Young Adult Programs

Into the Wilderness: Survival of the Fittest

Length of Program

1 hour, or possibly longer depending on number of participants for the “Food Fear Factor” activity.

Program Description

For many young adults, part of the teen experience is the apparent willingness to try anything, especially if it is gross or potentially dangerous. Through such experimentation, teens are learning limits, judgment, and self-reliance. Use the activities in this program to offer wild adventures in the library. Although some of the activities in the program may not appeal to the sensible adult in you, it is just gross enough to be fun for teens!


Decide how brave you are and what will appeal to your teens. For the “Food Fear Factor” activity, copy and distribute the permission slip provided at the end of this chapter at least one week before the program. Be sure to let all interested teens that know that they must return a signed permission slip in order to participate in the contest. Purchase the food. Buy disposable bowls and spoons. Be sure and have plenty of trashcans on hand for teens inclined to spit out the food.

In advance, make a copy of the “Desert Survival” Team Building Exercise provided for each participant.

Books to Display

  • The Action Heroine’s Handbook by Jennifer Worick, Joe Borgenicht, and Larry Jost.
  • The Action Hero’s Handbook: How to Catch a Great White Shark, Perform the Vulcan Nerve Pinch, Track a Fugitive, and Dozens of Other TV and Movie Skills by David Borgenicht and Joe Borgenicht.
  • The Eat-A-Bug Cookbook by David George Gordan.
  • Gross Grub by Cheryl Porter.
  • Wilderness Survival by Gregory Davenport.
  • The Worst-Case Scenario Handbook Survival Guide by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht.

Books to Booktalk

  • Castaways: Stories of Survival by Gerald Hausman.
  • Guts: The True Story Behind Hatchet and the Brian Books by Gary Paulsen.
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen.
  • No Way Out by Ivy Ruckman.
  • Paradise: Based on a True Story of Survival by Joan Elizabeth Goodman.
  • Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien.

Bulletin Board

Survivor @ The Library!

Cover your bulletin board with camouflage fabric purchased from a local fabric store. If you cannot find camouflage fabric, you can purchase camouflage decorative craft paper from a local paper store or from an online stationary or craft store and laminate it. Use a die-cut machine or stencils to create a sign with a caption such as “Survivor @ the Library! Will You Be the Next One Booted off the Island?;” “Survival: Do You Have What It Takes?;” and “Life is Rough…be Prepared!”


Display survival and wilderness gear along with books about camping, castaways, and survival. Items in the display might include bug spray, a water canteen, first aid kit, bottled water, whistle, rocks, sticks, freeze-dried food, and a plastic rattlesnake or lizard.


Camouflage is always good for anything survival-related. Serve food or drinks in camouflage cups and plates. Purchase them from a local or online party store. Party Pro has an entire line of camo decorations, including streamers, cups, plates, balloons, and compasses, at


In the spirit of disgusting food that doesn’t elicit a quick gag reflex, offer gummy worms and gummy rats as a sweet alternative to the revolting recipes you concoct for the “Food Fear Factor” activity. Or, serve Kitty Litter Cake and other gross treats from The Family Corner Web site at

Prizes and Incentives

Plastic compass clips are available from Oriental Trading Company along with other fun and inexpensive prizes such as a compass/whistle in a beach safe container, a metal whistle, and a canvas camouflage backpack key chain.


Duct Tape Wallet

Duct tape crafts are fun to make, easy, inexpensive, and allow teens to be both creative and practical.

  • Duct Tape, one roll for every four participants
  • Rulers
  • Scissors
  • Pencils
  • Template the size of a dollar bill
  • Goo Gone® or a similar product that will easily remove sticky residue
  • Rags

In advance, print out the instructions, with photographs, from the Duct Tape Guys® at Follow the instructions and make a sample to show the kids what they will make if they come to your program. Distribute the rolls of duct tape and other tools to the participants. Provide each participant with a copy of the step-by-step instructions and let the fun begin. When the program is over, clean the duct tape residue off the scissors with rags and Goo Gone® or a similar product that will easily remove sticky residue.

For the truly inspired, additional projects are available at Sean’s Duct Tape Page, and Anomaly Duct Tape Site,

Games and Activities

Food Fear Factor

Hold your own “reality” program and challenge teens to try some wild foods. Foods that can be fun for this disgusting taste test include, but are not limited to, baby food (especially disgusting looking puréed vegetables like peas, carrots, and ham), Vegemite, Spam, sardines, Vienna Sausages, pickled foods such as eggs and pigs feet, sauerkraut, canned spinach, baby formula, buttermilk, beets, potted meat, anchovies, clam juice, dried octopus, etc. The foods you select for this program can vary depending on the level of adventurousness of the teens in your library. However, remember that the higher the gross-out factor, the more entertaining the program!

The program may merely be a taste test of disgusting stuff, or it may be a contest. A contest might be more entertaining and appealing to teens. In the contest, each food to be tasted is a round. Begin with the least gross food and progress to the most disgusting. A participant is eliminated if he or she will not, or can not swallow that round’s food item. The winner or winners of each round receives a prize or incentive. The teen or teens who wins the most rounds receives a grand prize. A suggestion is a gift certificate for a less wild eating experience such as a local pizza or burger place.

Disclaimer: If you host this program, be sure to have participating teens provide a permission slip signed by a parent or guardian in order to avoid any food allergy mishaps or angry parents. An example of a permission slip is provided at the end of this chapter.

Desert Survivor Team Building Exercise

The “Desert Survival” Team Building Exercise is a fun way to bring your group together as they problem solve, work as a team, and learn to trust one another. Divide the group into teams. For the sake of group solidarity and bonding, it’s a good idea to recommend that each team come up with a name for their group. Distribute the Desert Survival Team Building Exercise handout and tell each team that they must follow the directions. Give the teams thirty minutes to rank the importance of the items they salvaged from the plane wreck and to come up with a plan for either escaping the desert or finding help. When the time is up, reconvene and invite a member of each group to come forward share their team’s decisions, along with rationalizations for their actions. Because this activity fosters teamwork and trust, there are no “losers.”

For more team building and trust exercises that can be used as icebreakers, visit the Business Balls Web site at

Worst Case Scenario Survival Board Game

This game will have teens making life and death decisions that continually test their survival skills and instincts. It is for two or more players and is available from University Games at


If you have public performance rights, show segments of these videos and DVDs during a movie program. Otherwise, display them for home use.

  • Survival - Learn to Become a Survivor in the Wild. (60 minutes)
  • Survivor - Season One - The Greatest and Most Outrageous Moment. (150 minutes)
  • Survivor - Season Two - The Australian Outback: The Greatest and Most Outrageous Moments. (122 minutes)
  • Working it Out, A Survival Guide for Kids. (30 minutes)

Web Sites

Survival IQ
Do you have what it takes to survive the wilderness? Take this quiz and find out how you score when it comes to being deserted on a desolate island, injured in a jungle crawling with insects and amphibians, or stranded in a blizzard with no matches to light a fire.

Worst Case Scenario
This companion to the “Worst Case Scenario” television series provides games and activities where you decide the best course of action in a series of worst case scenarios.

Professional Resources

  • The Big Book of Team Building Games: Trust-Building Activities, Team Spirit Exercises, and Other Fun Things to Do by Edward Scannell and John W. Newstrom.
  • Games Trainers Play Outdoors by Gary Kroehnert.
  • Team-Building Activities for Every Group by Alanna Jones.


Texas Reading Club 2005 Programming Manual / Go Wild...Read!

Published by the Library Development Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Page last modified: June 14, 2011