Monday, April 16, 2012

Hunger Games at the Library

It's not too late to build on the excitement about the Hunger Games with a program!

Guest post from Dayna Lovell at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library in Eau Claire:


On an absolutely gorgeous Sunday afternoon (Could this be mid-March?) I anticipated a 50% turn-out for Hunger Games at the Library. This would have been disappointing considering the program planning went on for nearly 3 months, and that our Young Adult Advisory Board really “got on board” with this program: signing up to help in record numbers, loaning their Nerf ™ weapons, telling friends about the program and showing up at 10:30 a.m. to transform two rooms into an obstacle course and a maze. To our surprise, not only did nearly everyone show-up, we registered additional participants last-minute. We had hoped for twelve teams of four--one team for each District--and we had eleven teams.

Berry Identification

I had sent a listserv query nearly a year ago, seeking Hunger Games activity ideas for a summer book discussion. Nick Rossman of the Waterloo Public Library sent an entire program which had been created and used by them. We utilized all but the cornucopia, which did not seem practical for our space. Youth ages eleven through seventeen rotated through “Battle stations” located throughout the library, although no real battle was involved. Stations included first aid, berry identification, [survival] knot tying, camouflage, an obstacle course with targets, a “blind maze,” a world time zone game and a team alliance-building activity. For this teams came up with a team symbol, like Katniss’ Mockingjay. They made badges with their symbol. Most activities were scored by timing. Teams earned “death stamps” on their scorecard for going over time for a given activity.

I was delighted, as I roamed from one station to another, to see how much fun everyone was having. I admit to a restless night-before-the-program, worrying that the teens would find the activities “lame.” Teens can be pretty harsh critics. It was very satisfying, and a huge relief to have everyone taking it seriously – as in suspending disbelief, not as in acting glum. There was legitimate enthusiasm being expressed whether crawling through a table, chair, and toilet paper maze, blindfolded, creating a splint for a theoretically broken leg, or maneuvering through an obstacle course of furniture and orange cones. To my surprise they took the most time making the symbol badges. I feared this would not appeal to some. I had announced the prizes beforehand. Perhaps this helped to motivate them. First prize was a package; a set of the trilogy in hardcover, four re-usable library bags, and four movie posters, plus four movie tickets. Runners-up received the book bags and four movie tickets. Posters and tickets were donated by our local theaters, Carmike and Micon Cinemas.

Survival knot tying

In retrospect, the activities may have been too easy, or perhaps scoring was too lenient. We didn’t actually require that they hit the targets. At the end only three teams had received any death stamps, so winners were selected randomly by drawing from those teams without death stamps. One sore loser team member complained vociferously. His expectation was that we create, 30 minutes before the program’s end, some type of additional elimination activity, such as trivia. I actually had a trivia Power Point created by another librarian, but it was too easy to work for this purpose. Also, the LCD projector was not in a cooperative mood. Truly, after five minutes of this kid’s raving, neither was I. Another lesson – One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch - but only if you let them.

All in all this was a successful program. There’s nothing like the sight of forty-nine happy teen faces to make you love your job, and to make the restless nights and feet blisters worth it!

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