In the series Spy School by Stuart Gibbs, 12-year-old Ben Ripley finds out he has been chosen to attend a super-secret CIA academy. It’s so secret that even his family and friends don’t know he is going. They think he’s going to a prestigious math and science boarding school. Ben is not exactly what you would call “spy material”, and he struggles through every class and situation that comes up. But he does manage to succeed and he ends up becoming a halfway decent spy.
This series was the inspiration for a Top Secret Spy School kit that I recently put together. It was a very popular kit that was completely given out within a few hours, so I wanted to share some of the activities with you here. You can print the activity pages at home, and most activities involve supplies that most people will have around their house.
Chapter 1: Recruitment
As a spy, it is very important to have a code name.
To create your code name:
- First name: Pick a color
- Last Name: Pick an animal
You can pick your favorite of each one, but keep in mind that this is a code name. If everyone knows your favorite color is silver and your favorite animal is a sloth, then it might be easy for people to figure out that “Silver Sloth” is you. So for your own protection, pick something random!
Once you pick your code name, you can make your own Spy ID card using this template. Make up your own ID number (don’t use your birthday or anything that would identify you). Then follow the instructions to put your fingerprints on the ID card. Be sure to keep your card in a safe place.
Chapter 10: Ninjas
Most adventure books or movies are not complete without a scene where the characters have to carefully make their way through a laser beam maze in order to get to safety. Any good spy needs to be flexible enough to be able to get in and out of tricky situations. Create your own “laser” obstacle course at home to practice your ninja skills.
You will need:
- Tape (preferably painter’s tape)
- A narrow hallway
Before you get started, make sure you have a grownup’s permission to do this activity, especially if you do not have painter’s tape. Painter’s tape is easier on your walls than masking tape or clear tape so there is less of a chance you will rip the paint off the walls. Remember, as a spy you don’t want to leave signs that you were there.
If you don’t have a narrow hallway, you can line up chairs in two rows and tape the yarn to the chairs.
To make your maze:
- Tape the yarn to the wall, alternating sides.
- To make a beginner course, tape the yarn at the same height so you can either step over or crawl under.
- To make a more challenging course, make sure you change the level of the yarn as you go.
- When it is set up, make your way through the course, trying not to touch the “lasers” with any part of your body.
Chapter 17: Evidence
Did you know that no two fingerprints are the same? Every time you touch something, you leave a little trace of yourself on it. The sweat and oils from your fingers transfer to the object and leave an imprint of your fingers on the surface. This fact can be very useful when a crime has been committed and the police detectives need to figure out who did it. The actual process of revealing fingerprints is very time-consuming and not as simple as it appears when you see it on TV. But you can collect fingerprints at home to study them using a very simple method. You can find the instructions here.
Chapter 18: Security
In Spy School, the first book of the series, Ben’s file said he allegedly had excellent cryptography skills and that he invented a way of breaking codes called Pinwheel. I don’t want to spoil the plot for you so that’s all I’ll say about that. Being able to communicate with your spy team is very important. It may be necessary to create a secret code so others will not know what your plans are. You can find all sorts of templates for secret code breakers by doing a simple Google search, or you can follow these directions and print out your own code maker and code breaker.
Chapter 20: Impersonation
As a spy, it is important to be able to blend in with the crowd. You don’t want people to be able to recognize you or to be able to identify you later. All spies need to have a collection of disguises to use in different circumstances. Throw on a pair of dark sunglasses. Add a hat. Put on a fake mustache. Change it up every time you go outside and you won’t have to worry about someone figuring out your true identity.
Are you interested in reading the Spy School series? Check them out today as ebooks, books on CD, audiobooks or good old-fashioned paper books!
The next book in the series, Spy School at Sea will be released in August!