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Community puzzles offer chance to rewind, disperse energy

Aubrey Felsen
A student works on one of the many puzzles in the high school library, which offer an opportunity for students and faculty to take a break from work and engage in a fun, hands-on activity. 

It’s quiet in the Pritzker Traubert Family Library. Students are working at tables, studying in cubicles, browsing through the shelves and relaxing in bean bag chairs. Across from the green conference room is a small white bookshelf, where scattered puzzle pieces lie on top, ready to be pieced together by anyone who stops by.

The puzzles in the high school library offer an opportunity for students and faculty to take a break from work and engage in a fun, hands-on activity.

Shirely Volk, high school librarian, decided with her colleagues to put out these puzzles just over a year ago, in January — national puzzle month.

“We thought it would be a fun way to keep people involved,” Ms. Volk said, “and take their attention away from a screen.”

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Ms. Volk noticed the growing popularity of these puzzles when they were first introduced.

“When we first started putting them out, there were only just a few students that made the time or were interested enough.”

Junior Lyra Luu was one of these students. She finds herself attracted to the puzzles for a variety of reasons.

Luu especially enjoys the unique laser-cut puzzles that Brian Wildeman, art teacher, donated to the library.

“It is nice to have something tactile in your hand,” Luu said. “I think it’s really good to get away from work for a bit, so it’s nice that it’s here in the library where a lot of people get work done.”

Ms. Volk also notes how the puzzles serve as a healthy distraction for individuals, along with a social activity for groups.

“I think for some of the students it’s nice for them to focus on it in terms of taking a break from their schoolwork,” Ms. Volk said. “Also, it can be really social, or something you do solitary.”

Kerry Tulson, assistant director of admissions and financial aid, enjoys completing puzzles at home with her family, and she makes sure to bring families by the puzzles in the library when giving tours.

“It’s a nice way to relax,” Ms. Tulson said. “If you have some free time during the school day, I think that it’s a nice way to decompress.”

Similarly, junior Asa Bordelon appreciates the relaxing aspect of puzzles.

“I feel like they’re calming,” Bordelon said. “I can just do it and not think about stuff too much.”

While puzzles are a great way to take a break, they can also build mental skills.

“I think puzzles also help you with a lot of other skills, too,” Ms. Volk said, “like strategy, planning and problem solving.”

In addition to building these skills, Ms. Volk notes how puzzles reflect greater ideas.

“It’s also like a metaphor for life,” Ms. Volk said. “Ultimately, all the pieces fall into place.”

This story was originally published on U-High Midway on February 6, 2024.