My first big program of summer was actually a bit of a cheat. Back in March, I planned a program based on the 39 Clues series. Unfortunately, during my planning, I didn't realize that I scheduled the program for Easter weekend. As a result, I had a very low attendance turnout. When it came time to plan summer programming, it made sense to me to try the program again, especially as I had already created all the materials I would need. So, that's exactly what I did.
When the kids first arrived, they all took a quiz to determine in which Cahill branch they belonged. This was mostly to waste a few minutes while we waited for stragglers to show up. After a few minutes, I explained how to score their quiz and figure out which branch was theirs. I think we only had one Janus and one Ekaterina - most everyone was split between Tomas and Lucian. Once we finished the quiz, I explained how the program was going to work. The kids would be split into random teams of three and would try to solve a scavenger hunt. Their clues were numbered, so they had to be sure to find them in the correct numerical order, and they were also color-coded, so they were to only take their clue. Any team caught messing with another team's clues would be disqualified. The clues were hidden around the children's department, and all the information they would need to solve each clue was in the program room. We split up into teams, with some readjusting to make sure each team had three members (I had enough materials for 13 teams of three but didn't have quite that many kids show up), then I handed them their first clues and everyone got started.
Now, we do a lot of scavenger hunts in our children's department and the kids love them. Those hunts are really pretty easy - we hide pictures around the department and the kids just have to find them and cross them off their list. The scavenger hunt that I created for this program was much more difficult. In fact, it took most teams the full two hours of the program to complete the hunt. Each clue was written in a different kind of code - Morse code, Caesar code, Greek box code, hieroglyphics, semaphore, etc. Once they decoded the clue, they had to figure out where it was telling them to find their next clue. For example, one decoded clue said, "Saladin only eats these." Saladin is the pet cat of Amy and Dan in the books and will only eat fresh fish. So that clue was leading them to our aquarium, and so on and so forth. There were nine clues for each team to gather. Once they had all their clues, they had to flip them over and put together a puzzle on the back. It featured a map of the United States with certain states highlighted. They then had to take the first letter of each highlighted state's name and unscramble it to form a word. Once they figured out the word, they had successfully completed the hunt. The first team to finish won copies of the first book for each of its team members and first pick at the trail mix bar. Every other team that finished got to make their own trail mix as they finished the hunt. I was happy that teams kept going with the hunt even after the big prize was gone, but really most teams finished within 15-20 minutes of each other.
I had a good turnout for the program and I loved seeing the kids work together in teams. One team really impressed me - they set themselves up in a corner and they stuck together, all working hard trying to solve every clue. Everyone seemed to be having fun, though at first many of them were complaining that it was too hard. Most everyone struggled at the beginning, but they all seemed to get the hang of it once they got started. It was a relatively easy program for me once it got underway; I was mostly on hand to help them if they got stuck with the clues. I had trivia ready if we had any time left over, but we definitely did not, so I'll be saving it for another program. This program definitely started the summer off right!