For Wikipedia racers, the mouse clicks count

Library’s teen program offers primer on internet research

Posted 3/7/17

Tucked between quiet rows of library book shelves, the race was on.

Just a few days removed from the Daytona 500, a handful of teens and tweens weren’t gunning their engines, but revving up their minds for Wikipedia racing in The Studio at the …

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For Wikipedia racers, the mouse clicks count

Library’s teen program offers primer on internet research

Posted

Tucked between quiet rows of library book shelves, the race was on.

Just a few days removed from the Daytona 500, a handful of teens and tweens weren’t gunning their engines, but revving up their minds for Wikipedia racing in The Studio at the Anythink Library Wright Farms branch.

No 200 laps here, just mouse clicks — as few as possible.

Joseph McGarvey, 12, a student at Shadow Ridge Middle School, got from unicycle to elephants in two clicks; from iPhone to Pacific Ocean in one. But more challenges awaited, such as getting from Denver to polar bears or from Colorado to turkey bacon: All without typing the keywords into a search bar.

Instead, Joseph and his table mates, who included fellow Shadow Ridge student Riley Cole, 12, were winding their way from one topic to the next via hyperlinks embedded in Wikipedia articles. The “courses” were lined out on laminated cards complete with race track illustrations. The harder the challenge, the more twists and turns on the course on the card.

The Wikipedia racing program, one of many the Wright Farms Anythink branch presents as part of its regular teen programming on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, was the brainchild of Jakob Seelig.

Seelig, a teen guide at Anythink Wright Farms, said he designed the program to be a “playful, informal lesson in broad-scope research strategies.”

The racers got the hang of it quickly at the Feb. 28 session, which didn’t surprise Seelig.

“They’re all bright kids,” he said,

By navigating from one Wikipedia article to a different one, which at first glance appeared unrelated, teens were introduced to the concepts of the interconnectedness of knowledge and reverse-engineer problem solving, he said.

The goal, Seelig said, was to help teens understand that “research, no matter what they’re doing it for, can be messy and nonlinear and go in unexpected directions.”

That approach plugs right into the Anythink philosophy that is geared toward experiential learning. Wikipedia racing and all the teen-focused programs are aimed at piquing teens’ interest and then providing them the resources to “dive deeper” if they find something about which they are really passionate, Seelig said.

Suzanne McGowan, Youth Services coordinator at Anythink Wright Farms, said the libraries’ mission statement is “we open doors for curious minds.” 

That mission statement seems to be right on target, based on the enthusiasm of Joseph and his fellow Shadow Ridge students, who Seelig said are regulars in The Studio and at teen programs at the library.

Anythink has seven branches, all of which offer teen programming designed by teen guides. Each branch has at least one teen guide who offer programs for grades six through 12, McGowan said.

At Anythink Wright Farms, there are two guides — Seelig and Rebecca Bowman.

Seelig said they provide a nice bit of yin and yang at the library, with his passion lying in tech topics and Bowman’s lying in art and do-it-yourself activities. He said they complement each other nicely and can help teens explore a wide range of topics.

What kind of topics? The Wright Farms branch upcoming teen calendar includes Next Step Computer Aided Design on March 9; making a mix tape, a flashback to the ‘80s and cassette tapes, on March 21; and button pin-making on March 28. Participants will use software to make designs and then turn them into buttons.

One of Seelig’s recent favorites was a tech take-apart day, during which teens spent two hours exploring the inner workings of such devices as Christmas lights, computer mice and cell phones.

“We sat down for two hours and took them apart. That got a couple of kids really interested in thinking about what’s inside of these devices they use in their lives. We’re looking at bringing it back as a regular program,” Seelig said.

Youth Services Coordinator McGowan said such inspiration is what Anythink libraries aim for: “One of our goals is to inspire our teen customers, along with customers of all ages, to have fun with their curiosities. Sometimes this can be reading a book, but it can be creating music in our recording studio, hanging out with friends while doing crafts or racing Ollies.

“Informal learning is a large part of what we do at the library,” McGowan said.

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