Posted in Big Programs

Alien Escape Room

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We chose aliens because of the summer reading challenge theme of 2019: A Universe of Stories.

The Objective: The Infinity Space Shuttle has been infiltrated by aliens. They have entered the shuttle’s entry pod and have disabled systems. Your objective is to get the key out of the locked box and then eliminate the aliens in the entry pod.

This program can be as expensive as you want. I recommend using a theme based on a party you’ve done before and have a lot of supplies. Locks will be the most expensive and you can get some locks at the Dollar Store.

The Escape Room

We used the hasp lock method because it’s easier for a large group to solve and it’s easier to plan with several people-each person is responsible for a lock/puzzle.


The Puzzles:

  • UV Light Cypher-My co worker found a cypher online, printed it on beige paper, then crumpled it. He put the answer on Post-its. We put the answer key in a different part of the room. We put the UV light near the Post Its in a box full of other random stuff. We called the box space junk. We used a letter lock.



  • Tube Cypher-My co-worker found a different cypher online and put it on a large Tootsie Roll tube. (You can find these large tubes if you have a Five Below store or here on Amazon) She put the cypher reader on the inside of the tube. We used a number lock.


  • Key Inside a Book-My co-worker hollowed out a book and then changed the cover with paper to fit her clue. We used a standard key lock.



  • Rotating Cypher-My co-worker made a spinning cypher and provided the clue. There were 20 flags around the room and they all had a QR code on the back. She made the codes on QR Code Generator and chose text. 19 flags had an error message and the correct code told participants how to use the lock. We used a number and letter lock.


  • Solar System-This was my puzzle. I put pictures of the planets on a bulletin board and I put numbers on six of them. Participants had to put the planets in order of distance from the sun, use the numbers as a code to get into a locked Chromebook. Once they unlocked the Chromebook, they listened to a distress call. They were told the secret code word during the instructions. We used a slide lock.


  • Call Numbers- He found call numbers from three books that served as the three numbers to open the lock. I forgot to take a picture of this puzzle-sorry. We used a combo lock.

The Entry Pod

Our meeting room can be split into two rooms. The puzzles were on one side and the entry pod was in the other room. We had one alien standee but we needed six in total and we didn’t want to pay $40 for each. So we decided to take our old standees, Batman, Abe Lincoln, Gaston, etc, and we put alien faces on them.

We scattered the standees and boxes around the room. We also put random stuff maintenance had to look industrial. We used laser guns to eliminate the aliens. We put the laser sensor on the aliens and we gave the patron the gun. These laser guns are cool because water vapor releases when the target is hit.

We had three staffers armed with Nerf Guns shooting at the participants; they also wore sensors. Once the participants shot all the aliens, including staff who wore sensors, the escape room was over.


The Day of the Escape Room

We set our times 1.5 hours apart. We are open from 9-5 on Saturdays so we were able to get five groups. Because we only had eight laser guns, we accommodated eight people/group. Patrons had to pick a time slot.

When everyone from the group was in attendance, I gave them the rules and their objective.

We have large TVs on carts so we found a timer on the internet and hooked up a Chromebook to the TV to project the timer for the participants.

We gave them small clues when we saw patrons struggling because it’s no fun when patrons are stuck on one clue.

Other Information:

  • Have staff or volunteers run through your escape room a couple of times. Observe them and make changes. Also, ask them for feedback.
  • This program was for ages 8 to adult. Our clues were a bit too challenging for the younger kids. If you do this with older teens, it should be easy enough.
  • With adults participating, including staff who tested, it took each group the entire time to complete and every group needed help from staff. I recommend giving small hints if you see teams getting frustrated or when their time is running out. It’s not fun when they aren’t solving puzzles.
  • Before teams entered the entry pod, I gave them a tutorial on how to use the guns. The guns are very easy to use.
  • The staff in the entry pod played music as ambiance and it was great.
  • We put black tableclothes over the windows of the entry pod so no one could see in.
  • The entry pod portion only took about 3 minutes to complete. I wish it took longer because it was fun for the teams but it’s not hard to hit those laser targets.
  • It only took us 5 minutes to reset the room between groups which was GREAT! We were able to take snack and lunch breaks between groups.
  • We only had 2 staff members run the escape room day.

