I am completely in love with self-directed contests. Also known as passive programming (which always leads my superiors to think that there is NO thought or work involved at all, which is not true), these self-directed contests get teens involved because they are:

  • drawn into the library by the contest itself
  • ask the staff questions about the contest and about the items in the contest
  • use math and logic skills to figure out the answer
  • promote the contest to their friends

Even better, while they do take imagination and ground work, like all self-directed programming once they’re put together and set-up they take little or no staff watching, aside from the interaction with teens! My contests run on average for 2 weeks (some less) and generate on average between 25 and 40 entries.

Costs involved with self-directed contests are minimal. Really all you need is a clear plastic container with a lid (I’ve used the leftover plastic jar from animal crackers), items to place in the container, and the capacity to print flyers and entry forms. If you want to make it more complex, you can invest in display jars and frames, as well as baskets for entry forms and holders for the display sign.march jar english

For a little imagination, some legwork in putting things together, and a bunch of interaction answering questions from curious teens, I can get at least two programs a month that average between 50 and 80 people. ON AVERAGE.

For Teen Tech Week contests, I’ve used a variety of materials in my containers and used the contests in a multitude of different ways.

  • ADVERTISE OUR LEGO’® NIGHT: Purchased LEGO’® candies from a candy shop at the local mall to fill a jar, and participants had to guess the amount of LEGO’®’ â€œbricks” in the jar. Winner got to keep the candy.
  • ANNOUNCE THE PURCHASE OF LEGO’®’ POP-UP MAKERSPACE: Filled a display frame with purchased LEGOs’®’ and LEGO’®’ characters, and had participants guess HOW MANY Lego people were “buried” within the LEGOs’®. Winner got to name the first challenge.
  • SHOWCASE OUR COMPUTER GAMING NIGHT: Filled a display frame with broken keyboard keys that I got from our IT department, and had participants make words from the letters within. The winner was the one who had the most words, and got to choose the first LAN game we played that night.

And there are a host of other ideas floating out there! What ideas could you do with a contest of your own?

Submitted by Christie Gibrich
Teen Tech Week Committee Member

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