Teen Summer Volunteer Squads

At February’s Tinker meeting, many of you journeyed out to the Hub, our teen space at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library. After creating some awesome cardboard creations, we continued our discussion of multigenerational programming with a quick talk from myself and Trixie Dantis (Teen Services Supervisor) about our Summer Volunteer Squads for teens.

The Summer Volunteer Squad program began as an initiative to make volunteering more interest-based for teen volunteers while providing them with an opportunity to give back to the community during their school break. With the Squad model, teens could choose to work on a community garden, put on interactive storytimes, code a website, and many other projects while working with kids, other teens, and adults. So, to fizzle it down, teens can consider their own skill set, join a Squad that interests them, hone those skills, and share them with others. To learn more about Summer Volunteer Squads, here’s a somewhat cringeworthy video of us talking about it. Note: I’m probably the only one who cringes at it.

The Squad I co-led for the past two summers, and one of the most Tinker-y ones, is the <code>breakers Squad. The <code>breakers initially started as a series of programming to gauge teens’ interest in coding, starting with a three-day boot camp on HTML and CSS. Surprisingly, all eleven teens stayed with us for all three days and successfully created awesome websites! Once we realized teens were into it, we transitioned it into a Summer Volunteer Squad.

Our first summer, we had teens program around the Finch Robots. We were able to get them for free through the Finch Robot Loan Program, where they equipped us with a fleet of Finches. With these Finches, teen volunteers learned and mastered how to program them through Scratch. We then took our knowledge to the Backstretch, the community where seasonal workers from Arlington Park live over the summer. Along with the Bookmobile, our teens were there to represent the library and teach kids and other teens how to program and play with the robots outside on a sunny summer day.

The fun has continued since then, and last summer our Squad built a website where they compiled various coding resources from across the web to create a one-stop portal for kids, teens, and adults to teach themselves how to code! This summer, we’re planning on having volunteers learn to program different technology we have around the library including the Sphero, Osmo, Ozobot, Dash & Dot, and Cozmo. They’ll be doing a hands-on demonstration of these robots and more for nerds of all ages, and you’re welcome to join us on Monday, July 24, from 1-3 p.m. to see what it’s all about. The program is aptly named… Robots, Robots, Robots!

To view a few of the projects the <code>breakers have made, click here.

Alice Son spends her days hanging out with young adults as Teen Librarian at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library. She received her MLIS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was a 2015 ALA Spectrum Scholar. She appreciates all kinds of technology, thoughtful syntax, and fandoms. She is a Gryffindor. Find her on Twitter @alicehson.




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