Each group contained a family so this was a great family program. Everyone had fun and  asked about the next escape room-we don’t have one planned for a LONG time LOL.

Posted in Big Programs

Clue Murder Mystery

With several contemporary themes-Rick and Morty; The Walking Dead; and Harry Potter, the board game Clue remains to be popular among teens and kids. Every year, we do a murder mystery party for our teens and this year we chose Clue as the theme. Here’s How:

Budget:$130/40 teens (90% of the budget was food. The only thing we purchased that was not food was the place setting.)

Here is the Google Drive folder of all the files. Some were created in Publisher so that you can edit them.  You’ll need MS Publisher to open them.

The Game

The object of our party was for the teens to solve the murder by guessing who did it, where, and with what-just like the game.

To obtain clues to solve the murder, we had staff in character of the original suspects-Miss Scarlet; Professor Plum; Col. Mustard; Mr. Green; Mrs. White; and Mr. Peacock.  Of course we had more women than men so we had to change some of the genders of the original characters. Each suspect wore their appropriate colors and each suspect had a backstory. Please see the script for their backstories. Feel free to use it; simply make a copy first and make changes.  The suspects circulated the party and engaged with teens in character.  They also told teens their motives during the party.

In addition to the characters, teens had to go to each of the rooms mention below to solve a puzzle. I’ll explain later in the puzzle section.  Each completed puzzle provided a clue.

The Organization

We wanted to stay as true to the game as possible. We designated five rooms in our img_4031library as the rooms in the game. Our genealogy room became the library; our lobby became the hall; our youth study room became the study; our makerspace became the billiards room; one of our meeting rooms become the conservatory; and our biggest meeting room became the dining room.  There were three rooms in the Clue game that we did not use in our game.

We had five tables for the five suspects except Miss White. Since she is a maid, she did not get a table. We used black table cloths and color coded table settings only because we had a bunch of black table cloths and I wanted to save money by using them up.

We made copies of the original Clue game notebook and set them at each place setting. Teens used the back to take notes.

Pre Party Planning

We asked our staff to be the suspects but if you have a TAG group or good teen participation population, you can ask them to be the actors/suspects.

My coworker and I wrote the script. We do this party every year and we found that leaving lots of room for ad libbing is best for the actors because they only have to memorize a small portion of the play.  We finished the script about three weeks before the party, we sent it to each suspect and asked them to memorize by the party. We always rehearse a couple of hours before the party because it can be difficult to get all the teens in one place at the same time.

The Puzzles

img_4036We had five escape room type puzzles because teens like puzzles. As stated above, each puzzle led to a clue. Teams took their Clue notebook, a pencil, and each team was given a room order. Since suspect to room ratio is about the same. One suspect sat in each room to hand teens the first clue and to reset the room between teens.

Teens had ten minutes to solve the puzzles in each room. (The suspect was the time keeper). After their ten minutes were up, regardless if they solved the puzzle or not, they were escorted back to the dining room.  When all groups were back in the dining room, we waited a couple of minutes for the suspects to reset the rooms and then we let the teams go to their next room. Each team had a room order which can be found in the Google folder above.

