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



Fitness Friday #2: Wii “Just Dance” Off

This was, quite possibly, the easiest program ever.wii2

Step 1: Set up the Wii and the TV

Step 2: Provide healthy snacks (grapes, carrots, etc)

Step 3: Let the kids have fun

The tweens and teens decided they weren’t really interested in having a competition, so we just let them hang out, dance, and have a good time. I also put out a few titles -both fiction and nonfiction – about dancing for them to check out.

Total attendance: 14 teens. Not bad, not bad. 🙂 Hooray for easy programming.


Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

Pointe by Brandy Colbert

And so many more.

Fitness Friday #1: Yoga


For our first Fitness Friday, we had a teen yoga class. It was lead by certified instructor, Shannon Red Cloud, who owns the local yoga studio.

Shannon began the class by having the teens write down how they were feeling on a piece of paper. She then spoke about yoga as a means of self care and how, both physically and emotionally, it’s important not to “move into a place of pain.” Shannon did a beautiful job us using yoga as a metaphor for life before leading our intrepid teens into a series of poses.


At the end of the class, Shannon had the teens write down their feelings on their papers again to see if anything had changed.


I was really pleased that a few guys turned up for our program. I’ve been trying to convince them that things like yoga aren’t “just for girls.” We all need to take care of ourselves. Hopefully, the teens walked away with the knowledge that yoga can be a way to do that.

Total Attendance: 8 teens


Yoga for Teens by Shawna Schenk

Yoga Exercises for Teens: Developing a Calmer Mind and a Stronger Body by Helen Purperhart

Breathe: Yoga for Teens by Mary Kay Chryssicas

Teen Yogi – Yoga for Teenagers (DVD)

On Your Mark, Get Set, Read!

Brace-Yourselves Summer Reading
I am so, so stinking excited for Summer Reading this year. Last summer, I was so busy juggling the children’s programs (since our YS Librarian quit) that I didn’t get a chance to develop the teen program the way I wanted to. This year, however, all of that will change.

Our county, Wasco, has the highest childhood obesity rate in all of Oregon. So this year’s SR theme, “On Your Mark, Get Set, Read!” is perfect for getting tweens and teens excited about staying active and healthy this summer.

The Plan:

Part 1: Fitness Fridays

  • Every Friday at 4:00 pm, I’ll have a different teen program. Each one will place an emphasis on some type of health or wellness activity: yoga, tai chi, self-defense, fencing, zen gardening, etc.
  • At each event, I’ll put out a book display – both fiction and nonfiction – relating to the topic of the day. That way, I’m still incorporating a literacy component and encouraging the teens to extend their learning outside of the class.

Part 2: Summer Reading BINGO

  • Our Bingo Cards this year will be a mix of reading and physical activities, continuing our theme of staying both mentally and physically active this summer.
  • Each BINGO a teen completes will earn them a raffle ticket and a chance to win our Grand Prize: a whitewater rafting trip for four down the Deschutes River. We’ll also give away smaller prizes (ex: movie passes) once a month.

Part 3: Market, Market, Market

  • A class set of SR Reading event flyers will be given to every teacher at both the middle and high school
  • A pre-recorded message will be played weekly on the local radio
  • Events will be pushed heavily on social media, especially Facebook, where we’ll share our Teen Summer Reading Commercial 

I’m so excited I can barely stand it! Here’s hoping my tweens and teens have an exciting and educational summer.

Volunteering Vs. Service Learning

I just got back from the YALSA conference, which was held in Portland this year. My head is still swimming with ideas and information. But of all the sessions I attended this weekend, one in particular stood out to me: “Elevating Teen Volunteers to Loftier Roles.”


My minions. *Cough*  I mean volunteers.

I’ve been struck lately by how boring traditional “volunteering” duties can be for teens. Yes, shelving books and DVD’s can be helpful (and necessary). But, if that’s all your volunteers are doing, that makes for a pretty uninspiring volunteer experience.

Enter the Seattle Public Library’s Service Learning Program. SPL wanted the same thing I do: to give their teens a meaningful role at their library. Their goal was to help their teens develop leadership and project management skills while working collaboratively together. So they decided to put their teenagers in charge of their programs.

Yes. You read that right. The teens were in charge of programming.

There were three key requirements for the programs the teens built:

  1. Projects had to be teen-driven (and they had to be exciting to the teens)
  2. Projects had to meet a community need
  3. Projects had to meet a library need

For example: Let’s say the teens wanted to start a Animanga Club. All three of the aforementioned requirements would have to be met in order for the program to take place.

It sounds so simple but is really is profound. I love this idea of making volunteering more meaningful by allowing teens to plan and implement their own Service Learning Projects. It gives them a chance to develop real-world skills they can use later on in life (marketing, event planning, working within a budget, etc.) It makes their voices and ideas hold weight and empowers them to take ownership of their library.

This is something I hope to implement in our volunteering program going forward. Our teen volunteers give so much to the library. I want to make sure that they’re “getting something” our of volunteering too.


Humans vs. Zombies


So I asked my TLAB (Teen Library Advisory Board) students what they wanted to do for Halloween this year. And the verdict was unanimous: Humans vs. Zombies. With NERF guns. After hours. In the library.

*Cue hysterical laughter*

Don’t get me wrong: I love crazy, off-the-wall programs. But the prospect of hosting a full-fledged NERF war in the stacks after dark made me a little nervous. Would the Director go for it? Would people show up? Would we actually be able to pull it off?

Fortunately, the answer to all of those questions was yes. 🙂

IMG_1514In the weeks leading up to the event, we marketed our program. Hard. My volunteers made a commercial that was broadcast at the local high school and handed out flyers to all of their friends. Teens had to register in advance and fill out a liability waiver. I bought ten Zombie Strike NERF guns (since that’s all our budget would allow). The first ten registrants were guaranteed a gun; anyone else had to bring their own.

The night of, the teens arrived early. They “zombified” their shirts, did their makeup, and helped decorate the library. We used red paint to to create “blood splatter” on plastic tablecloths and hung caution tape. Then I turned them loose and had them shuffle around as our “starter” zombies. They snarled and lurched as the “human” participants arrived at the library. 🙂

The game play was pretty simple. We herded all the visiting teens into the survival shelter (aka our meeting room) for review of the rules.

Everyone, except my volunteers, started out as humans. Humans could shoot zombies anywhere but the head (our zombies were a special mutation). A zombie who got shot by a human had to go to a penalty box for 1 minute before rejoining the game. Any human who got two-hand touched by a zombie was “turned,” had to surrender their gun, and don a green “zombie” bandana. Myself, our director, and another adult served as referees.

In total, we had 24 teens participate in our Humans vs. Zombies Program. This one’s definitely going to be an annual event for us. 🙂