Spy Academy: the first two weeks

Spy Academy: the first two weeks

Alright, so last week I told you guys about the Prep Work for Spy Academy…Today I will tell you what we did in the first two weeks!
Remember, Spy Academy is a four week program, running for an hour once a week.  I have it open for ages 6-11 and the biggest thing was that I needed the kids to be able to read.

I have made powerpoints for each week– They are available for download and are completely editable!  Use my templates but change it around however you need to :) Power Point Week 1  Powerpoint Week 2

At the beginning of week 1 I gave each child a top secret envelope (seen in previous post).  This contains all of the materials they will need for that week.  I had multiple pieces of paper in their folders so I printed on different colors.  We had one piece of paper that had our list of missions for the days and check boxes that they could mark off when MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!


MATERIALS NEEDED: Paper, laminate, magnetic nametag backers, nametag sheet from Spy Handbook


(I know I already shared this but there’s no harm in doing it again)

I had these slips of paper cut up and put into two different dishes.  Each kid picked one of each and combined them to create their code name. Some of my favorites were Stealthy Tuna, Tabasco Ivory, Cockroach Ruby, and Curious Retriever!  We then labeled EVERYTHING with their code name (folders, nametags, etc.)

I mentioned last week that I got nametags from the essential Spy Handbook from Birthday Blueprint.


MATERIALS NEEDED: Stamp pads, children who don’t mind getting messy, Fingerprinting sheet from aforementioned Spy Handbook

So there are like 8 thousand different ways to do fingerprinting on pinterest but I just decided to go with the laziest way and use some stamp pads we already had.  This resulted in very colorful fingerprinting and also a lot of colorful fingers because it didn’t exactly match up.  Would I use stamp pads again? Likely.  Do I recommend you use stamp pads?  Not really.

This was really cool because we were able to look at the differences in our own fingers and with the spies sitting around us.


MATERIALS NEEDED: Scissors, fasteners, awesome brain skillz

It is necessary for every great spy to know codes!  We brushed on Morse code but it was really complicated for a majority of the kids.  Nevertheless, they wrote their names and got to take home a morse code decoder sheet to practice at home.

We also made decoders! The one I printed out and we used wasn’t awesome but I found this one that looks promising. They used a pin and an eraser but fasteners will work just fine.

And that concludes week 1!

For week 2 I had their folders filled with our missions for the second week, as well as a cool little button I made for each of them. These buttons are made with a 1.5″ button maker. Here is an editable google drive file for you to print and make your own!

Spy Academy Buttons | Editable File Available


Our theme this week was all about getting up and moving as well as TEAMWORK! (because, as Stealthy Tuna reminded me, spies often work with partners)


MATERIALS NEEDED: Black balloons, a lot of lung power, and little trinkets/things to put in your “bomb” balloons

detonate bomb

I first pinned this idea from The Porters but it is everywhere when looking for spy academy ideas. So this next part might get confusing so bear with me:
I had 4 different teams.  Each teams mission was to find the 4 different “bombs”.  Which means that there were 24 bombs and the rest were just empty balloons.  They were to find the four different bombs by shaking and seeing if they sounded different.  Each bomb sounded different when shook, which is how they were to find only their bombs and not any other teams.  Inside of the bombs were: glitter, another blown up (red) balloon, a mini compass toy, and a piece of paper with a secret message.  All in all, this was actually pretty successful!  Some teams found duplicates of bombs but that is okay, they still had fun!

And their secret message?  It had their order number for our next activity:


MATERIALS NEEDED: Streamers, tape

Again, this one is everywhere when looking for ideas but I first pinned it from Chicken Babies but was also done by Fat Girl Reading in her spy program.

obstacle course
yes, i realize it isn’t the cleanest obstacle course but it was in our back hallway. normally regular humans aren’t allowed back there.

Their mission was to get across once on their own without tearing the streamers.  This proved to be a little bit too easy.  So, their second mission was to get through holding the hand of one of their teammates!  This was a lot more fun and difficult.


MATERIALS NEEDED: Lemons/lemon juice, paintbrushes, paper

While the teams weren’t doing the obstacle course they were in the other room writing secret codes with invsible ink. I just had lemon juice and paintbrushes set out and they went to town.  When they were done creating invisible ink messages they could make decoded messages from the week before or create their own code and message. I also had this message left behind which isn’t technically in code but it still very adorable.

I am spy acadumey


And that concludes the first two weeks of Spy Academy!  Check back next week after we have our final week!

Spy Academy: the prep work

Spy Academy: the prep work

This past fall when I was doing my winter calendar I reached out to my awesome (seriously, I can’t say this enough) PLN on the twitter-sphere. I can’t figure out where exactly I got the idea originally for a school-age spy program but I immediately loved it and scheduled it for January.

Spy Academy is a four week program, running for an hour once a week.  I have it open for ages 6-11, the biggest thing was that I needed the kids to be able to read. I got A LOT of my stuff from amazing homeschool and blogger parents (spy academy is a big hit for birthday parties and parents love to blog about it) and from pinterest, check out my spy academy board here.

