Terra Nova: Culinarian Badge

We’ve reached the end, guys. This is the last program write-up I’ll be doing for Terra Nova, since I won’t actually be there for the party (I will post some pics and reactions from our teens, though, because it looks like such a cool event my supervisor is planning for them).

Our last food-based program this summer was making rock candy, something I’d never done before, although it sounds like a pretty common experiment in some school science/home ec classes. I used these instructions for reference, and we set it up assembly-line style – I heated water up to boiling in our electric kettle, and poured some into everyone’s jar that had been pre-food colored. Then the teens were on their own for stirring in sugar and clipping in their sticks to the lip of the jars.


This ended up being almost a pop-up program, when I set things up there weren’t a lot of interested parties but I definitely attracted more kids the longer I had stuff going on. Eventually I had to turn a couple kids away because I ran out of jars! (I always feel bad about doing that, but as any librarian can tell you, our supplies aren’t limitless and we gotta encourage people to be on time.)


I gotta tell you guys…this one was messy. We got sugar everywhere, and toward the end of the day someone spilled one of the jars all over the table. And I was surprised at how many kids left their jars behind at the end of the day! (To be fair, on a normal day we would have been happy to hang on to the jars for a better time to take them home, but we’ve got a small fly problem right now and can’t have sugar water sitting out).

I kinda wish I’d made one the week before, to have an example of fully grown rock candy to show them – it might have made it more compelling to keep better track of their jars. But in general, it was indicative of all our food and science programs this summer – fun, involved, and pulling in kids we don’t normally see.


Terra Nova: Archery Badge

Like our parkour program, we were able to set up an out-of-the-library experience with our teens AND partner with a local institution (the Archery Custom Shop) to do an archery workshop. Guys, it was SO GREAT.


Not only did we attract a couple of totally new teens I’d never met before (one of whom actually came to the library today, hooray), but we got to do something active that was also super fun. One of our girls was incredibly skeptical about doing a program that had no food component, but by the time our hour was up we had to practically drag her away!


I’m sure I’ve said it before, but making the effort to get our teens into the community and thinking about the library as a gateway to other kinds of activities has just been so awesome. We’ve done some totally new stuff, and I’ve been learning new things about kids I see every day (one of our boys is super into archery, and could even tell our instructor his preferred draw weight; I was deeply impressed).

Unfortunately, our summer program is drawing to a close – our finale party is on Saturday (which I will have to miss, since I’ll be at GenCon learning about how to gamify the classroom/library). Less unfortunately, I have a whole crop of new stuff planned for the school year, including a Pathfinder RPG group, teen-managed anime/manga club, and the return of my book clubs. Also a whole month of fandom-related activities, but I’ll tell you more about those when they’re a little closer.

Terra Nova: Esthetician Badge

We were very lucky to be able to mine other library staff for their talent this week – for our “Mondays are food” program, we had one of our wonderful pages guest-host a program on making our own skincare products out of edible ingredients (Franki has a small business she’s setting up and as soon as her Etsy store goes live I will post the link here).


We made a foot scrub, a face scrub, and a face mask, all mostly out of stuff you can find in the kitchen. I was impressed by how many of our participants were boys; I’m never a fan of gendering programs, but this one admittedly could have been seen as “girly;” however, as you can see from the photo, our guys were just as willing to mix up coconut oil and sea salt as our girls.


I don’t know, guys. It’s gonna be hard going back to the way things typically are once school is in session. We’ve been able to seriously diversify the teens that come to our programs; I’ve gotten to meet a bunch of kids who we just don’t see during the school year. Part of that is not being in school means there’s no homework or other extracurricular activities, of course, but it’s also the product of the fact that the culture in our teen room can be kind of unwelcome to newcomers (more on this later, probably). I know my supervisor and I are hoping to be able to carry over the way things have felt into the new year, and hopefully get things started off on the right foot.

Terra Nova: Strategist and Gastronomist Badges

Exciting times! Our Terra Nova program is proceeding exceedingly well; program attendance has been high all summer, and having dedicated days for different kinds of activities (Mondays are food, Tuesdays are crafts, Wednesdays are movies, etc.) has meant that we are also seeing a wider audience of teens than we do during the school year. It’s definitely given us a chance to meet more of our local teens, and hopefully build the foundations for them to continue coming to see us as the summer starts to wind down.

Last week was another program of my own conception, which I also put on without my supervisor as she had some unexpected vacation time come up. The program was Desktop Warfare, and I had some concerns about it (would building tiny catapults and slingshots end up with kids shooting thumbtacks at each other?), but they were unfounded – instead we had a half an hour of intense concentration and construction, followed by an exciting contest to see whose device could launch a crumpled paper ball the furthest. The winner got a pair of movie passes, generously provided by our local theater.

unnamedMy spoon catapult basically shot straight up.

I was really pleased with how this one turned out – I provided a couple of handouts with designs other people had built for everyone to use as a starting point, but mostly my group created their own devices and there was never any actual launching of pointy things at each other. Turns out the kind of teen to meticulously rubber-band pencils together for the right launching angle are not the same kind of teens that are prone to shooting pen inkwells at each other.

11265405_893434387396728_1774538122003628946_nFuture Engineers at work

Our most recent program was an experiment in a lot of ways – our weekly theme this week is Technological Development, so when we were planning our programming I spent some time researching simple/accessible molecular gastronomy recipes to see if we might be able to do any of them in the library. My supervisor was very taken with the idea and we ended up ordering a Beginner’s Kit, that came with some basic equipment and additives to do some of the simpler recipes. Our plan this week was to make fruit caviar, little “caviar” beads of gelatinized fruit juice, to build into parfaits.

11144987_895466713860162_4045608363865948009_nFood science at work

Unfortunately, our caviar beads never set properly, either due to temperatures not being exact or something else being out of whack. Fortunately, we all still had fun, and everyone got to build their parfait and enjoy a healthy snack even without the fruit caviar topping. There was so much interest in the process that we’re looking into creating a Molecular Gastronomy Kit that can be circulated, with a recipe book and the equipment we got in our kit. The only question is how we would handle the various powders that the recipes frequently need (agar to set gelatin, for example).

Terra Nova: Campfire Chef badge

Mondays have been food-based programs, which have been going very well (our whole SRP has been going very well, honestly).  This past Monday was another program that was mine from concept to execution, and while it didn’t end up exactly as I envisioned, it went well, the teens had fun, and I got them eating healthy food again.


My concept was campfire cooking – the reality was, we wouldn’t be allowed to cook with real fire.  This caused me perhaps more anxiety than was warranted; how would I replicate the effects of cooking a foil packet of food in hot coals when we couldn’t actually do that?  My solution: bring my grill press from home, which has two plates you can set at different heights, and set it as high as it would go. Hopefully that would replicate the effects of at least being in an oven, if not a fire, and cook the food in the foil all the way through.

It worked very well!  We made stuffed potatoes, and I handed out a recipe for chicken and vegetables they could try at home. I pre-cooked the potatoes and showed everyone how to make the foil pockets, but other than that I let everyone cook their packet how they wanted to. We ended up with extra veggies at the end, but kids just started making those into more different packets.  The smell of the cooking potatoes even drew in more teens than I anticipated; I ended up running out of potatoes!

As I discussed with my manager, even when something doesn’t end up happening precisely the way you envision it, chances are you’ll still have fun as long as you’re flexible and you give your teens the chance to be creative and run things the way they’d like to. Even though we couldn’t cook with actual flame, I feel like they learned something they can take with them to the outdoors (or even a college dorm room).