With all the required testing and test prep and test review and...stuff that schools have to fit in, it is getting harder and harder to organizations like the library to get in and do outreach these days. When you get the chance, you jump on it, so I said of course we would take a table at the middle school health fair this week.
Then I had to figure out how I was going to get 450 teens to spend ten seconds at the library booth, when I was competing with the medics giving kids fake wounds, and the guys from base who had all sorts of desert critters with them (FYI, guys, a boa constrictor is NOT native to NM, and that is TOTALLY CHEATING! But, thanks for letting me hold her.) I'm not totally unfamiliar with the audience, I taught at this school when it first opened. So, what attracts middle schoolers?
A) Free candy
I had this dress from a zombie prom we ran a couple years ago, and I love it SO much more than any other prom dress I ever wore! The picture doesn't show the shiny black clunky boots, which I also love. I didn't do much makeup, because I wasn't sure how receptive the faculty might be - and then I saw the group doing fake wounds. The kids all looked worse than me! Next time.
When kids approached my area, I was holding my tub of candy, and asked them if they were dum-dums or smarties.
In addition to fitting the theme, both are extremely cheap to buy in bulk. I did wander around after and pick up stray sucker sticks on the floor, so hopefully the custodians don't totally hate me.
Then I asked them how they thought they would do in the zombie apocalypse. The answers were mostly either, "I would totally kick a**", or "Die. I would die." I had six questions on my board, taken from the Zombie Survival Guide, with answers on the back, so I challenged them to test their knowledge.
They were mostly questions you could argue, like "what is the best mode of transportation in a zombie apocalypse?" which offered some engagement. "Dude! A Tank? You'd be trapped! You can't maneuver, you can't get through tight spaces, and what happens when you run out of gas?"
I had printed lists of our zombie books to hand them, so they could brush up a bit. Almost everyone took one! Library card info, not so much, but a list of books about things that will chew my face off? Heck, yeah! There were also flyers about our upcoming tween event, and the CDC's graphic novel about zombie preparedness. As they were wrapping up, I would tell them, almost as an aside, "You know, I really don't care if you get these right. You are using your brain, which is making it grow, which means...more food for me!" (See, I was educational - using your brain makes it work better. End of health lesson.)
I had a great time. The kids were hilarious. Until...remember when I said I used to teach there? A seventh grader I didn't recognize gave me a hug and told me her name. I used to teach...her mother...in seventh grade. I. am. old.
Towards the end I was invited to go to the high school next month, which I have been trying to get to do for ages. Full makeup this time! I will also spruce my board up a bit, but for the most part this was an easy to set up and inexpensive outreach. And most of all, fun!