Audience: You have to be adaptable when executing a program for such a wide range of ages and be prepared to alter your plans and the contents in split second. At this particular session, I had a younger audience majority of mostly 6 year olds. The oldest in the room was 10 years old. Always have the older children take the lead in helping in the activities.
Secret Agent: Cracking the Code
Plans: Read Aloud & Informational Facts, Different kind of hidden Messages (Mirror Message, Morse Code, Encrypted Message and making Invisible Ink)
I begin the session by asking the children “What is a Secret Agent?” Then I explained that most secret agents were used in time of war. Secret agents in fictionalized stories are often trying to recover an item or locate a criminal. Whenever possible, I try to incorporate history and diversity. I discussed how Harriet Tubman and other slaves were secret agents during the time of the Underground Railroad. I wanted talk about the CIA but backed away since the majority of the children at this particular session was 6 years old and I wasn’t sure if they would understand.
Tidbit – Harriet Tubman was indeed a secret agent. Besides the quilts that lead many slaves into freedom, secret agents like Harriet Tubman and other slaves also used songs and even clothe lines to secretly message where they needed to go to find their freedom.
Mirror Message: Material (Mirrors) and Reverse Message.
Activity: Have children look at the Reverse Message in a mirror. Beside a fun message, I also reverse tongue twisters. Since I am not great on writing reverse message I used free generator from the web. http://txtn.us/mirror-words
Morse Code ( Using Drum and Flash lights)
Activity1: Explain what is Morse Code. Give a scenario explain you are being held captive or you are stranded somewhere and you need to get help. Teach them the word S.O.S (Save Our Soul or Save Our Ship) S…O—S….
I lightly tapped my index finger on the drum for the dots and the dashes I banged my whole hand. I asked the children to repeat it. They used their side of the chair to do it. I then handed out the Morse Code and tap a three letter word like cat or dog. Repeating it! I asked if they can figure out.
Activity 2 Next have the children write the name in Morse Code. They will figure out that it takes too long to implement it. Ask the children how they can condense their name. One patron said “ Shorten your name”, I responded “maybe tapping your first initial and last last initial”. I then asked everyone to sound out their name. One little girl named Mitilda figured everyone name out. I was impressed.
Activity 3: Flashlights- Before using the flashlight, let the families and children know that you are going to use blinking lights, in case someone is prone to seizures. Send S.O.S using the flashlight.
There are a lot of ways to send encrypted messages like backwards alphabets for example where Z = A; Y = B and so on. I found a great site that has worksheets that you can use. My message, “If you like Cracking the Code, you will probably like books on Secret Agents. Ask your librarian for more books.”
Here is a great link that help you make your own worksheets http://worksheetgenius.com/design.php?worksheet=codebreaker
There are a lot recipes you can find on the internet to make invisible inks.
- Using Baking Soda and water to write the message; letting it dry and brushing with grape juice to decipher the message.
- Using Lemon and water and then using heat.
For this session I only had seven participants. I asked the children which part of the program they enjoyed the most and they said the flashlight. We ran out of time before we could get to the invisible ink which was okay with me because I was having a hard time making the messages appear. I was also glad because it meant my cleanup will be quick! Unfortunately I could not document the session with pictures because I was really getting into the program and started enjoying myself. The adults were also having a blast. One grandparent said that they learned more about Harriet Tubman during my session than they have in their entire life.