  1. The Library (As stated above we used our genealogy room because it looks like a little library-tons of shelved reference books.) You can section off a portion of your youth or adult department and call it the library so that teens know what section to look through books.
    1. I made this decoder for the first clue. The clue was a call number.  The suspectimg_4040 gave the teams the decoder as soon as they entered the room.
    2. Once they found the first book, that clue sheet contained call numbers for all the books. There were five clue sheets and each sheet contained one letter. Once they found all the clue sheets, they had to unscramble it to spell MURAL. This was a clue for where the murder took place. Our murder room has a huge mural on the wall. You of course will have to change
    3. Once they unscrambled MURAL correctly, they were told by the suspect that they solved the puzzle and they teens were escorted back to the dining room.
    4. Additional information. All the books were green and the clue cards were green. All of this was meant to point to Miss Green as the murderer.
  2. The Hall (Our lobby houses our book sale books so we used that to our advantage.) img_4043
    1. We found a hollowed out book that happened to Sleeping Beauty. Inside that book, was a UV light.
    2. The suspect gave them the following clue-Maleficent wanted her dead. Teens were tasked with finding Sleeping Beauty to find the UV light.
    3. Before the party, I used an invisible ink pen to write a phone number on individual sheets of paper. I taped the papers to the wall in order.
    4. Once the teens found the UV light, they discovered it was a phone number. (make sure to put parentheses and a dash so that teens know it’s a phone number.) They called the number and Miss White gave them the next clue-“You can’t bring a knife to a gunfight.” (This was a clue for the murder weapon-the knife.)
    5. Once they figured it out, the suspect escorted them back to the dining room.
  3. The Study
    1. Before the party, I used clear plastic drinking glasses to write clues on the bottom of the glasses. There were six glasses. The clue was LORD. One letter was placed under each cup. I also had a combination lock and each cup had one number of the combo lock-27, 32, 01.
      1. When the teens entered the room, their table contained a locked box with a hasp lock closed with zip ties. On top of the box was a pair of scissors that was locked the a word lock and a combo lock. There was also six cups filled with soda.
        1. The suspect asked them to sit and have some soda. She then began to talk to them in character. The teens eventually noticed the letters and numbers on the cup and began to unscramble the letters to open the work lock and use the numbers to open the combo lock. They used the scissors the cut the zip ties and inside the lock box was the word DARK.
          1. This clue also points to Miss Green because she loves Harry Potter and their clue is DARK LORD.
        2. After they found the word DARK, they were told they solved to puzzle and was escorted back to the dining room.
  4. Conservatory
    1. Upon entering, teens given this clue decoder. It led them to our MURAL which contains our state bird-the cardinal (I live in Illinois.) Next to the bird was a three digit code. They used that code to open the lock box which contained their next clue-Not the revolver or the candlestick.
      1. You will have to create your own clue using this decoder. (FYI, this decoder is used in the graphic novel, Paper Girls.)
    2. The point was for the teens to see the MURAL and put the two and two together to figure out the murder took place in that room.
    3. After they found the clue, they were told they solved to puzzle and was escorted back to the dining room.
  5. Billiards Roomimg_4041
    1. We have a Merge Cube and Diffuse is a fun game.  The first teen to get to level
      four allowed the entire team to get their next clue-Not Miss Scarlett or Mr. Peacock.
    2. If you don’t have a Merge Cube, you’ll have to find another puzzle for this room.

At the end of the puzzle/theater portion, we put the guessing envelope on each table. Inside the envelope, we put the room cards, the suspect cards and the weapon card in the envelope. The pictures on the suspect cards were of our staff actors. At the end of the puzzle/theater portion, teams reconvened, made their guesses, and put their guesses in their envelopes.

After everyone make their guesses, we led all the teens and suspects to the room where the murder took place. We have the killer reenact the murder. The teens did not know this was going to happen, which was great!


As always, no one made a correct guess but we’ve found that they don’t care; the just like the show. They like the over acting and drama-a fake fight scene is always a crowd pleaser.

Murder Mysteries are really cheap to host because you use supplies you already own. You don’t need Breakout EDU to create one; I purchased all my locks from Amazon which is better because you can reset Amazon locks.

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment and I’ll answer you as quick as possible.



Posted in Big Programs

Nailed It: Dessert Decorating Competition

Nailed It is a popular show on Netflix where amateur bakers must recreate difficult desserts.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s great; check it out.

