Summer, 2017: Two Teen Successes

As mentioned in my previous post, I’m assessing the 2017 summer program in bits and pieces as time allows. Here are a couple of successes to share.

Teen Scratch Ticket Challenge

We connected with a wide variety of teens this summer with the help of scratch tickets, of all things. The idea is borrowed from the genius, Kat at the 5 Min Librarian. In May, I read her post about the Scratch Ticket Challenge and thought it was a great idea. (Read her post to find out the tech details. I followed her lead and used her template with little variation.) Using the tickets was a last minute addition, but her description seemed easy enough to pull off in my small library as a pilot and I was looking for something new to spice up the teen summer reading/learning experience. (I’ll post more about the passive challenges we also had success with soon.) Ultimately the goal is to encourage teens to keep reading all summer and if a method other than the traditional “keep track of reading” works, why not try it?

We offered every teen who checked out a book or audiobook in the physical library a scratch ticket (1 ticket per day, maximum) which either got them a prize from the candy drawer, the surprise prize drawer or no prize in which case their ticket was entered into the grand prize drawing at the end of the summer. It was easy to keep track of the number of tickets printed for statistical purposes and my coworkers found it easy to manage. They loved giving out the tickets to unsuspecting teens!

Not only did we connect with teens who don’t want to keep track of their reading (in a digital or paper log) yet still read all summer and checked out books from the library, we also caught the attention of teens who are not regularly represented in program attendance; for example, teens who live remotely and visit the library sporadically or those who have limited family support. Our teen participation went from 24 last year to 83 this year. Most of the increase was thanks to teens who were not registered for the reading challenge. The teens who loved the scratch ticket game the most were on the younger end, 12-14. Why? My guess, after looking at the names of these kids, is because they recently graduated from the kids’ reading challenge and like the idea of participating in a game type program. I also saw lots of names I had never seen in any library program ever. Some teens participated both in the game and in the official reading challenge so they were entered into the 2 grand prize drawings multiple times.

What I like about this scratch ticket idea is that it meets teens who are reading where they, or at least some of they, are- at the circ desk checking books out. Teens were pleasantly surprised so to be offered a scratch ticket! Next year we plan to continue some version of the scratch ticket game; using it to both “reward” regular users and attract more teens to the library.

DIY Virtual Reality Goggles

Teen making DIY VR Goggles

Our DIY Virtual Reality Goggles program for teens was another successful teen program, but not in the usual stats sort of way. On a spreadsheet, it might not seem like a win compared with other programs I host. It was one of those programs that required a decent amount of planning time and didn’t see significant numbers. It’s beauty lay in the conversation that unfurled during the 2 hour program, in the confidence that filled the teen makers and in the new interests the project sparked.

Imagine 4 teenage boys crafting and chatting about a variety of topics for two hours and you’ll get an idea of what happened. (The cardboard goggles require measuring, cutting and gluing cardboard from shoeboxes or pizza boxes, plus fitting lens and other materials.) Yes, we talked about Virtual Reality, we briefly tested out the goggles at the end and I gave them a list of VR apps (see below) to try at home, but mostly they wanted to “hang out, mess around and geek out” (HOMAGO), as they say.  Eryn, the teen mentor who has helped me for the last two years with everything from the maker club to storytime, and I were amazed.

If you have teenagers and you drive them in a car much, you can imagine the kind of conversation that rolled out over the two hours. When teens are in the right space with the right group and at the right time, they talk about everything in such an uninhibited way. There was nothing shocking revealed, just a group of boys, plus Eryn and I, tinkering and talking. The kids who didn’t know each other, verbally danced around topics until they found common ground. When one didn’t know what the other was talking about, the group filled him in. Eryn and I were enveloped into the conversations without hesitation.

After two hours, we eventually had to “kick them out”  and finish cleaning up. For most of the four, the goggles they made were considered a prototype and the templates they took home will be used to make the next, more polished pair. This was a program that capitalized on the allure of new media, got teens making and learning, provided access to a new technology and connected teens with each other. Win. Win.

The funniest quote? “We’re actually going to make VR goggles? I thought we were just going to watch a video about them.”

