Teens. It’s so hard to keep them interested in something for more than three seconds that doesn’t involved Facebook or the computer. It is even harder to get them interested in something designed to educate them on a topic. And that is why I like to disguise “educational programs” in chocolate, games, and fun.
To start, I gathered up the teens who usually just hang out with their friends in the department. As they walked in, they received a bead necklace for the “Forbidden Word” game. They could not say the words “Mardi Gras” or “friends.” If they were caught saying those words, they had to give up their necklace.
We made masks out of paper plates, scrapbooking scissors, beads, feathers, puffy paint, and markers. They came up with some pretty cool masks. While they were making their masks, I asked them trivia questions about Mardi Gras. I also provided books if they wanted to look up the answers. For every correct answer, they received a piece of candy. They were a little more competitive than I thought they would be!
After the mask-making and trivia, we played “Five Gold Coins in a Cup.” I found this game somewhere in the depths of the Internet and adapted it to my group. I cut out purple, green, and gold circles and taped one circle each to 10 Styrofoam cups. I arranged the cups in a triangle trying to mix up the colors as best I could. The purple cups were worth 5 points because there were four, the green cups were worth 10 points since there were three, and the gold cups were worth 15 points. (We made up the points as we went along.) I also needed to wait them down a bit because taping them down didn’t work. So the teens had five chances to toss ping pong balls into each cup. The one with the most points was the winner. Oddly, enough no one but myself was able to earn points; however, that didn’t stop them from trying at least five times each!
The next game was a scavenger hunt of six questions using the resources in the teen department. At each checkpoint, they earned a plastic “Mardi Gras” coin. The winner was the person who finished first, and he received ten pieces of candy. I was also surprised at how serious some of them took the game!
Finally, they had earned the piece de resistance! I couldn’t provide beignets, so instead I gave them vanilla flavored cupcakes to decorate and enjoy. I made the cupcakes a rainbow of purple, gold, and green to go with our theme.
All in all, I had six teens attend, which is a average attendance for an after-school program. It was something I would do again. The most surprising thing was learning how many teens in our area do not know what Mardi Gras is. They saw the beads hanging from the desk, and banner hanging from the study room windows, but they didn’t know what it was all about.