Many teens watch the show and many teens love baking so we decided to combine the two.  Here’s how:

  1. We had two rounds.
    1. Round 1: Recreate a frosted cookie (See cookies below).
      1. We contacted a local bakery and ordered frosted cookies and unfrosted cookies of the same shape. You should have required registration so that you know how many cookies to order.
        1. To save money, you can ask the bakery to donate the cookies and perhaps ask them to judge.
      2. Before Round 1 began, I had two teens/table.  Each station had a frosted and unfrosted cookie, a frosting bag, a cup, one bowl, and two plates.
      3. We had one table that contained supplies for teens to retrieve what they needed. This table included, royal frosting, food coloring, spoons, and water.
      4. Before Round 1 began, I showed two videos on how to decorate cookies using royal frosting (start at 3:30) and how to use a frosting bag.
      5. Round 1 was 30 minutes. I displayed a count down on a big screen. I just used an online app and hooked up my Chromebook to my big screen TV.
      6. We judged cookies based on accuracy of the bakery cookie.
      7. The winner received one minute of assistance from their parent or library staff at any time during the second round.
    2. ROUND 2: Recreate two cupcakes
      1. We found two cupcakes online for teens to recreate-burger cupcake and spaghetti cupcake.  We printed the cupcakes on one sheet of paper and put them at each station.
        1. The stations also included, one cup; two plates; a frosting bag and tip; two cupcakes; and one bowl.
      2. We got our unfrosted cupcakes from Walmart
      3. The retrieval table included, frosting; food coloring; fondant; plastic utensils; brownie bites, rice crispie treats; coconut flakes; and white sprinkles.
      4. Round 2 was 40 minutes. I displayed the count down on the big screen.
      5. We judged on accuracy.
        1. Burger cupcake-can we see the cheese and ketchup; is the burger patty too big; does the bun have sesame seeds.
        2. Spaghetti cupcake-are the noodles too big; does the meatball look like a real meatball; is the tomato sauce thick and rich looking.
      6. The winner was awarded a chef hat and $25 Visa gift card.
        1. We used our Silhouette cutter and iron on vinyl to personalize.

Supplies Needed:

  • Royal frosting and regular frosting
  • Frosting bags and #3 tips
  • Plates, bowls, cups, spoons, knifes (plastic)
  • Food coloring (all colors)
  • Fondant
  • Coconut flakes
  • Brownies or pre-made brownie bites
  • Rice Crispie Treats (optional)
  • White sprinkles
  • Unfrosted cupcakes
  • Cookies-frosted and unfrosted (Your choice)


  • Get lots of frosting. Teen use too much frosting.
  • Have lots of frosting bags because teens mess up a lot and need multiple bags.
  • We let parents stay but told them that they could not help. We didn’t let young kids into the room because they get bored and run around and distract the contestants.
Posted in Big Programs, Holiday Programs

Dia De Los Muertos

Looking to expand your cultural programming? Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) could be an option. This year at my library, we are doing Day of the Dead programming instead of Halloween but you can always include Day of the Dead crafts/activities during your Halloween party.  Here are a few ideas.


An ofrenda is a collection of objects placed on a ritual altar during the annual and traditionally Mexican Dia de los Muertos celebration. An ofrenda, which may be quite large and elaborate, is usually created for an individual person who has died and is intended to welcome him/her to the altar setting. A common format for an ofrenda contains three levels or tiers.

We turned the door to our makerspace into an ofrenda. We’ll be hosting Day of the Dead crafts once a week all October and teens can choose to leave their crafts on our altar.

Glow Skull Jars

Supplies Needed:


  • Plain glass jars. Don’t get Mason Jars because they have raised writing on them.
    • We purchased ours from Walmart but you can get them on Amazon. Get staff donations if you are on a tight budget.
  • Black Sharpies
  • Wax paper
  • LEDs-varied colors
  • Coin cell batteries


  1. Have examples available for teens to give them inspiration.
  2. Have teens draw a sugar skull on the glass jar using a black Sharpie
  3. Have teens cut a piece of wax paper no taller than the glass jar. Roll the wax paper and fit it inside the jar.
  4. Connect the LED to the battery and tape so it remains aglow.
    1. This could be a short lesson on circuitry and LEDs.
  5. Drop the LED into the jar.


A calavera is a representation of a human skull. The term is most often applied to edible or decorative skulls made from either sugar or clay which are used in the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead and the Roman Catholic holiday All Souls’ Day.

