Ninja Challenge

Credit for the Program that Inspired my Version goes to Joanna Axelrod (Escondido  PL) and Jennifer Lawson (San Diego PL)'s presentation for the California Library Association. Click on the link to see their version (and some other super fun sounding programs for teens).

I was needing some programs to reach out to the 6-12 year old age range, so I adapted the original for teens. I have had dismal success getting school-agers for programming during the school year (outside of school visits to the library or vice versa), even during school breaks, so this year I really wanted to see what sorts of things interest them enough that they might come to something not on summer vacation.

The only things I purchased for this program were: a hula hoop ($8 at WalMart), fortune cookies (though had I planned ahead, I probably could have gotten one of the multitude of Chinese/Japanese restaurants around to donate some), and some stretchy cord for making the masks.

Kids discovering the treasure in the Feely Box
I also had to construct a "Feely Box," which I did by repurposing a ballot box from our state book award for kids. I looked at this post, this one, and this one to help me decide how to construct the box. I ended up tracing around a fairly-new roll of masking tape to make the arm holes and cut pieces of scrap felt to cover up the holes. All the trinkets I put inside were items left by patrons that I have been collecting in a clear vase on my filing cabinet. They came in handy for something!

So without further ado: the program!

As the kids arrived, they chose a ninja mask to color, cut, and wear. Teen volunteers were indispensable tools to have! After 15 minutes, most of the kids were done, so I gathered up the rest to explain what they'd be doing.

I had 4 teens helping. Each teen was a team leader. Teams, as their first jobs, introduced themselves to each other and came up with a team name. We had some standards, like Kung Fu Ninjas, but more creative ones too, like Pajama Ninjas. The kids sort of sorted themselves into groups. I let siblings and friends and whatnot stay together and tried to match like kids with like kids for the rest. We had teams of 4 or 5.

The teams worked at their own pace and rotated through the following stations:

Ninja Skill 1: Patience. Activity: Playing Card Towers
  • At this station, teams attempted to build the tallest playing card tower they could before moving on. Most of the kids could hardly get one layer, so really it was more like "can we make more than two cards stand up together" than building a tower. But I was impressed with their patience.
Plump ninja by laobc - A plump cartoon ninja
Plump Ninga
Ninja Skill 2: Acuteness. Activity: Wild Animal Vaccination
  • Teams "vaccinated" wild animals by shooting at them with a Nerf bow and arrow. I had purchased one similar to this one when it was on sale in December to use for a Hunger Games program. We set up some of the stuffed animals we have here (puppets could work too) and the kids "shot" at them. This was by far the most popular station.
Ninja Skill 3: Composure. Activity: Cotton Ball Relay
  • Using chopsticks, teams will move as many cotton balls from one bucket to the other in the time allotted. (Team leaders and the teams decided how exactly they wanted to play. I wanted to give the teens a chance to practice some leadership. And since we weren't playing for points, it didn't matter that we all do it the same way).
Ninja Skill 4: Endurance. Activity: Hula Hoop Challenge
  • Teams timed each other to see which member of their team could hula hoop the longest.
Ninja Skill 5: Posture. Activity: Balance Your Books
  • Each member attempted to walk from a starting line to a finish line without dropping the book or using their hands to steady it. We used nonfiction books that were big size wise, but not necessarily page-wise. I like to keep my program neck injury and headache free :)
Ninja Skill 6: Agility. Activity: Footwork Ladders
  • I watched parts of several of the videos from this site which helped me come up with the activity
  • Using masking tape, we made a ladder outline on the floor. Teens guided their teams through the ladders demonstrating different patterns. One of my teens is an up-and-coming tennis player, so she was very familiar with these ladders and had great ideas for drills.
Ninja Skill 7: Strength. Activity: Resistance Exercises
  • This was the hardest for me to come up with an activity that we could do indoors. Anything like a relay or sack race is hard due to our space constraints, and tug of war on unpadded carpet floors did not appeal to me. Added to the fact that younger kids aren't even supposed to do "strength training," and I was stumped. I finally decided on bringing in 2 lb. hand weights and a stretchy band from home. My intent was for the teens to time their kids doing different simple motions (like arm curls) for 30 seconds to see who could do the most. What really happened was the kids just played around with the equipment. The stretchy band was a huge hit. At one point they attempted to "launch" the large rocket play structure we have by wrapping the band around it and pulling. They are not kidding when they say those band are stretchy!
Ninja Skill 8: Bravery. Activity: Feely Box
  • Each team member took a turn reaching in the box and writing down as many items as they could feel. At the end, they compared their lists and the teen opened the box so they could see what everything was.
After 2/3 of the program (an hour) had gone by, we paused for our "Ninja Snack Break," of the fortune cookies.

At the end, some teams chose to go back to a station they had already visited. Other teams learned how to make simplified origami throwing stars (I used the Pinwheel pattern from Easy Origami by John Montroll)

I made signs for each station with a simplified definition of the ninja skill. Example: Posture "Ninjas pay particular attention to the positioning of their body." Team Leaders had a "score card" to keep track of the stations they visited.

I also made a playlist of music from the Kung Fu Panda 1 and 2 soundtracks that played in the background on a looping shuffle.

This was an exercise in controlled chaos, but really was a lot of fun. A couple of books I pulled and put on display actually checked out (this is a rare occurrence at this library, which still baffles me)! 



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