DIY VR Goggle template and cardboard laid out on table

Materials (planned for 8-10, plus 2 extras):
lightweight cardboard (from shoe boxes or pizza boxes)
2-3 X-acto knives, used at a “precision” station to avoid sharp tools being lost amongst the cardboard remains
metal rulers to help make folds clean
scissors capable of cutting cardboard, enough for each teen to have a pair
glue stick and white glue
45mm focal length biconvex plastic lenses (see template link below for details)
velcro
rubber band
table coverings to protect surface
*We didn’t use the copper tape button. It works just as well to use tap the phone screen with a finger. (See template instructions.)
Instructables template and instructions

And here are the VR apps I shared with the group of teens:

Summer, 2017! No wait, Fall!

dead pink salmon on rocky beach

It’s officially Fall here in Homer, Alaska. I know that because of the yellows, oranges and reds that dot the landscape, the dead and dying salmon whose bodies lie on local stream-sides and because of the darkness, the elusive darkness that we trade each August for the long, fun-filled days of summer.

Every year I plan to spend August reflecting on the summer programs, assessing what worked and what needs to be modified in the future. I also dream of having a couple of weeks to plan the months ahead. Once again, the reflection has been squeezed between program planning and hosting, grant writing, leading trainings and webinars, desk time and reviewing Caldecott submissions. Hours of reflection are a figment of my imagination. You know what I mean.

One thing I do know is the summer was a good one in so many ways. Not every aspect of our summer learning program went as planned or had the outcomes we intended, but overall we succeeded.

  • Kids, teens and families kept reading, learning, playing and creating all summer long and they often did them together.
  • Families found support at the library.
  • We continued to find ways to fill learning voids in our community.
  • We provided supported access for a diverse audience of kids to all sorts of media.
  • I mentored another young woman who graduated from the local high school and spent one last summer mentoring younger kids in a variety of programs before heading off to MIT. (I’m so proud and sad to see her go.)
  • We grew positive community partnerships.

I’ll share my reflections on specific aspects of the summer program in following posts.

Homer’s Great Reading Adventure, part 2: The Data

Now that we are a few weeks beyond the end of summer reading, my library’s tech specialist and I have playing with the data side of the Great Reading Adventure (GRA). (See more about our first summer using GRA here.) The numbers are valuable, not just for data geeks, but also for those interested in the financial side of things, local school staff and administrators, and those of us involved in the summer program’s long term plans. The numbers aren’t the whole picture, but they will help us paint a clearer, more expansive one.

For each piece of data we’ve looked at so far, I’ve explained it below, mentioned who it interests, and posed questions as a result of seeing the info in a new, detailed way.

Summer@HPL 2016 Overview image

City of Homer Population: 5,310 Library Service Area: 12,000+/-

The Data

For families, the Great Reading Adventure digital log was the one and only place to register for the 2016 summer program. Once registered, they recorded reading minutes for the reading challenge in the digital log. (Note: We did offer a one page log, for families who wanted to log time online only periodically, at the library for example.) Additionally, families used the platform for a few other things.

  • The GRA was one of several places they could find details about events (in addition to the library’s online calendar, etc.). We did not use it for event registration since most events did not require registration. (We used a web form on our library’s site in those cases.)
  • All registered family members could earn digital badges for specific amounts of reading time and when they entered secret codes found around town at events.
  • Participants could message the two of us managing the GRA with questions about the digital log, about the summer program, or library services in general.

As I mentioned, we used the GRA, in part, for the data! So here’s what we have learned so far:

    • We were able to look at the number of kids and teens who registered for the reading challenge and picked up at least one prize versus kids and teens who registered, but didn’t participate at all. Interestingly, almost every child and teen who logged time and picked up the first prize was hooked and kept participating.

      Who: This info is helpful for me, the one who plans the budget and buys prizes, etc. It’s also helpful for the library director and the Friends of the Library, the main funder of the summer program.

      Questions: Why didn’t some children, teens, or adults participate after registering? How many prizes do we need to buy for 2017? Can we incorporate more digital badges into the prize schedule, replacing some of the physical prizes and saving money?

    • Many kids and teens self-reported their school affiliation at registration which let us share some general data with schools about numbers of kids participating, total minutes logged, etc. (More on the school connection later.)

      Who: Obviously this is of interest to school administrators who want to support summer learning, but also to both me and the library director.

      Questions: Are we reaching families at schools with low participation? If not, why?

    • We analyzed the number of kids, teens, and adults registered in total and when they registered. This was important for knowing when and where to focus our outreach, marketing, and money. I have traditionally attended multiple Spring community events, intending to register lots of families. Last year I finally admitted that attending these events has value, but the registration numbers at these events are not an indicator of how many families will ultimately register or attend events. Now I had proof that I was right! This data is already helping guide our plans for 2017. The increase in family participation, the consistent number of child participants, and high general success with the digital log supported our decision to move from paper to digital.

