sheet of paper.  You could also put a sheet that says we escaped Azkaban and have the teens take a picture.


Hopefully this isn’t too confusing.  If you have questions, please feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll answer it for you.