I was originally going to wait and blog about this after the four weeks but we’ve done so much already that I think it’s best split into a couple posts.  This post is about the prep work…be on the look out for posts about week 1 & 2

Initial Set-up


First, for your marketing and the materials you make you’re going to need some awesome fonts! Also, if you download and use my powerpoint’s or anything that isn’t a PDF you will get the full effect if you have these fonts downloaded… Especially the top two. Here are the ones I found and love (I pretty much use dafont.com exclusively when downloading fonts):


Spy Agency • Top Secret • Mad Midnight Marker • DilleniaUPC was already on my computer • Pauls Ransom Note • Top Secret Stamp


Luckily we have a copier that can copy onto manila envelopes (and I only sacrificed 3 envelopes in the process of figuring out how it worked!) so I copied this text onto the front of each envelope:

top seceret
(link to nametags later in the post!)


So in 2011 a little boy had an (I assume) awesome Spy Academy birthday party and his mom decided to share all of the stuff she used for that birthday party. Which is really quite awesome because I really took advantage of what she had to share! I downloaded the Blank Spy Handbook from Birthday Blueprint for the next few things! There are a TON of awesome ideas and resources on that post so check it out!


I laminated the nametags and then purchased some magnetic nametags so the kids feel official*

I also printed the first page of the spy handbook from Birthday Blueprint onto labels and the kids put those on the back of their envelopes…This had their real name and code name on it.  And while we’re on the topic of code names, here’s how we picked them:


I was inspired by the code names in this post by Frugal Family Times but needed more options so I made something similar!



Whoaaaaaa a cliff hanger! To find out what actually goes into the top secret envelopes and what we’ve done in our first two weeks of SPY ACADEMY check back soon…ish.


Every time someone tells me how awesome of an idea this is I get a little embarrassed because literally none of this was original (okay that’s not completely true I am creative sometimes) and couldn’t’ have been done without all you awesome people on the internet like:

» Andrea S. @andizor on twitter and the facebook pictures she shared with me from her library spy program

» Frugal Family Times

» Chicken Babies

» Bryce Don’t Play or @PLSanders on twitter

» The Show Me Librarian

» Birthday Blueprint

*while I know that amazon isn’t the best company in the world, if you buy those nametags using the link I provided I get like probably 4 cents so there’s that*

Resolve to Rock

Resolve to Rock

So I actually was kind of MIA from the library internet world for most of the holidays and new year so it wasn’t even until this week that I saw all of these amazing resolve to rock posts…And so now, better late than never, I’m adding my own goals to the pot!

Resolve to Rock! Is a challenge given to youth services librarians by Storytime Underground in 2015!

First, let me reflect on 2014 as it was a big year for me, professionally.  After grad school I moved to a very small town in NH and worked there for 8 months, through April of 2014.  And then I did something pretty scary, both for my resume and my personal life.  I changed jobs, less than a year into my first ever professional, full-time job.  It was terrifying and I was constantly filled with doubts all of April and May.  It took a lot out of me to think that maybe I messed up and I had to admit to everyone in my life that, hey, I did something wrong.  BUT- and this is for all you also new librarians out there- let me just saw here and now that not every town/library will be for you.  I was so eager to get a job I didn’t think about where I was going and what kind of environment I would be in.  For someone, I bet that library and community is perfect and they will do SO MUCH for the teens and kids there.  I just know I couldn’t, it took too much out of me- mentally and emotionally. And I’ve learned since then that is okay.

I was lucky to find an amazing job and community just a few hours away from my original spot.  I am now in CT and every day I go to work feeling energized, creative, and supported.

OKAY, now with that out of the way…How do I RESOLVE TO ROCK in 2015!?

1) Learn more things.
I know, I know, as librarians we never stop learning.  But I want to actively and consciously learn more.  My library recently purchased a ukulele. I want to be comfortable enough to use it in storytime.  I want to add more bilingual songs/rhymes/stories to storytime and other programs.  I want to learn more awesome hilarious jokes to tell the kids that come in.  I want to learn how to share my (albeit not as extensive as some of yours) early literacy expertise with parents and caregivers in a way that makes sense. I want to learn more so that I can help others to learn more! Also,
I learn SO MUCH from my fellow youth librarian’s because:

2) Outreach.
This is specific to my library, but I want to get out into the community more.  Our children’s department before me did not have a lot of outreach, especially to daycare’s in the area.  This needs to change.  It’s something that I have worked on a little but seriously, 2015 is the year to buckle down on this. This also includes being there for other community groups–such as our awesome early child development group (which, I am very very excited to say I am a part of).  Any awesome/innovative outreach ideas are welcome in the comments!!

3) Be an advocate.
A huge part of Storytime Underground (in my opinion) is advocacy.  For ourselves and for youth services as a whole.  This is awesome and has gotten me thinking about other ways I can be an advocate.  For myself,my profession, and especially for the kids and teens that are in my community.  Even though I don’t work directly with the teens at my current job I still interact with them almost daily, they know my name, and many of them respect me.  And they have two awesome librarian/staff members who are constantly advocating for them and their place in the library.  And I want to be able to support them in that.  As well as advocating for the little ones, the walkers, the talkers, and the young readers.  Advocating for their right to read, experience, play, and learn.

I also want to be an advocate for my library and libraries in general.  This past year I had the awesome chance to speak at the CT State Legislative offices to the Education and Technology Committee and even to that small group it was evident that what we were telling them they hadn’t’ heard before.  One person even said something along the lines of how they want us to be at every library.  Newsflash: stuff like what we’re doing (makerspaces, steam programs, etc) is happening at so many libraries across the state and beyond!  This should be common knowledge!!

Also, new kitten and seeing how he gets along with other kitten may have been the reason I didn’t spend a lot of time on the library internet and am now a bit late for this post. Blame the adorable, adorable kitten, I dare you.