Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Magic Tree House Library Party!

This post is authored by Jennifer Johnson, blog intern. See the rest of her posts here.

National Library Week is coming up next month, and I always try to do at least one or two special literature-based programs for kids during that week. Last year, we hosted a Magic Tree House program and it was a huge hit with our young patrons! The program I’m going to talk about today was based on the first four books, but we had patrons request more programs to keep going through the rest of the series! This was an hour and a half program, so I knew I wanted to have at least one activity for each of the four books, plus snacks and a photo booth, which ended up filling the time quite nicely.


The activities here are super simple, but I spent a lot of time on the logistics of the tree house. The activities totally work without it; the payoff for the kids was pretty amazing though.
two wooden doors, each decorated like a tree.
Our meeting room can be split in two with a partition wall that, when not in use, is pushed into a storage area between the two sides of the room. I knew that I wanted to make that storage area our treehouse and have the kids go inside it and emerge into each story. And somehow, amazingly, we pulled it off. I had the dinosaur side of the room ready to go before the kids arrived, on the other side of the partition wall that they couldn’t see when they entered the front half of the room.
Jennifer dressed in a red velvet dress and a white wig, posing with Pete the Cat (who was there for another program!)
I dressed as Morgan le Fay and acted as their guide, taking them all into the “tree house.” The decorations for the tree house were a collaborative effort between our teens (the leafy tree part at the top) and our maintenance staff (the carefully measured wood grain strips and windows). The inner d├ęcor was from a Magic Tree House program several years prior, and the painted bookshelf was repurposed from an escape room program. I brought the string lights from home since the storage nook has no lighting of its own, and I also brought a fan for some wind effects. I put real books in the tree house as well, and pulled one out each time we went inside for one of the children to point to and take us to our next destination.
inside the Tree House: storage room decorated with a string of lights, a painted on book shelf and painted on window.
When we emerged into the time of dinosaurs for our relay, the room was decorated with some fake plants and toy dinosaurs I had brought from home. I even had a dinosaur costume that one of my teen volunteers wore (this good-natured girl switched props every time we switched activities, which was about every 15-20 minutes. She wore a helmet and carried a sword for the knights, wore a paper Egyptian headdress for the hieroglyphics, and wore a swashbuckling hat and eye patch for the pirates.) While the dinosaur relay was going on, my other two teen volunteers were working their magic on the other side of the room, putting out the supplies for the jousting and throwing up some simple decorations (felt flags and knight action figures I’d brought from home). This way, when we went back into the tree house and emerged on the other side of the room, it had been transformed into a different time and place! The same happened while we were jousting. The two behind-the-scenes volunteers took down the dino decorations and set up for the hieroglyphic activity so that when we came back through the Magic Tree House, we had been transported once again and so on. This was really complicated to coordinate, but the kids loved actually getting to go inside the tree house and see the room transformed each time. I’m really glad I did it that way, but I think for the next one, I may just have the tree house be a part of the room that the kids can interact with, and put all these stations in the same room to let them peruse at their own pace rather than taking the whole group through each activity at the same time. It certainly is fun to have that wow factor though if you are able to do it!


Dinosaurs Before Dark Dinosaur Stomp Relay: I put tape on the floor for a starting and turn around point (one for each team) and split the kids into two teams to race against each other. I didn’t provide prizes; the glory of being the winning team is reward enough! Each team was given two sets of dinosaur feet, but you could do it with one set for each team. On my signal, the kids would race down to the turn-around point on their dinosaur feet, then race back and pass the feet on to the next person to race, and so on. You may want to stress that this is more of a race of endurance rather than speed because if they try to go too fast on the stompers, they may hurt themselves.
A young child dressed in pink standing on top of plastic dinosaur feet
The Knight at Dawn Jousting Competition: Again, there was no prize for this other than the glory, but the challenge was for the kids to see if they could spear a ring on their lances. I borrowed stick horses from various staff members’ children and my mom was kind enough to make a few for me out of pool noodles. I also made ring holders so that myself and my volunteers wouldn’t have to hold them in our hands and risk getting speared (with a pool noodle, but still). I hot glued clothespins on the ends of dowel rods to clasp the rings in place. The rings were paper plates with the middles cut out. The kids would choose their steeds and lances (also made from pool noodles and lovingly crafted by my mother), then line up to take their turns at attempting to spear the ring. I was fortunate to have a teen volunteer helping me, so we were able to let four kids joust at once if we each held a ring out to both sides. We tried to let each of the children have at least two or three passes at the rings. Unfortunately, to this day, this is still the activity that I regret not getting pictures of the most! The kids had a great time with it, but it was impossible for me to hold the rings and take pictures at the same time! Mummies in the Morning Hieroglyph Messages: I made copies of a hieroglyphic alphabet pulled from National Geographic for Kids, laid them out on tables with different colored paper, crayons, and coloring pencils, and let the kids create their own signs, letters, etc. using the hieroglyphic alphabet. This was so easy to do and I got some very interesting messages! (One of them translated to “Poop is cool.”)
Several children sitting at a desk, writing on colored paper
Pirates Past Noon Pirate Bean Bag Toss and Walk the Plank: The bean bag toss was something I created years ago for a summer reading finale that I pulled back out for this program. The kids could take turns at the toss, and they could take turns at walking the plank, which was a piece of wood I borrowed from our maintenance department laid out on a large blue piece of paper. I made three-dimensional shark fins out of cardstock and hot glued them to the paper as if they were circling around the plank. These activities were incredibly easy for my volunteers to supervise which gave me a chance to set out the snacks we had prepared.
Large cardboard box decorated like a treasure map. Several holes are cut in it for the bean bag toss.
Child walking carefully on a wooden board placed in the middle of a large piece of blue paper, simulating water. 
Dinosaur Eggs: This program was right around Easter, so we were able to buy several bags of chocolate eggs fairly cheap!
Pretzel Swords: I bought the large, thick pretzel rods and put a Lifesaver Gummy around the end of each one to make a hilt. Super easy and the kids loved them!
Cheese Pyramid: I simply bought a variety of cheese cube flavors and stacked them into a pyramid. No fuss!
Fish and Chips: This one is a great example of my dad joke humor at its finest. I bought potato chips and Goldfish crackers and tossed them together almost like Chex Mix.

