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*

Pirate Party

Pirate Party

In celebration of International Talk Like a Pirate Day we had a Pirate Party!  This was for all ages but most kids were between 3 and 8.

First things first, I needed to be in my best pirate attire!  I found all of these clothes in our kids dress up area…don’t judge (the boots are mine!)

We started out by figuring out what our pirate names were… We used the kid friendly pirate name maker I shared last week and I made our own nametags.  There were a few fun ones including Captain Pearl, Sir Penny, and One-Eyed Sparrow! I was Miss Swashbuckler.  I also shared some fun pirate phrases and words with them.

Pirate Name Tag


Then, we enjoyed some pirate themed snacks while I read a few poems out of this awesome book:

Shiver Me Timbers



I got the labels for the drinks from Poofy Cheeks.

After reading we played Pirate Bingo!  I just downloaded the game from Babaco and used coins as the markers.  Each kid won at least one time.  They got to pick a prize out of our treasure chest which was all leftover from the summer reading program.

Next it was time to really become pirates!  We made pirate hooks, hats, and eye patches!  The eye patches and hats were made out of black foam and then decorate with foam stars, feathers, and glitter glue.  We used string to put them on.  The hooks were made with red solo cups with a hole on the bottom and tinfoil wrapped around a couple pipe cleaners. You can download a template for the hat and eye patches HERE (will direct to a google drive link).

Pirate Party

Pirate Party

Pirate Party


After they were done with their crafts it was time to play!  I had a walk the plank and a ring toss set up for them, as well as an old poster turned photo booth! The ring toss was left over from our librarian’s carnival earlier this year.






I also, of course, had out a table of pirate books for check out.

Overall, this party was a huge success!  The kids and parents alike seemed to enjoy themselves. It was also relatively easy to plan and prepare and did not cost a lot!  If you have any more questions don’t hesitate to ask!


Pirate Party: Make a Pirate Name!

Pirate Party: Make a Pirate Name!

We have our pirate party coming up this Friday in celebration of International Talk Like a Pirate Day (Sept 19).  As I was planning our party I kept finding fun pirate name generators- but I never found one that was really kid friendly…So I made my own!  Feel free to use this in your own pirate adventures, just like Hafuboti already has! I wanted to share this early in case anyone else has pirate-y things planned this week!

 Click the image for a PDF version of the Pirate Name Generator or HERE for the google doc link :)

Pirate PNGYours truly, Miss Swashbuckler :)


Maker Morning: Engineering for kids

Maker Morning: Engineering for kids


Last week our theme for maker morning was Engineering and it was also my theme for our weekly Science Lab.  This post will be a combination of the two because the two programs were similar and I feel I would repeat myself if I separated the two.  Maker morning is a STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math) based learning environment open for 2nd grade through 9th graders.  Each week has a theme and we try to have three or four activities that cater to that wide range of ages. This is collaborative program with the teen department and children’s department and I work on it with one of library director’s.  The Science lab is for pre-school through 6th grade.

Engineering for Kids!

I started the Science Lab program with Rosie Revere, Engineer and an explanation of what an engineer is.  I also made sure that each of the kid knows (and this was part of the book too) that it is okay to not get it right the first time and an engineer is constantly learning from his or her mistakes.

Rosie Revere Engineer



This was a super simple idea: Cups!  We just had a bunch of Solo cups available and they could do what they want with them.  They had a lot of fun making super tall towers and structures. We had all ages (pre-school through my high school volunteers) interested in this activity.  This was also a good project that taught teamwork.

Balloon Powered Lego Car

Balloon Car

Balloon Car

Maker Morning

The rules were simple: create a Lego car that was powered by a balloon.  Eventually this one became part of the cup activity and we were trying to make cars powerful enough to knock over the huge cup tower. A lot of the parents got really into this activity and loved the challenge of knocking over the cups.

Construction Squares

Construction Squares

I have done this activity from Happy Hooligans and both times it was a success.  This was great to have for both programs because of big age ranges.  A lot of the younger kids enjoyed this activity and really got into the building. The prep work for this one does take same time as you need to cut out the construction squares and then cut the slots into them.

Edible Architecture

Edible Architecture

 Edible Architecture

Edible Architecture

This is no way a new idea and I have seen it on pinterest all over the place but it was still a hit (and cheap!). I think I first saw the pin from Deceptively Educational.  This station had a challenge: to get your tower 8 inches high!  We had two kids actually complete the assignment.

and my favorite… Magnetic Marble Run!

Magnetic Marble Run

Magnetic Marble Run

So I have done this idea before just on a piece of plywood and taping toilet paper rolls on, similar to this marble run by Lemon Lime Adventures. I wanted to take it a step further and make it more science-y be creating a magnetic board.  I started with a huge piece of plywood (I didn’t want the marble run to be too easy!) and painted it with Rust-Oleum Magnetic paint.  Here is where I went wrong: for the huge piece of board I have I should have used two cans of the paint.  Instead I was forced to stretch it thin and because of that it was very weak (hence the duct tape in the pictures).  I then spray painted over the black magnetic paint with a metallic paint so that it looked more magnetic.  The next part was an experiment in itself:  I needed to make the pool noodles magnetic.  First, I cut them in half and then in section to make the track part of the marble run.  I learned that the basic stick on magnets don’t work because a) they don’t stick on and b) definitely not strong enough.  I also bought these huge heavy magnets but they were way too heavy.  The ones that seemed to work (and glue on) the best were the Neodymium Magnets.  Since the board itself wasn’t strong enough we did end up having to duct tape on many of the tracks.

