Friday, August 9, 2013

Percy Jackson Party: An Unprogram

The new Percy Jackson movie was released this week, and at the suggestion of several members of my Kids Advisory Board, I offered a Percy Jackson Party program to celebrate the fans of both the books and films. This program took place at the tail end of summer reading, which means I had no guarantees about the amount of prep time I would have for the program. What better occasion for utilizing the unprogramming method?

Percy Jackson Party

Something Literary: I started the program by greeting the school-age children and launching right into our literary content for the program. We talked a bit about what we like about the Percy Jackson series, and from there I booktalked some readalike authors and titles. I made sure to display non-fiction books on Greek mythology as well as the fiction titles I shared--after all, the basis of many characters' backstories in the Percy Jackson books come straight from these ancient myths.

I then told a Greek myth: the story of Theseus and the Minotaur. I love exercising my storytelling chops with old tales like these; since the stories were originally part of an oral storytelling culture, they work really well when told aloud in library programs. Some of the children had already heard the tale of Theseus and the half-man, half-beast Minotaur, but they were interested in my telling just the same.

A Group Activity: I had set out a few tables in a long, single-table arrangement, and each table had all the supplies for painting. Our craft activity was to paint shields (cardboard cake rounds + ribbon + brads = a shield with a handle). I introduced the activity by noting that ancient warriors used their shields not only as a means of protecting themselves in battle, but also as a way to distinguish themselves to others. Shields often had very personal carvings and decorations that reflected the personality and life of the shield-bearer.

Stations of Stuff: With the help of two teen volunteers, there were three stations through which kids could rotate to engage in Percy Jackson-relevant activities. Children were free to move from station to station as they pleased.
  • Feeding the Cerberus - I cut a hole in a piece of particle board and added a picture of the three-headed hound that guards the Underworld to create this game station. Kids used soft balls meant for the pool to try and feed the Cerberus by tossing the balls at the opening.
  • Archery Against the Gorgons - I printed and laminated three pictures of Gorgons, the mythological evil sisters with snakes for hair. Children used our library's Nerf crossbows to try to defeat the Gorgons.
  • Greek Gods & Goddesses Go Fish - I made a full deck of cards bearing the images, names, and descriptors of major Greek gods and goddesses. I helped at this station, as not all of the children were familiar with "go fish," but everyone quickly caught on and the game became quite popular. So popular, in fact, that we wrapped up the program with a massive game, everyone seated on the ground around our story time rug.

Stations of Stuff is a perfect arrangement for larger group programs like this one; since children are able to move from activity to activity at their own pace, they never feel bored or left out in the middle of an activity. There's always something for everyone to do, including going back to the craft table to add more detail to one's shield.

That was our Percy Jackson Party program. You may be thinking that I didn't do much that tied explicitly to plot points in the Percy Jackson universe, but that was intentional on my part. The kids who have read the books and/or seen the movies were excited to talk about PJ with their peers, but kids who weren't familiar with the PJ universe never felt left out because they didn't know trivia or specific plot points. Everyone got to have fun and engage in activities that expanded beyond the book, hopefully piquing interest in other readalike books or in mythology.

Have you offered a Percy Jackson program at your library? What sorts of activities did you do?


  1. We just had a Percy Jackson party, too! We started out with a little god/goddess/titan/monster trivia game, then moved on to making "claiming badges." On one side of the round gold badges (spraypainted cardboard) they drew symbols for the god or goddess who claimed them and then on the other created visual representations of what their inherited talents might be if they were demigods. Then we did a quick "dyslexia" challenge where they had to decipher a paragraph that was written like what a dyslexic person might see when they read. Finally, we finished out on the lawn with some "medusa freeze tag." :)

  2. This was very helpful, Amy--we just had a PJ inspired but more broadly named 'Bay Ridge Olympians' event at my library today. We decorated paper-plate shields, made hieroglyphic headdresses (thanks Scholastic!), did a quick group-telling of the story of Daedalus and Icarus (and argued about how to pronounce Daedalus). Some kids drew me a great Cyclops and we played 'pin (tape) the eye on the cyclops). I also put out a tabletop puppet theater and a bunch of animal puppets and suggested they enact their favorite mythological scenario--with a few suggestions printed out on slips of paper (i.e. 'Gotta, just gotta get that Golden Fleece,' 'A scary dude just grabbed me and pulled me underground--I just ate some fruit and now I think I'm stuck here.' 'OK, war's over and I'm ready to go home. If only I could remember where it was...' etc..)

    The final activity station was 'Ask the Oracle.' I provided tiny chalkboards and chalk and made it a partnered activity, but I think it would have also worked really well as a big wooden or foam-core picture with a head cut-out, so kids could take turns making oracular predictions. They were really good at thinking of non-specific frustrating predictions (When will I die? On a day in the future...). Great ideas, and I have more, hoping to do it again soon.

    1. Sounds like you had a really great program, Katya! I particularly love the story starters with puppets and the oracle station.


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