We also had a photo area with a Jack and Annie standee that I won at a conference that year (it was fate!) and an adorable knight/horse photo prop that one of our very talented clerks had painted for an outreach event. I called in a lot of favors and reused a lot of old things for this program. Without the help of our teen volunteers, all that razzle dazzle with the tree house would not have been possible. I borrowed a lot of props from my mom because she and I love going to the local Renaissance Festival every year and she’s built up quite a stash. I commissioned a lot of help creating new things from our volunteers and other staff members because I was out of town at a conference the week before the program. But I think it’s important to make use of the talents of the people around you when they are willing to help. We all want to be Super Librarian, but you don’t have to do it all yourself. That’s the great thing about library services! We are all in it together!

I hope some of these ideas are useful and inspire you to have a Magic Tree House program at your library! One thing’s for certain, these books don’t seem to be losing popularity any time soon!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Center for the Future of Libraries Fellowship-- a YS Opportunity!

I'm excited to share that the Center for the Future of Libraries has opened a call for proposals for the Center for the Future of Libraries Fellowship. And, OF COURSE I think this a great opportunity for Youth Services library staff!

A lined background with a red stamp that says, "Due
5/15/18." In black text: "Center for the Future of
Libraries Fellowship: A YS Opportunity!"

What does the future of Youth Services look like to you? What innovation in youth services are you itching to research, try, or develop? What pie-in-the-sky ideas are swimming around in that wonderful, youth-focused head of yours?

From the press release (emphasis mine for skimming purposes):
"The Future of Libraries Fellowship will provide an individual or group with a stipend of $10,000 to advance new ideas and perspectives for the future of libraries through the creation of a public product – report, white paper, video, resource, tool – that will help library professionals envision the future of library collections, services, spaces, technologies, or partnerships. Projects may build on existing work, research, or initiatives of the Association, its Offices, Divisions, and Round Tables, or explore new directions and interests.

The deadline for proposals for the 2018 fellowship is May 15, 2018."

I'd love to see a ton of Youth Services submissions. I really feel like there are so many great conversations happening about even the nature of youth services itself, but implementation can be tough when you're running 15 programs a week/managing tours for your whole district/on the desk several hours a week/yelling "walk please" every 20 minutes/getting Child Germ Flu/constantly planning either Summer Reading or Battle of the Books/ etc etc etc. Or maybe you're facing a rough time and buzzing along and could use a new project to sink your teeth into.

Youth Services IS the future of libraries; we're literally shaping family library legacies and creating lifelong library users and supporters, everyday. But we hardly get the time or support to really consider what that even means. We see it in the courses that are offered, the conference proposals that get accepted, the Storytime Underground questions that get asked again and again: we're looking for quick tips for right now, and that's what we're getting.

And that's great, and it can work.

We ALSO deserve the space, the time, and the support to really consider what youth services actually means, and what our future could look like.

So here's a chance: $10,000  to create something that could inform the future of our work.
What would you do with it?

Learn how to apply here and email completed applications to mfigueroa at ala dot org.

(You might be thinking that this looks like something someone in academia would be more suited for. And you're right that library staff from other fields may have had more past experience with proposals like this. But you're already doing the tough work of creating their future patron bases; I know you can do this, too.)