Supplies Needed

  • Plastic skulls
    • We purchased ours from Target. You can also look for them at the Dollar Store, Walmart, etc.
  • White spray paint or acrylic paint.IMG_3202
    • We pre sprayed our skulls with spray paint to eliminate drying times.  If you have a long program with several crafts, you can have teens spray paint them and set them aside to dry while they do a different craft.
  • Sharpies of varied colors.
    • Day of the Dead colors are:
      • Purple – Signifies pain, suffering, grief, and mourning.
      • Pink – Celebration.
      • White – Purity and hope.
      • Orange – Sun.
      • Red – The blood of life.
      • Yellow – Cempazuchitl are marigolds that symbolize death. Petals are used to make a trail. so that the spirits can see the path to their altars
  • Skull template-Find a blank skull on Google for teens to design their skull before the begin.
  • Gems (optional)


  1. Provide pictures of examples for inspiration.
  2. Give teens a skull and Sharpies and let them create.
  3. Teens can leave them on your altar if they choose to.


Supplies Needed:

I purchased everything from the Dollar Tree

  • Foam wreathsKsGatWMSTkiZJHS7Y0e
  • Black roses/varied plastic flowers
  • Ribbon
  • Tulle
  • Plastic spiders, mini skulls, bats, etc.
  • Anything else you’d like to purchase
  • Hot glue and hot glue guns


  1. Provide pictures of examples for inspiration.
  2. Have teens begin by wrapping their wreath in ribbon. They can use one color or various colors.
  3. Allow teens to design freely.


  • It can be overwhelming with all the supplies on the table. Give teens time to design their wreath first before they dive in.


Day of the Dead Party

We are going to host a party on November 1st (Day of the Dead runs from Oct. 31-Nov. 2).  During that party, teens can do the above three crafts (if we have leftovers). They can do calavera face painting. We will get out the green screen and use a Day of the Dead background.  We will also show teens how to take pics like a pro Instagrammer. If teens don’t want to paint their face, we’ll use an app that will turn their face into a calavera. We will serve Pan de Muertos from a local bakery.

Posted in Big Programs

K Pop (Korean Culture)

Are you looking for a program to get new teens into the library? Do you want to attract a IMG_2137large group of teens-20 +? Do you not want to spend a lot of money? The answer is K Pop.

My coworker and I were a little apprehensive because we didn’t know much about K-Pop or Korean culture but we decided to just go for it for three different days and we got approx. 60 teens.  Of course you don’t have to do three days of programming; you can host one large program and combine all the activities.

Here are the activities we did.

  • Korean Snacks: Fruit Snack |Rice Snack |  Milkis Soda | Noodle Snack
  • K-Pop Fashion: My coworker found paper dolls and drew clothes for teens to design.
  • Fan Buttons: If you have a button maker, teens can make fan buttons.  If you don’t have a button maker, you can do Shrinky Dinks.
  • Korean Dramas: We simply watched Descendants of the Sun on Netflix.
  • Oculus Go: We recently purchased Oculus Go VR Goggles and there are videos where you can watch K-Pop concerts.
  • K-Pop Music Videos: If you have a Wifi connected TV, watch K-Pop music videos on Youtube.

By far the most popular activity was the music videos.  We gave them control of the remote and they were content with watching, dancing, and screaming at music videos for TWO HOURS.

Train Like a K-Pop Star

K-Pop stars go through years of training-singing and dancing.  You can host this type of K-Pop program if you have extroverted teens.  Simply divide teens into groups, give them a song and 30 minutes and tell them to choreograph a short dance routine.  If you are really feeling fancy, tell them to bring a pair of old jeans and an old t-shirt to destroy and have them design their own outfits while in their groups.  Give them one hour in their groups to design their outfit, come up with a name, do their makeup, and choreograph their routine. Then have every group take turns performing.

What We Learned

K-Pop fans transcend age, race, and gender.  Our program attracted White, Latin, Black, and Asian teens.  We had a seven-year-old wearing a BTS hat and high school seniors chanting the BTS intro. There were LGBTQ+ teens and teens from other cities at our program and 99% of the teens who attended were new faces.

