A brief look at 'grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

On Saturday, March 21, over 130 locations throughout all 21 counties of New Jersey participated in the inaugural New Jersey Makers Day. From public libraries and museums to businesses and schools or youth organizations, each site celebrated maker culture by hosting events that promote making, tinkering, and STEM-based learning. Presentations, demonstrations, and hands-on activities introduced attendees to local makerspaces and provided an opportunity to interact with new technologies such as 3D printers, littleBits and Makey Makey kits, and computer programming. A wide variety of workshops were offered in which participants could try their hand at making things such as light bulbs, balancing toys, jewelry, duct tape bags, robots, and sculptures as well as learn the basics of sewing, gardening, origami, woodworking, car maintenance, and more! For more information on Makers Day and to see a list of activities provided by participating sites, visit the Makers Day website: http://njmakersday.org/

Similarly, just a week prior to Makers Day, Teen Tech Week took place from March 8-14 with the theme "Libraries are for Making." Aimed at helping teens develop digital literacy skills and demonstrating the value libraries can provide for non-print resources and access to technology, this week also provides an opportunity to showcase all the library has to offer in a collaborative and hands-on environment. Many fun programs were held this year and shared on Instagram including a technology petting zoo where teens can interact with different products, using 3D pens, making solar powered cars, and a retro gaming night with older gaming consoles.

Did your library participate in NJ Makers Day or Teen Tech Week? Which types of programs and technology did you offer? How did you get teens involved? Did they volunteer and help ensure programs ran smoothly or share their interests with the community by conduction demonstrations? Did you collaborate with other local organizations or businesses? Share with us in the comments section below!

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Teens have an amazing variety of programs at their fingertips ranging from college prep, crafts, gaming, pop trivia, anime, and much more.  What if there was a way to combine many of these elements into one activity that is not only fun, but will have amazing health benefits as well? I bet you are thinking the same thing I am: dancing. Before I go any further, some of you may think I am crazy because there is no way teens would voluntarily dance in public, especially amongst their peers. Well, I am very excited to tell you that there is actually a way to get them to dance and have fun, but it requires us to lead by example. In other words, we got to shake our money makers so teens can see just how fun it really is.

Before I go any further, I would like to discuss some rather disturbing facts. According to the American Heart Association:

“About one in three American kids and teens is overweight or obese. The prevalence of obesity in children more than tripled from 1971 to 2011. With good reason, childhood obesity is now the No. 1 health concern among parents in the United States, topping drug abuse and smoking.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention also states:

“The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period.”

Clearly, obesity is on the rise and it is something that we should address in our programs and services. For example, are we sponsoring programs, or partnering with organizations, to prevent drug and alcohol abuse? If we are, are we addressing obesity as well? If not, it’s time that we do because teens are living in a world where body shaming and weight-related bullying is rampant. Furthermore, teens literally live in a digital age where video games are much more popular than physical exercise.  If we care encouraging teens to exercise their minds with books, why can’t we encourage them to exercise their bodies as well?

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When the Teen Tech Week grant was written, it was hoped that we could get teens interested in more library programs. Teens will show up to use the computers to chat with friends and watch internet videos, but mention digital literacy or STEM/STEAM and they’ll look at you like you’re an alien. Don’t get me wrong; our schools are hardworking, Title I schools that strive to teach students what they can. But a rural area of Lafourche Parish is not really at the top of the list for the fast paced information technology industry.

Like any library in the country, we know we have to get them young or we lose them until they’re adults. And without many options they’re not going to stay in this area. The public library still has that stereotypical “the library is where the losers hang out” view to contend with among the teens. Our programming has to be unusual to get them in. We all know video games are always a popular draw. I’ve used free programs like Scratch and Kodu with them before. But the funds and resources to host a large scale video game design program were simply beyond our scope before now.

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A brief look at 'grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

Maybe it is the promise of spring, or perhaps it's the the recent book award announcements, but reading is definitely in the air in teen services. This week's teen-focused Instagram accounts featured a deluge of teen book club posts. Whether simple photos of all the books prior to pick-up by book club members, images of teen involvement, or (of course) photos of the food being offered at meetings, it is clear that teen book clubs did not get buried under a snowy winter.

The school library I work for offers a book club to 7th grade students, which is run by one of my co-workers The kids vote on three books from a pre-prepared list (but can make a case for a personal favorite) and read the books over the course of a few months. Then, the group swaps out for a new round of 7th graders. There are no assignments, and the kids make book trailers with Animoto at the end of their session. Fortunately, the session that ran through the winter saw no decrease in enthusiasm.

What format does your teen book club take? Are there assigned books, or are teens and middle grade kids asked to simply come prepared to talk about ANY book? Do the school vacations influence book club participation at your library (if you are public)? If there are specific books, how are they decided upon? How do you promote and draw kids into your book club? Do you have themed reads? Offer food? Please share in the comments below!

