Fitness Friday #7 DIY Spa Day

This was our last major program teen program for the summer. I figured addressing cleanliness as an important part of health would be a nice way to round out our “On Your Mark, Get Set, Read!” theme. Plus, who doesn’t love an excuse for DIY at the library? 🙂


The teens got to make three items: lip balm, lotion, and a sugar scrub (the recipes for which were all found on Pinterest). I set up three stations, each with electric burners, measuring cups/spoons, beakers, ingredients, and recipes so that multiple students could be mixing and making things at the same time.


This was, aside from our Fencing Class, my most expensive program. The cost of the burners, beakers, ingredients, etc. came to approximately $250. Admittedly, many of these items are reusable and we can utilize them in other programs (science experiments, baking, etc.) But a”cheap” activity, this was not.

Nor was it easy. There were several hiccups during the program that I hadn’t anticipated.

For example: Hot beaker + plastic table cloth = gooey, awful mess. O.o

We also had more teens/tweens than we did stations, which resulted in longer-than-ideal wait times between creations.

All in all, the everyone seemed to enjoy the program and our survey reviews were positive. But this definitely isn’t a program for beginners and takes a lot of planning to successfully execute.

Total attendance: 14 teens

Verdict: While a lot of fun, it’ll be a while before we try this one again.


Fitness Friday #6: Fencing


Confession: this is the program I’ve been looking forward to the most this summer. Especially with the Olympics coming up. Who doesn’t love fencing? 😀 This was my most expensive program and it ate up a good chunk of my Summer Reading funds. But oh, boy, was it worth it. The teens had so much fun.

Our instructor was Charles Randall, the head coach of PDX fencing. The particular style of fencing he taught our teens was saber. Coach Randall started by introducing the teens to the history of the sport, as well as teaching them some french vocabulary. Then he lead them through some training exercises and taught them some basic attacks and parries.

The teens were absolutely enraptured and their survey reviews were glowing. Personally, I was really pleased that we had an even mix of both boys and girls at the program. Coach Randall was charming, funny, and engaging. The teens begged me to bring him back next year.

Total attendance: 15 teens.

Verdict: If we can afford it next year, we’ll be doing this one again.

Fitness Friday #5: Tai Chi


Like my Zen Gardening Class, this was another program I was a little worried about. Would  teens actually show up for a Tai Chi Class? Would it be relevant and interesting to them?

Apparently, so!

Our instructor, Corliss Marsh, first introduced the history of Tai Chi, talked about some of the differences between styles, and taught the teens a few key concepts (breath, balance, etc). Afterwards, she led them through a series of 16 postures in one of the Yang forms.


I think we have a real need for/interest in these calmer, more meditative programs in our community. Each one has been well attended and the teens have been inquisitive and receptive.

The one thing I’d change: next time, we’re going to need a bigger room. 🙂

Total attendance: 19 teens (and 3 parents)

Fitness Friday #4: Self-Defense

IMG_1771This program was such a success last year we decided to do it again. It was a perfect fit for our “On Your Mark, Get Set, Read” theme and our goal to keep our local teens active.

Local police officer, Mike Martin, owner of Best Defense Training, led the teens through a series of moves and maneuvers to help them stay safe in dangerous situations. You could visibly see the teens growing more confident and secure as the program progressed. Both the teens and their parents were really grateful that the library offered this program.


Things I loved:

  • Mike’s humor and his ability to present serious/potentially scary information in a non-threatening way
  • How much fun the tweens and teens had. On my surveys afterwards, the reviews were glowing.
  • The participants actually got to practice the moves (instead of just having them demonstrated)
  • We had a healthy mix of both boys and girls
  • The teens checked things out from my book display! They were so pumped about what they’d learned, all but one of my books and DVD’s on self-defense and/or survival skills was immediately checked out.
  • We had a waiting list 15 teens deep, along with numerous requests to do this program again so more teens can attend.

Things I’d do differently next time:

  • In the future, I’ll probably limit this program to 8th grade and up. The younger middle schoolers really had fun during the program, but were so goofy/chatty they made it hard for the older kids to enjoy it.

Total Attendance: 18 teens.

Verdict: FTW. We’ll try to bring this one back in the fall.



Fitness Friday #3: Zen Gardening

This was the program I was worried about – the one I was afraid no one would show for. Instead, we had a waiting list 10 teens deep. 🙂

As someone who struggles with stress, this program was near and dear to my heart. It’s important for all of us to learn healthy coping skills for when life gets tough. So I really treasured having the opportunity to use this program to talk about self-care with the teens.


I opened by having the teens sit in a circle on the floor and asked them what they thought the word “Zen” meant. They took turns guessing before we went over the exact definition: meditation. I explained that Zen Gardening literally means “meditation gardening,” and talked with them about using meditation as a stress management tool.

That’s when the fun stuff began.

I dimmed the lights, had the teens take a comfortable position, and played a free guided meditation created by UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center. I picked a short, five minute one, so as not to overwhelm them. Meditation can be intimidating for beginners, so I thought starting simple would be best.

And they did it! They actually sat there, breathed, and meditated! Afterwards, I asked a few teens to share how they were feeling and we moved to the tables to assemble their Zen Gardens.

I provided them with a small booklet on the different types of patterns typically found in Japanese Zen Gardens. Their Zen Garden Kits also came with a book of meditations and Japanese Proverbs. Some chose to use my pattern booklet. Others did their own thing. A few read from the meditation book while tracing patterns in their gardens. 🙂

The few were more squirrely than others (especially the middle schoolers), but they all seemed to really enjoy the program and, hopefully, learned something too!

Total attendance: 15 teens.

I’d say this one counts as a success. 🙂


Freaking Out: Real Life Stories About Anxiety by Polly Wells

Chill: Stress Reducing Techniques For a More Balanced, Peaceful You by Deborah Reber