Program: Spies and Codes

Let’s be honest, here: the tweens are always my favorites. Here at my new job, I’m lucky enough to get to work with them again! Unlike my last library, here they do programs in six-week sessions. This has been an interesting new challenge for me. I’m used to planning a handful of one-off programs each month for a variety of ages. Now I have to plan six weeks of thematically consistent programs, called “Club 36” – in other words, an after-school cub for grades 3-6.

Turns out it’s pretty hard to come up with a topic that has enough juice to entertain picky tweens for six straight weeks. (For the first session, we tried doing the Wayside School books – some readers theater, some sideways arithmetic, and we built our very own miniature Wayside School – but the kids, and I, got bored after a few weeks.)

The good news is, the people in my department are rock stars who know everything, and one of them suggested a spy program. A spy program! I love spies! Thus: Spies & Codes.

We had an AWESOME time doing this program. Best of all, it cost almost nothing to run. Here’s the run-down of what we did:

Week One: Spies
To start off the program, we talked about spies! We learned about some real-life spies, as well as some of our favorite fictional spies. We talked about what kinds of skills spies need to have, and what their jobs are like. We made a list of famous spies and important spy attributes Finally, we came up with our own secret identities – code names, nationalities, and more – to use for the rest of the program.

Week Two: Disguise
For the second week, I brought in a lot of stuff from home, as did some of my co-workers. We had wigs, different sunglasses, lots of weird old clothes, and some fake mustaches. Each kid used this stuff to create a disguise that fit their secret identity from the week before, and then we took pictures of the disguised tweens to put on their Spy IDs. We also practiced disguising our voices! We tried different accents, making our voices super high or super low, and so on.

Week Three: Spy Skills
Spies have to be keen observers of the world around them! We played Where’s Waldo and Spot the Difference. Then we talked about reading and making maps. The kids made maps of the library and the neighborhood and practiced giving directions to each other.

Week Four: Secret Hiding Places
Craft day! Using weeded books from the adult reference section, we (…the adults) used an exacto knife to cut a hole in the middle of the book for treasures. We spent the rest of class decorating our treasure boxes.

Week Five: Codes and Hidden Messages
This week we tried our hands at codebreaking and writing secret messages. Kids practiced a couple ways of passing secret messages (writing in lemon juice and on rubber bands!) Then we talked about different kinds of codes and wrote coded messages to our friends.

Week Six: Spy Graduation
Using borrowed walkie-talkies (thanks Kim!), kids completed a treasure hunt using their codebreaking and map-reading skills!
At the end of the six weeks, each kid got to take home an official, confidential “spy dossier” with their spy passports, secret identity worksheets, and book treasure boxes.

Spy/Mystery books:
The Name of this Book is Secret
The Mysterious Benedict Society
Nancy Drew
Encyclopedia Brown
The Hardy Boys
Scooby Doo
The Boxcar Children
Echo Falls mysteries

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