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YOUmedia Hartford is a digital learning and maker space for teens ages 13-19.  The space is a research-informed, informal learning environment utilizing principles of connected learning, the HOMAGO learning theory and positive youth development.  Students come to Hang Out, Mess Around and Geek Out in content areas that include video and photo production, music production, game design, computer programming, design and making.  Through partnerships with local artists and professionals, businesses, schools and other informal learning spaces, students discover new opportunities and build knowledge and skills in areas of interest.  For instance, this coming summer students will work with award-winning producer Quadeer Shakur to produce, distribute and market a Best of Hartford Hip Hop album.  Others will work with a local botanist to build a hydroponic window garden from recycled materials.  Still more will enter 3D modeling, design and film contests under the guidance of our mentors.  Hundreds others will seek help with homework and personal projects, meet new friends and attend social events.

For Teen Tech Week the YOUmedia Hartford staff wanted to get out of the library and into classrooms, and so we did!  Through partnerships with several local schools we were able to take e-textiles and stop motion animation workshops on the road.  The projects showcased the variety of activities available at YOUmedia and to expose students to the processes behind some very fun and practical technologies.  These workshops also acted as carrots to attract new youth to the space, so that they might find themselves immersed in a resource-rich environment, staffed with knowledgeable mentors and full-to-the-brim with other young people exploring similar pursuits.  All of the materials used for the workshops are available freely to any youth in the space.

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Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman is cause for celebration at libraries this summer.  The expected July 14th release date has fans of To Kill A Mockingbird all a twitter.  Here are a few ideas to use at your library to celebrate this great literary occasion. 

  • Turn your inside book drop into a tree knot hole.  Use paper or a large painted sheet to create a tree to drape in front of it.  Have the children knock and ask for Boo Radley.  Children can reach in and get candy, bookmarks or anything else you would like to give away.
  • Host a scavenger hunt in your children’s area for items found in the tree knot such as gum, balls of twine and pennies. 
  • Have a community reads program and discussion group at your library.  Buy a number of copies to giveaway to the first people who sign up.
  • If you are having a book group and want to serve refreshments, you can try recipes inspired by the book at http://leafsandleaves.blogspot.com/2011/08/recipes-from-to-kill-mockingbird.html.  You can find Calpurnia’s crackling bread, Miss Maudie’s Lane Cake, frosted tea cakes and fresh lemonade. 
  • Invite Paul Acampora for an author visit.  He wrote I Kill The Mockingbird.  It is about a group of middle school students who hide the books in local libraries and bookstores to create hype to get their classmates to read it. 
  • Hide the books and have your own I Kill The Mockingbird hype event. 
  • Do a reader’s theater with children and or teens with certain scenes from the book such as a courtroom scene.

Kris Hickey, Columbus Metropolitan Library, Columbus, OH

This is my 2nd year of being a media specialist so this is my first go around with Teen Tech Week.  We have come up with about 17 activities at Chestatee High School for our students to try their hand with at learning.  Some activities are limited for just a few students to be working with at a time like the Spheros, Exofabulatronixx Robot, slow motion animation, Makey Makey, K’nex, Chaos Tower and littleBits.  These items will help our students to learn about coding, building, circuitry, and video making.  This allows our students a new opportunity to learn something or to further their knowledge of a passion they already enjoy.  We received the grant from YALSA and Best Buy and we were able to purchase Spheros and an Exofabulatronixx Robot.  Both of these items will help our students learn the skill of coding.  The Sphero is merely a remote controlled ball in which they can program its movements.  We hope to incorporate the Sphero and coding into a math course next year.  Teen Tech Week will give the students the first glimpse of what they can accomplish with such a simple tool.  The Exofabulatronixx Robot is one in which our students can put together and take apart and put together in a different form again.  Its pieces connect by means of magnets.  When the students have finished creating their robot, they are then able to create a program which will tell their robot what path to take.

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In 2012 the Teen Advisory Board received a grant from the Nebraska Library Commission (NLC) of $1,900 to start a Teen Media Club to give teens a chance to learn how to create digital content. Many of my teens do not have access to basic technologies. The library’s computer lab does not have filters so you must be 17 to enter which means that our community’s teens that do not have access to computers outside of school can’t even use the library’s resources. Many of my teens do not have Internet at home, have outdated computers that seem to freeze all the time and not connect to the library’s wireless, and many do not have smartphones.

The goal of Media Club was to use technology to enable teens to create such things as book trailers and the creation and maintenance of a teen library website. The original NLC grant funds were used to purchase an HD Digital Recorder, a laptop for the teens, and various props for their videos. While there still is a lot of interest in Media Club we realized that just having a camera and a laptop was not enough. As we went about beginning to create, draft, and record various video projects we learned that we really need certain other tech equipment to properly be able to run our club. We discovered this after a large-scale project (La Vista’s Next Top Project Snazz Maszter—a “reality” show cross between America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway) which we filmed during a 17-hour lock-in (filming all 17 hours!) and discovered afterward that a lot of the film was unusable. Our library has 20-foot ceilings and the sound on most of our film was barely audible because of echoes. We also realized free film editing software can’t do things like green screen effects. The teens decided they wanted me to apply for a YALSA/Best Buy Teen Tech Week grant for funds to be used toward the purchase of the additional equipment we need to get Media Club properly equipped and off the ground again.

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