Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Mission: A Guest Post by Miss Julia in OH

image by NatalieDee
Have you ever seen something cool to do in a library and thought, "well, okay, but I can't do that with MY resources?" Welcome to Librarians Don't Play: what I hope to be a series of guest posts about implementing programs/field trip adventures/story action pods I post on my blog in varying libraries across the country, each librarian putting their own spin on it, or simply being inspired by something that they see here and turning it into something all their own.  

Or, you know, anything, really. I'm not the do-all-end-all of kid's programming, and I'm acutely aware that this is the case. If you want to share an awesome program you've done and you want to try blogging about it, you can contact me, too. 

If you want to give it a try, please e-mail me at brycedontplay at gmail dot com. 

This post is by Miss Julia, a Youth Services Librarian in Ohio, based on my write-up for a Spyology program. Please feel free to email her here and check out her new library-related blog, Laughter and Literacy. All links inside the post are hers.

The program began like any other.

 We needed the books. Some of them we had, but they were very well read—if you know what I mean. Once we replenished our supply, we couldn’t wait to get started—in fact, about three months before the program, we put out a display of our “ology” books. They flew off the shelves (don’t worry, we saved a few to use just for our programs).

I set to work about three weeks before my program creating a display of spy and mystery books (fiction and non-fiction). I used several books for reference: Spyology, The Big Book of Spy Stuff by Bart King, Amazing History: Spies and Traitors by James Stewart, and The Master Spy Handbook by Rain Newcomb. In addition to Bryce Don’t Play, I also used several websites including this one. I set up the room in centers based on the rules it takes to be a spy.

I was a little discouraged. No one had signed up. Thursday night rolled around. I set up everything around our programming room. Finally, about fifteen minutes after the program’s start time, a family of three children came just for the program. And then three more children came! Yes!

First, I thought I’d share some general information about spies. My original plan had been to have each child complete a specific mission (basic ice breaker ideas like find out what month everyone is born in, or middle names, or find out what hand each person writes with…of course, without anyone knowing that is their mission). But because they came in at different times and three of the six were related, it didn’t seem like it would work.

My original intention was to set up the room in centers, and then allow the children to meander around the room exploring what interested them to complete their spy training. At first, we walked together to the first three centers. I found by the third center, it would be better to stick with my original plan. So I explained the last three centers and then let the children free.
Together, we moved through each station:
Rule #1: The Spymaster is Always Right
                It was here that we began our lessons.
Learn spy names (either have them pull a noun and adjective from separate bags or give them funny names like I.M. Sneaky), make badges, and disguises using paper plate masks, markers, and feathers.

Rule #3: Keep Secrets Safe…ENCODE!
I gave each child a secret message pertaining to real spies or the rules of being a spy. I took several different coding techniques to create the messages.  Next time I would include codes in lemon juice or vinegar, wet pencil writing, baking soda and water. When we talked about those ways to create secret messages, the children were fascinated.

Rule #4: Eyes are always on you…so keep your eyes peeled and ears open.
Observational skills test…I filled two jars with random office supplies and rice. Mounds of rice. They had to study the bottles very carefully to find all of the items and make a list.

Fingerprinting…use ink to make a fingerprint and observe the details and type of fingerprint they have. Instead of the old talcum powder routine, I let them create their own fingerprint animals, pictures, and designs.

Rule #6: When You Meet, Be Discreet!
Obstacle course time! The original idea involved black balloons as mines, boxes and tables as tunnels, and tables as hills, but I decided it would be just as fun to create a laser alarm all around the room using elastic (the kind used for jewelry making) and bells. I placed it throughout the room in a random pattern criss-crossing this way and that.  And then we watched as they attempted to avoid vaporization. This was by far their favorite portion of the program.

Rule #7: Always be prepared!
Loved the idea of the “Evidence tag” bookmarks…especially to tie-in reading. You just never know when you’ll need a bookmark!

I wish I could have taken pictures, but it is so hard when I’m the only adult in the room. So you’ll have to use your imagination to determine just how much fun we really had! We decided to do a little tie-in with all five of our programs. If children come to three of the five they can win a prize pack filled with items relating to each of the programs.


  1. Great ideas! I want to do a spy program now. Honestly. Very helpful post. ~ jane

  2. This is awesome! The spy name activity is hilarious! Great job!