tmnt: passive program for the win!

This past spring, I took this course taught by the fabulous Marge Loch-Wouters and to say it inspired me is an understatement. I learned programming does not have to be an incredibly expensive or stressful endeavor. I learned to think outside the box. I learned sometimes passive programs are not only less labor intensive, but better.

This fall I’ve gotten a chance to put some of what I learned into action.

September was dubbed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle month. The original intention was to highlight areas of our nonfiction collection that TMNT fans might have overlooked: ninjas! turtles! slimy things! subways! the renaissance! (Okay, that last one was kind of a stretch, but you get the idea.) We booked the Outdoor Discovery Center to come and do a program on local Michigan turtles.  We had displays.

And then we dipped our toes into passive programming.

First up: design your own pizza! I found a “blank” pizza coloring page online, slapped it into Publisher and asked kids to color in the pizza and then write the ingredients. About 120 kids participated and everyone got a scratch and sniff pizza bookmark because TMNT LOVE pizza.

The next week, I was going to do a scavenger hunt, but I just wasn’t feeling it. At all. It didn’t help that my coworker Chris had already finished a Star Wars scavenger hunt that was really witty. My creative juices were just not flowing. So, on a whim I decided to go with Test Your Ninja Skills stations.


First up:


Y’all? This was crazy fun to watch. We’ve got some kids with some mad chopsticks skills in this community. And they were so proud of themselves! “Miss Erin!!! I got ALL OF THE POMPOMS! ALL OF THEM!” It was also really great to see our caregivers working with our youngest patrons. The patience these kids exhibited was astounding. (Pro tip: secure BOTH containers to the tables with book tape!)



This one was also fun. Their natural inclination was to stack them like a pyramid which is why I included a picture of cups stacked differently. I loved watching kids figure this one out. We had leftover small condiment containers we’d used for a Rainbow Loom program so I went with those instead of regular sized cups.

And finally:


Yeah, I straight up told them where to find the turtles. Our department is pretty big and the last thing I wanted was for this to be frustrating. The whole point was FUN. And even with me telling them, we still got questions: “Where’s the DISPLAY?!” Uh, right behind you?

Kids then filled this out:


and dropped it in a container at the desk. Kids were only allowed to enter once, but could interact with the stations as many times as they liked. We had 180 participants and 7 kids won TMNT prizes: from books to wall clings to a lunchbox and lanyards.

We’re taking a bit of a break for October though we’ll have the aforementioned witty Star Wars scavenger hunt up for the month. We’re not doing a giveaway for this one because we don’t want kids to get used to getting something every single time.

Because the whole point? Is for them to explore the department, show off their skills and have fun IN the library.

I think we accomplished that goal with this program!


12 thoughts on “tmnt: passive program for the win!

    • We kept them together and close-ish to the desk. I used little end tables we have throughout the dept. I went with 2 pompom stations because it takes the most time. DEFINITELY tape/3M strip the container the pompoms are in and the container they’ll be moving them to down to the table! I put out 2 sets of chopsticks at each station and I replaced them maybe twice throughout the 2 weeks. I’d also suggest NOT putting an exact # of pompoms on signage as I did because those guys really did disappear though I probably only lost 10 total. The stations did require “resetting” occasionally (especially after storytimes) but it took less than 30 seconds to reset even if it looked like a pompom bomb had gone off! Let me know if you have any more questions!

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  2. I LOVE every single idea you posted! Thank you so much for sharing your brilliance. I hope it’s ok to use your ideas for a program this summer.

  3. Pingback: Test Your Skills at the Library | Field Notes

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