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Meeting Teens Where They Are



  • Teens sitting and talking
  • Teens at Rock Climbing Summer Meetup
  • Teens indoor rock climbing

Brandon, Queen's Square | November 1, 2019

It isn’t easy being a teen.

Last year Idea Exchange was invited to Glenview Secondary School to do an outreach activity for four classes of Grade Ten students. We engaged teens in different activities to identify their aspirations and perceived barriers with respect to key Idea Exchange programming objectives. Here are the top five things we learned:

  1. Teens feel busy and stressed but are interested in just about everything
  2. School is seen is a barrier to aspirations as much as an avenue for them
  3. Lack of money, free time, and transportation are more significant barriers than all others combined
  4. Teens crave food, sleep, and meaningful connection with others, especially their peers
  5. Technology is seen as a hindrance as much as it is a help with respect to connection

These are the big points we took into consideration when planning our teen summer programs for 2019. How did we respond?

Gone was the “Teen Summer Challenge” concept. Instead we rebranded our slate of summer programming as the “Teen Summer Meetups” with the understanding that teens feel challenged enough already. Our programs essentially became themed excuses for teens to socialize, try new things, and make connections.

We decided that, whenever possible, all teen programs should be offered at no charge, that refreshments should be available, and that all programs should begin in the afternoon or evening.

To make programming more accessible, three major programs were held off-site in partnership with local businesses: rock climbing day, foam archery night, and a virtual reality tournament.

We offered a full spectrum of programs to meet many interests: computer programming, creative writing, athletics, pop culture, gaming, a concert, and so on.

We deemphasized the online portion of our teen programming, instead just offering hashtag opportunities to share photos and tweets in exchange for more prize tickets.

Prize packages took the form of various “experiences” donated by local businesses: karate classes, bowling parties, yoga classes, etc. so that teens could experience more of what our community has to offer. The prize package draw was held at the beginning of September but smaller door prizes were also awarded at select events. Click here for details.

Finally, we decided that summer should be the focus for offering teen programming going forward as teens perceive such a lack of time and energy when classes are in session.

The results? About 460 teens attended 17 programs. This was a 240% increase over the previous year and comparable to public library systems with three times the coverage of Idea Exchange’s five locations.

The moral of the story? Teens aren’t that difficult to reach. But you have to begin by listening. We look forward to Teen Summer 2020 being our best year yet!

For details on outreach, research, etc. contact Brandon Kidd, Youth Services Librarian at bkidd [at] ideaexchange.org.