      Who: This information is most valuable to me as the person who does all of the outreach and makes the overall decisions about the summer program. It is also useful to general library staff and families who might have questions about the switch from the traditional paper log booklet (for kids) and archaic digital log (for teens and adults) to the robust digital log for all ages.

      Questions: How can we make the digital log even easier for families to use, even with limited internet access? Can we have a designated logging station? Will the app in development meet more families’ needs?

    • We integrated the GRA digital badges into our summer program and were able to identify which badges were most popular- those accessed using secret codes posted at city parks as part of a community-wide scavenger hunt. This part of the summer program was even more of a hit than we thought it would be.

      The posted secret codes advertised the summer program to passersby and made a connection with the city’s parks and rec department staff and program.

      2016 SummerHPL Bishop's beach Secret Code image

      2016 SummerHPL Bishop’s Beach Secret Code

      Some families collected secret codes at all of our library events also, but that part of the program is still in its infancy and will be developed more for next year.

      The scavenger hunt aspect of the secret codes was a nice, but unexpected, segue into Pokémon GO fever which hit the country and our community at the tail end of the summer program. Families hunted for codes and completed a Maker Club-made scavenger hunt in the library and then started playing Pokemon Go with us at the library and around town. It all made for an active summer!

      Who: This information was useful mostly for me, as the program manager. Other staff and city employees are also interested.

      Questions: How do we develop more opportunities to engage the community in the summer program beyond the library’s walls? How do we harness the attention these secret codes received to include more families in the reading challenge and the summer program in general?

Summer Reading 2016, It’s a Wrap!

This past Saturday we finished up the 2016 summer reading and learning program. The 10 week program included the reading challenge and 53 programs designed to support families’ reading and learning as well as help them connect with the library in positive ways. The new digital log we’re using, the Great Reading Adventure, is giving us more data to pour over in the weeks to come, but in the meantime, I can report the summer was a success! Whole families participated more than ever, many new-to-the-library families enjoyed our variety of informal learning programs for the first time, and we were able to capitalize on the warm weather and encourage families to explore and play at city parks by planting summer reading secret codes around town.

Summer@HPL Ice Cream Celebration Sticky Wall image

Beginning of the Summer@HPL Ice Cream Celebration Sticky Wall

The Ice Cream Celebration we hold for kids at the end of each summer program was telling of this year’s success. Even with a smaller number of attendees than last year, the experience families had at the event was extremely positive. We replaced several carnival games with maker type activities (think LEGO building, play dough challenges and Harry Potter wand making) so the balance between prize winning and creative play was more even. Kids were happy and busy, instead of desperately running from game to game in search of more little plastic doo-dads, and they still left with a few prizes, free books, and bellies full of ice cream. We’re fostering lifelong learning and ‘making’ from an early age!

I’m shifting gears slightly and attending the Language Development and Family Engagement in the Digital Age Institute in DC this week, but I’ll share more stats from the summer reading and learning program, as well as final assessment of our Great Reading Adventure experience, when I return.

Apps for Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies

Along with the book lists, movie suggestions, and website recommendations I share as part of Summer@HPL each summer, we add related apps to our library’s Pinterest boards. Here are some of the apps for children I am introducing families to as part of my media advisory efforts. These apps are tied to the summer learning program’s theme of “healthy minds, healthy bodies” and the various events at the library.

Toca Kitchen 2

 

Toca Kitchen 2 (storytime)
Toca Boca
iOS and Android

 

Miximal app

 

Miximal (storytime)
Yatatoy
iOS

 

img_4619

 

Never Alone (Maker Camp: Game Design)
E-Line Media
iOS and Android

 

 

unnamed

 

Minecraft (special program)
Mojang
iOS and Android

 

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain

 

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain (mounted iPad)
Little Pickle Press
iOS

 

This is My Body

 

This is My Body- Anatomy for Kids (storytime)
Urbn Pockets
iOS

 

Human Body

 

Human Body (media advisory)
Tinybop
iOS

 

toca dance

 

Toca Dance (Maker Camp)
Toca Boca
iOS

 

Harry's Healthy Garden

 

Harry’s Healthy Garden (mounted iPad)
Baby First & American Heart Association
iOS

 

Sago Mini Monsters

Sago Mini Monsters (storytime)
Sago Mini
iOS

 

 

LEGO Movie Maker

 

LEGO Movie Maker (Maker Camp: Video Design)
LEGO
iOS