Monday, November 26, 2012

Spy Club! A School-Age Program

Navigating the Laser Field
After I read two great 2012 middle grade novels featuring spies as a theme, I decided I needed to offer a Spy Club program at my library. After a bit of planning and recruiting teen volunteers, we offered the program to great success last week. Here's what we did:

Spy Club

When the program room doors opened, kids were able to find a seat at a table set out of with supplies for creating disguises. No spy is ready for duty without an assortment of disguises, right? The end results of this station were varied, with some kids donning monocles and handlebar mustaches while others were rocking multicolor glasses and beauty spots that were really communication devices.

During the disguise creation, I book talked two of the books that inspired the program theme: Sophia's War by Avi and Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead. I emphasized that there are books with spies for all readers; these two books represent realistic fiction and historical fiction. Both were checked out after the program, as were a number of other spy-themed books we'd pulled for display in the program.

Once disguises were in place, kiddos were able to rotate among four spy skills stations:

  • Sharpshooting -- The Nerf guns from our Star Wars Jedi Academy were repurposed for shooting at traditional targets. A volunteer taped two lines to the floor as guides for the sharpshooters: one at an easier distance, and one more difficult.
  • Laser Field -- I set up a station for navigating a laser field using tables, duct tape, and red crepe paper. Spies took turns working their way through the maze of laser beams. This station was by far the most popular, with children going through multiple times in an attempt to discover different paths through the field. (see picture above)
  • Invisible Ink -- Tables were set up with cups of invisible ink (a mixture of lemon juice with a bit of water), cotton swabs for writing, and plain white paper. Messages needed to dry before they were completely invisible, so the reading of the secret messages took place at home with the assistance of a hair dryer or warm lighbulb.
  • Cryptography -- I had created a code key and secret message using a pictograph font in Word, and the young spies spent a bit of time decoding the message. Once decoded, it instructed them to go to the reference desk for a reward (candy).

With just a few minutes left in the program, I announced that spies should be finishing up at their current stations. We ended with a reminder that books were available for check-out; both fiction and non-fiction accounts of spies went like hot cakes. Lots of children were spotted leaving the library in disguise, too--an indicator, I think, that they'd enjoyed themselves.


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