If you are indeed looking for a new group of teens, I highly recommend hosting a K-Pop program.



Posted in Big Programs, Makerspace

Cosplaying With Teens

Cosplay is dressing up as a character from a movie, book, or video game.  Making the costume, accessories, and armor is the exciting part of cosplay and can be easily incorporated into your teen or makerspace programming.

Worbla-The Star of the Show

Worbla will be featured in this post.  Worbla is a thermoplastic modeling material.  All that means is that you can mold it by heating it.

  • The Worbla I’ve seen comes in two colors, beige and black. (I am not a Worbla or cosplay expert so I could be mistaken).
    • You can paint Worbla and I recommend priming it first. Acrylic paint and spray paint is recommended.
  • Worbla is expensive. A 29×19 sheet on Amazon cost about $50. If you are only making masks, you can get about 16 masks from one sheet.
    • However, if you already have heat guns, paint, cutting utensils, and gems, your are only paying for the Worbla.
  • Worbla is molded with heat from a heat gun.
  • It’s very easy to teach and use with teens.
The mask is shaped to her face

Making Masks

Supplies Needed


  1. I pre cut the Worbla into rectangles that were big enough for the mask template.  I gave each teen a rectangle of Worbla.
  2. I found a basic mask template on Google/Pinterest. You will have to copy and paste
    in Publisher or Photoshop to make the masks fit a face.  I gave teen a template.
  3. Have teens cut out the eye holes.  If you are feeling fancy, you can pre-cut the masks on your cutting machine (Silhouette/Circut) and pre-cut the eye holes and elastic holes.
  4. On the dull side of the Worbla, have teens trace the outside and eye holes from the mask.
  5. Have teens cut out the mask. The eye holes can be cut out using the craft knife.  If you don’t want teens using a craft knife, like I did because they were a little young, you can start the eye holes with the craft knife and let them use scissors to complete the cut.
  6. Have teens place the paper template on the mask and use the hole punch template as a guide to punch holes for the elastic cord.
  7. Turn the mask so that the dull side is facing up and use the heat gun to heat the nose first.
    1. Once the Worbla is pliable, have teens place the mask on their face and pinch the nose until it shapes to their face.
      1. If it is too hot for their face, tell them to let it cool a little bit before dmFaq5skQPy63tuzaqKGPQputting it on their face.  It won’t leave burn marks on their face.
  8. Repeat step seven by heating the mask and pressing onto their face in sections.  Do the under eye, the sides, and the top.
    1. Have teens hold their head back as they press to shape their face.
  9. If they mess up, they can heat the mask, flatten it until it hardens, and start again.
  10. Tie the elastic cord.  The cord should be tight so that it fits snuggly to their face.


  • Teens thought the mask looked like The Incredibles so you can make this to tie it into the movie release.
  • This activity took about 30 minutes.  To make it longer, teens can create their own template, you can have teens paint their mask or decorate with gems, or teens can add dimension. See my cuff cosplay below for instructions.
    • You can add a writing component by making a comic page.
      • You can take pictures of teens in their mask in superhero poses.  Teens and upload their images into a comic strip template.
      • Teens can turn their superhero persona into a short story
    • You can use a green screen to take pictures or make a short film.
  • Save your scraps; you can use them to make dimension. See cuff project below.
  • Hair dryers will take too long to heat; I recommend a heat gun.

Making Armour

Teens can use Worbla to make cuffs, bracers, or shin guards. See the video below to learn how I made my cuff.


  • Have teens draw their design before they begin.
  • The Worbla was uncomfortably hot when I shaped it to my wrist. After a Google search, it was recommended that you wear long sleeves and to shape the Worbla over your sleeve.

This is a great summer activity for your teens who love attending comic cons. They can come to your program to save money and to make their cosplay.

If you host own comic con at your library, this can be a great event or competition.

This can also be a Halloween program for teens to make their costumes at the library.

