Who better to run a teen activity than a teen?
That’s the thinking at the Chappaqua Library’s Teen Zone, where several Horace Greeley High School students are running programs for their peers and middle-schoolers.
For Girl Scout Kate Rosenberg, sharing her love of crocheting would have been part of her Gold Award project even it wasn’t a requirement.
“I’ve always loved to crochet, and regretted the fact a large percentage of the population has no idea what crocheting is, let alone how to do it. This seemed like the perfect way to spread something I love,” she says. “I chose the library because I wanted somewhere community-oriented. It seemed like the best way to have the greatest impact on the greatest number of people.”
Another Girl Scout, Lauren Berger, channeled her love of reading into a book group for middle-schoolers. Lucas Lande, an avid player of the card game Magic: The Gathering teaches skills and strategy to classmates.
“The kids know what they like and what their friends like, so whenever a student has an idea for a program, we’re very receptive,” says Donna Pesce, Teen Librarian.
“My goal was to get more middle-school kids reading. Many think that it is “uncool” to read for fun. I wanted to get kids excited about reading and get them reading more than just what they are assigned,” says Lauren, whose monthly book club is part of her Gold Award project.
Finding a regular time and place to play Magic: The Gathering wasn’t easy for Lucas and his fellow card- game players, so his Magic sessions in the Teen Zone really fill a need, he says. They’ve gotten so popular, he’s now holding them once a week instead of once a month. Both seasoned players and newcomers are welcome.
Student Initiated Programs
“It’s fun to teach new players. I usually suggest they play one deck exclusively until they’ve memorized each card and know what to do with it,” he says. His experience in the Teen Zone has inspired him to look into starting a Magic club at school, he notes.
Other student-initiated programs include anime festivals, decoupage projects and video gaming sessions. Some programs, started a year or two ago by Teen Zone alumni, have been so popular that a new crop of student leaders took them over.
A few times each school year, Michael Sayers, a page at the Library, holds court over middle- and high-schoolers playing Halo 4 and Forza on the library’s X-Box 360. The sessions were originally organized by then-Library Page Matt Jaselove, now a college student. Michael, a long-time gamer himself, enjoys watching the kids have fun.
“It used to be that you had to be in the same room with your friends if you were doing a multi-player game, so it was a social experience. These sessions are sort of harking back to those days,” he said.
During the summer of 2013, Teen Zone regulars decoupaged a coffee table to go with the couch in the TZ area. They enjoyed the experience so much that when the project’s coordinator, Claire Cohen left for college, current HGHS freshman Michael Friedland took it over.
“Building something as a group is fun and it’s great to see the completed project. It’s also fun teaching people how to do it,” says Michael, admitting that “getting people to listen” is the hardest part of running the program.
Alumna Cohen is scheduled to return to the Teen Zone this summer to run a series of duct-tape craft workshops. All things anime appeal to Junior Andrew Kihara so he organizes anime festivals, featuring a story-board/collage craft, origami, Japanese food and a notable film. “We used to go to the New York City Comic-Con, but then we decided to hold our own “convention” at the library,” says Andrew, who, with his mother, screens the movie in advance to make sure it’s a winner. Many participants do both the origami, a traditional Japanese craft, and the contemporary storyboard project.
A Welcoming Environment
“The best part about running festivals like these is you get to see the kids have fun playing with foreign traditions. They get to experience a lot of Japan’s meta culture and it’s always nice to see them excited to do something new,” he notes.
“We’re happy to provide an opportunity for our teen patrons to try out their ideas in a welcoming, comfortable environment,” says Pesce. “We like to have a variety of activities to appeal to as many interests as possible. Libraries today are really community activity centers–they’re not just for reading anymore,” she notes.
Most Teen Zone programs are scheduled for Friday afternoons and occasionally Friday evenings. Pesce says it’s a good “decompression” day and the activities allow the students to make the transition from school mode to a generally less-structured weekend schedule.