It still worked great and was a huge hit!  It definitely required team work because the board was so big and multiple kids wanted to work on it at once.


All of these programs were very well received by both the kids and parents!

Maker Morning: Coding

Maker Morning: Coding


This summer one of my director’s and I are trying a new series called “Maker Morning” which is a STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math) based learning environment open for 2nd grade through 9th graders.  Each week has a theme and we try to have three or four activities that cater to that wide range of ages.

Our first weeks theme was programming and coding!

Maker Morning: Coding
Our interactive white board: Star Board

iPad Stations

iPad Programming and Coding

We have two iPads for public use, one in the teen section and one in the kids section.  For this program we took them out of there areas and loaded up some coding apps for a variety of ages.
These are the apps we used: (each link will bring you to the appstore and the review link will bring you to Common Sense Media)

Tynker, review
– Recommended ages 7 and up but we have a 4/5 year old who loves this app
Lightbot, review
Kodable, review
– This one was another big hit
Daisy the Dino
Hopscotch, review

Computer Programs

We just used the website for One Hour Code.  It’s Angry Birds themed so that attracted the kids.  This was definitely better for the 10+ age group as it gets pretty in depth and complicated.

Binary Code Bracelet

Binary Code Bracelets

I got this activity right from the CSLP 2014 handbook, pages 187 and 203.

We used our initials for doing the binary code because each letter was pretty long.  I told them to write it all out first so it would be easier. The finished products were all really cute and it was great for the younger kids to learn about patterns.

Binary Code Bracelets

How did it go?

For having such a variety of age ranges it went well!  The only issue was maybe finding more basic coding apps for the younger kids, but if their parents were helping them than it did seem to go more smoothly.  If you were to do this program I would recommend playing all the games and computer programs first so you are well versed in what to do. We also had each kid fill out one of these for us to display in the library, hopefully near our 3D printer and makerspace.

Coding @ Your Library

Fizz Boom Read: Stealthy Science

Fizz Boom Read: Stealthy Science

The great thing about a science themed summer reading program is how easy it is to include lots of little fun sciencey tidbits in your programs or displays.  In addition to our programs I wanted other opportunities to sneak in some science which I have called stealthy science! All of these things are on going and are meant to spark a conversation between parent and child and are relatively easy and quick to do!



Magnet bottle

Magnetic Bottle

Prep time: low

Materials: empty and clean plastic bottle

Pipe cleaners

Magnetic wands

Basically just cut up pipe cleaners and stick them in a bottle! Make sure your bottle is completely dry.
I also made a little label for the bottle that says “Fizz Boom Read: why do you think the pipe cleaners are attracted to the magnetic wand?”

I actually had one of the 6th graders who was hanging out at the library one night help me with this one and it was great because he then went and got a few of his friends because he was so excited to show them what he helped to make and then they all had fun playing around with the magnets!

This has been out for about three weeks and it has been a great hit!  I have it near the front desk and I love seeing kids come up to play with it and then watching the parents start a discussion about wht exactly is happening

Water fountain

H2O Water Fountain

Prep time: medium

Materials: paper and a drinking fountain (or bubbler for you wisconsin folk)

Super simple: facts about water taped up at the drinking fountain!  All I did was search some kid friendly websites for information about H2O. I wanted to make sure it was all kid accessible language. I also included a picture of the atom and the element.

Fizz Boom Read Scavenger Hunt

Fizz Boom Scavenger Hunt

Prep time: medium
Materials: Paper and a lot of it! We also have stickers and temporary tattoos as prizes.
AND I have already done half the work for you: Here is a PDF of everything you should need to set up your own scavenger hunt SCIENCE SCAVENGER HUNT

We always have a similar scavenger hunt set up so it was just natural for me to use the CSLP clip art to make it fizz boom read themed this summer! This is a great passive program that once it is set up can be enjoyed all summer without any more prep work.  I make the sheets the kids carry around and then hide the images all around the children’s area.  A good tip if you are going to do this is to have a cheat sheet at the front desk so staff knows where they are when kids ask.


Famous scientists

Famous Scientists

Prep time: low

A display highlighting biographies of scientists. This display was really great for me to learn where we had holes and I learned that we definitely need more female scientist biographies, the only one we could find was Marie Curie and it wasn’t even a very appealing biography.

Chalkboard trivia

Chalkboard Facts Chalkboard Facts

Prep time: low

My office door is directly behind the children’s circulation desk and we recently painted my doors with chalkboard paint. If this something you could do I highly recommend it! It has been a great discussion point that nearly everyone in the children’s section will notice.

During other times of the year I can use the door to highlight events coming up or cool programs we are running.  For now, though I am using it for science facts! We have had three different facts and pictures so far. One of our childrens department staff, Laura, who is  in the process of receiving her MLS, did the periodic table fact.
**Literally as I am typing this a parent goes to her daughter: Did you know a lightning bolt travels at 14,000 MPH? YOU DO NOW!**

Periodic table display

Prep time: high

Materials: paper!!

This is an awesome display I first found on pinterest.

We did ours a little differently than the original one and used the actual periodic table elements and numbers.  Laura and I then went through and found book titles that started with those first letters.  When possible we used non fiction or science related books. We got lucky and actually had a book titled Nitrogen for N.  My favorite was the superman book for Krypton, K.

Luckily for me, Laura is extremely organized and had a very good system for assigning books and making sure each color and element was in the right place.

If I were to do this again I would want to include the element names on each sheet.