Posted in Big Programs

Harry Potter Party-Divination & Trivia

Welcome third years to Mrs. Trelawney’s Divination Class! This year, you’ll learn how to read ancient runes, palms, and tea leaves. During class, we’ll play Harry Potter team trivia and the winning team will get a prize.

Budget-Expensive (LOL) I probably spent about $150 for 30 people.  The bulk of the budget was spent on snacks and prizes


Palm Reading-We printed information on how to read palms.  Simply do a Google search.

Tasseography (Tea Leaves)

Supplies Needed

  • Tea cups & saucer (get the tea cups that taper).  If you don’t have any tea cups ask fHVZh3k%QU2VuPDYRIdd1wstaff. I bought all of mine from Goodwill/Salvation Army
  • Tea pots. Once again ask staff or go to Goodwill/Salvation Army
  • Tea
  • Chart 1 | Chart 2
  • Interpretation Website

History behind Tasseography



Ancient Runes

Supplies Needed


  1. I learned about ancient runes from this Youtube channel.  I wrote down the more kVB0NBKiSa+P9sxpSAVnSwinteresting bits of history and explained it during the beginning of the “class.”
  2. I put 13 runes and the chart in each velvet bag.  There are 24 symbols in the alphabet but I didn’t want to spend that much on the wooden pieces.  If you do, I would suggest buying a bigger velvet pouch.
  3. I told “students” to write their favorite symbols on the wooden pieces.  You could give everyone 12 pieces and have them write symbols on both sides.  This way they will get all the symbols. Technically, real ancient runes wouldn’t do the double sided method.
  4. “Students” put the runes back in the bag, hold the bag by the string, and knock the energy out of the bag.
  5. They hold the bag in both hands and clear their minds.LUhNmCJvQueY+mOYjYRx2g
  6. The move the pieces around in the bag and ask their question out loud.
  7. They take out one rune and answer their question but interpreting the rune using the chart.
  8. Here’s the video I watched to learn how to read runes. There are other ways to do runes but this way was the easiest to teach.
  9. I had them read their neighbor’s runes.

Harry Potter Trivia

I made a Kahoot quiz. Kahoot is an online trivia site.  Teens can use their cell phones to add the game pin to play along.  You may use my Kahoot quiz; it is a bit hard.

The tables were teams.  We have four people per table.


I visited Mariano’s ethnic foods section and purchased British chips, Jaffe Cakes, Sherbert Lemons and assorted candies, Crumpets, and Lemon Curd.  I made scones from a mix. We had hot tea and iced tea to drink.



  • Mini text books- We purchased mini notebooks and printing and glued the Divination book cover over them. Each “student” received a text book.IMG_1531
  • Feather Quill- We made them using an ink pen and duct tape.  Here’s the instructions on how to make a feather with duct tape.  Each “student” received a
  • Electric candles (Dollar Store is a cheaper option). We put candles on each table.
  • Crystal Ball-I spray painted left over DIY globes.  We hot glued them to wooden plaques.  We bought ours from Michaels for $1/ea.  We put a crystal ball in the center of each table.
  • We covered each table with red and purple table cloths.
  • We put shiny curtain over the door frames.


We wrote a prophecy for everyone and put them at each place setting. We made it so that five prophecies would come true during the party.  You may print and cut our prophecies.  The ones with the asterisk are the prophecies that will come true.

  • One of the feather quills had yellow duct tape
  • We drew a deathly hallows on the bottom of a saucer
  • We put a square piece among the circle pieces in one of the ancient runes bags.  I purchased square and round wooden pieces but you can put a gem in the bag and change the prophecy.
  • We put the final two at two different tables.  The odds of a loosing team is high.

The Party

  • Upon arrival, “students” chose their seat and enjoyed snacks.
  • We did palm reading first- 15 minutes
  • We played trivia-20 minutes
  • Ancient runes- 15 minutes
  • Tea leaves-25 minutes
  • We took snack and bathroom breaks between activities.
  • We reminded “students” to check their prophecies to see if it came true.

Sorry, no escape room but here’s a link to one I did a year ago.

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 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.