My second big Summer Reading programming theme was Spy Week. Again, Pinterest was my co-pilot, as I created dossiers and came up with activities to keep the kids happy and thinking that week.
First, I put out any kind of books with spy/espionage themes, and booktalked them as I introduced Spy Week. Favorites were Gene Luen Yang’s Secret Coders (and they’re excited that the second one is coming out), The League of Unexceptional Children, Harriet the Spy, The Fourth Stall, Tom Angleberger’s Fake Mustache, and Varian Johnson’s The Great Greene Heist all went over really well.
I made up dossier folders for the kids to keep their materials – I ended up using all 50 sets, so whoo hoo! I printed out Confidential and Top Secret-type stamps to glue on each cover. The first day, we took on secret coding. I gave the kids copies of a code wheel, a breakdown of Morse Code, and an info sheet on PinPrick Code, along with a secret message written using the Code Wheel and PinPrick Code. I used a page from an old book (destined for the trash pile) for the PinPrick Code, and I used dots with a pen rather than pinpricks. The message was the same using both the Code Wheel and the PinPrick, so the kids could use either method and get the same message: “Congratulations! See Miss Rosemary for a prize!” I gave out stickers, bookmarks, and temporary tattooos as prizes and everyone was happy.
Day Two was Fingerprints and Secret Messages day. I gave the kids a printout on fingerprinting, a small sheet describing the different types of fingerprint styles (arch, whorls, loops), and showed them how to take the own fingerprints by scribbling on a piece of paper with a pencil, rolling your finger around on the graphite, and then applying their prints to paper. We also talked about the fact that no two people have the same fingerprints, and that’s why taking fingerprints is helpful in finding criminals, missing people, and identifying employees like folks that work in schools. After the kids took their own fingerprints, I mixed up lemon juice with water, handed out cups of the solution, along with small paintbrushes, and let the kids write their secret messages. When they got home, I told them to hold the message over a heat source like a hair dryer or a light bulb, with an adult, so the message would be revealed.
Day Three, we showed the first Spy Kids movie, and the attendance was strong! I was pretty happy about it, and the kids loved seeing all the wacky gadgets used in the movie. My partner in crime and co-children’s librarian had a Spy Crafts table after the movie, where kids made fake mustaches and paper plate masks.
Day Four was Spy Training Camp, and that’s where things got fun. I created a laser maze in our meeting room using yarn, and the chairs and tables. I ended up having about 30 kids going through the maze again and again, and then they came out to try their hands at TNT Hot Potato. I wrapped up toilet paper rolls in red tissue paper, taped them together with black duct tape, used a yellow pipe cleaner as a fuse, and we had TNT. We played the Mission: Impossible theme as the kids tossed them back and forth; everyone got prizes for competing.
Finally, the fifth day was the big Spy Hunt – I told the kids that secret agents for the Bad Guys were loose in the children’s room, and they had to locate them. I hid five of these guys, below, throughout the children’s room and gave them code numbers like 007, 009, and so on. I also had a bonus – a giant Classified stamp – that went on my desk (I always give them a “free zone”). The kids found the agents, wrote the numbers on their sheets, and, you guessed it, got prizes. We like prizes here. Everyone who took part received a Spy ID card and Spy School certificate to close out their week.
I was thrilled with the success of Spy Week! The kids were so into it, and it really gave me the shot in the arm I needed to keep topping myself in terms of creating exciting programming. One of the most amazing things about this profession is the openness and willingness to share information with one another; I have a huge debt to both The Show Me Librarian and Bryce Don’t Play, both librarians with amazing blogs and wonderful Spy programs that I borrowed liberally from to make my week a success. Thank you so much for sharing your work with everyone!
I’ve made my Spy Week programming folder on Google Drive shareable, if anyone would like to use some of the stuff. I’ve got just about everything I handed out here, and a few things I didn’t get to. There’s also a really good booklist from the International Spy Museum that helped when I was putting together my own booktalking list. Check it out!