Last fall, with tons of help from four eighth-grade boys, I put together a program based on Slender Man. It was hugely successful, with triple my average teen program attendance, and it won an award, but the best thing about it was that it was completely masterminded by a group of library regulars.
At the time we threw the program, Slender: the Eight Pages was insanely popular in the Teen Space after school. Groups of kids huddled around the room’s 3 computers, watching each other play and inevitably shrieking when Slendar Man showed up. It was really fun to see them playing together, encouraging each other, etc. but it also lead to a LOT of noise coming from the Teen Space. In an effort to foster the kind of collaborative play while still maintaining some relative peace and quiet for the rest of the library’s patrons, I suggested to a couple of the eighth grade boys who were at the forefront of the program that we play in the basement, on the computer attached to the big screen projector. The boys took the idea of a Slender Man program and ran with it!
After lots of enthusiasm and a couple of reality checks, we ended up putting together a 2-part program. First, we did what I’d originally suggested: we played Slender on a computer attached to the library’s projector. The library where I worked at the time had a big meeting room with blackout curtains and a projector screen. We set up a computer to project on to the screen. The game is a download; if you have administrative access to library computers, you can install it directly. If you don’t have administrative access, you can download the game onto a flash drive and run it from there, which is what we did. I set out snacks and created a sign-up sheet; the boys decorated the room with signs from the game.
Game play ran on a first-come, first-served basis – kids who wanted to play added their names to the sign-up sheet as they came into the program. Not all of the kids wanted to play; quite a few watched and shouted encouragement while snacking. For those who did want to play, I allowed five minutes or a win, whichever came first. It’s possible to beat the game in five minutes, but no one did. I gave out a small prize to the kid who collected the most pages.
The second half of the program was a live-action version of the computer game. The library where I worked at the time had a grassy area with trees along one side of the building. Before the program, one of the volunteers created two sets of the pages featured in the game and hid them outside. I divide the teens into two groups. The teams were tasked with finding a complete set of pages, no duplicates; the first team to present me with a complete set was declared the winner.
No live-action version of Slender would be complete without a Slender Man, so we had one! One of the volunteers wore all black with a pair of white tights over his face (we ended up doubling up, because the pair I picked up at the drugstore wasn’t quite thick enough to hide his features in a single layer). He lurked behind trees and chased the players; anyone who got tagged by Slender Man had to join me and sit out the remainder of the game. The winning team got a small prize for every member.
The program was a huge hit; the live-action version was definitely the more exciting half although I think the kids enjoyed both parts (any chance to hang out and eat snacks was a hit with the teens at this library).
If I were to repeat the program, I’d change a few things. First, I’d set more clear boundaries for the live-action part of the game. A few kids ran off into the woods behind the library and had to be retrieved. Second, I’d create more teams. It’s always hard to judge how many teens will be at a program, but I think four or five teams of seven to eight kids a piece would’ve made the live-action part last a little longer. I think this would be a great activity for a lock-in, too. A couple of people have asked me about the program. I hope this write-up will be enough to help you if you’d like to do your own Slender Night, but please feel free to comment or get in touch if you have other questions!
I can’t emphasize enough that the success of this program was due to the hard work of my four volunteers. They took my seed of an idea and ran with it, and they did most of the work for the program. It was such a good reminder to me of the power of meeting your teens where they are and giving control of their programs to them!