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 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.


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.