February 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Teen Maker Space Outreach: Behind the Scenes With Karen Jensen

SLJ‘s “Teen Librarian Toolbox” founder Karen Jensen recently posted a series of articles about the outreach she and her teens do at the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (OH). Here are excerpts from the week. Detailed directions and supply lists can be found in the original posts.


We created and organized three outreach modules that are ready to go. These include a button-making station, a photo booth station, and a coloring station.


We have anywhere from two to four people helping out. The directions for each outreach module can be found in the Teen MakerSpace Staff Manual, my pride and joy. Because each module has a standard checklist, any staffer can grab the sheet and go.

We have several standard items for each event. They include a black table cloth; Teen MakerSpace logo table runners, flyers, and brochures; a table, chairs, trash bags; etc.

After that, each module is described more specifically, depending on what the activity is. When something proves to be successful, we finish the checklist for that initiative. Each activity must include the following: detailed instructions with photos, signage kept in the manual so it also can be grab-and-go, and a detailed list of supplies.


Making a portable photo booth turned out to be a fun, popular decision. We needed one that would be easy to transport, set up, and take down. After a lot of research, we used one from the blog “Happiness is Homemade” as our model. We made one change, which was creating different sized cross bars, so that we can have a smaller or wider photo booth, depending on the size of our space. Also, we made both a green screen and a black background. We bought cheap sheets at the local store and these worked fine.


Once you have all your pieces cut to the correct size, setting up is easy. We sized our cross bars so our width can be either three feet across, which fits one person, or five, which accommodated groups pretty well. You will need at least two staffers to set up and take down the booth. I also recommend making step-by-step photo instructions. If you are outdoors, wind can be an issue; you may need a stabilizing agent.


Why make your own props? I figured since we are a Teen MakerSpace, it made a lot of sense. While this was more expensive than buying pre-made props, it was a great community activity. Teens gave us input on what they wanted to make and were engaged every step of the way. It takes about $50 in supplies and two days to make 20 props.


To create the emoji props, teens simply enlarged emoji icons on a computer, printed, cut them out, and glued them to foam core. Then, they cut the decorated foam core pieces and glued them to a stick. Amazingly simple.


Text transfer is the process of printing out a text and transferring it to another surface or medium. In this case, we printed onto signs mostly made with chalkboard paper.

Supply list:

  • A laptop/computer and printer
  • Chalkboard scrapbook paper
  • Chalk markers (different than chalk)
  • A sharp pencil
  • A ballpoint pen
  • Dowel rods
  • A hot glue gun

transfer9-300x300You print out the words you want from the computer, choosing a fun font, and transfer them onto your signs, which are covered with chalkboard paper. You can also use regular paper and markers or gel pens. Check out my full post for details.


Our maker space has a variety of coloring sheets, along with some high-quality colored pencils, fine tip markers, and—after requests from our teens—a large assortment of gel pens. I recently went to a very cool crafters’ conference that featured coloring postcards. I thought, “I can do that.” I did, and I’m quite happy with the finished product. I designed the postcard in Canva, which has a preset postcard size that worked well. The most difficult part was trying to find image outlines with areas to color in, as opposed to actual graphics. I downloaded my image and laid it out in a four-part piece in Microsoft Publisher, so I had a master to photocopy onto thick card stock.


If you have a button maker, you can use portions of coloring sheets to make fabulous buttons. We have American Button Machines button makers, and we adore them.

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  1. Tara Pennington says:

    Hey Karen Jensen,
    Would you be willing to email me a digital version of your staff handbook you made and featured in this article? Just curious what you included as I’m looking to start a blitz hour in my LMC or a teen maker space as a club. Thanks so much!