The last day of school for most Tigard-Tualatin students was Tuesday, June 20 — but for more than three dozen, the brain-teasers didn't end with the final bell.
Some 38 kids from the sixth through 12th grades — yes, including some who were fifth-graders up until last month — participated in a scavenger hunt organized by the Tualatin Public Library in concert with the Tualatin Youth Advisory Council on Wednesday, June 21.
The scavenger hunt sent teams of teens scurrying across Tualatin Community Park, racing to solve 10 "clues" as quickly as possible. The clues consisted of puzzles, including word scrambles, foreign languages and jigsaw puzzles, some of them quite challenging.
"Writing them took about two or three weeks," said Elaine Meslow, a Tualatin High School senior and member of the Tualatin Teen Library Committee.
Meslow was tapped by Tualatin teen services librarian Aimee Meuchel to help organize the event. Meuchel told The Times she has been wanting to put on a scavenger hunt for teens for about three years and was excited to see it finally come to fruition.
"I, personally, like to solve different kinds of puzzles," Meuchel said. "So I think it's interesting to see how their minds work and watch them try to solve puzzles. It's fun."
The scavenger hunt certainly was a puzzle-lover's delight. But Meuchel's enthusiasm for the sundry stumpers wasn't shared by all of the teens who participated in the scavenger hunt.
One group of incoming freshmen at Tualatin High — including Meslow's younger sister, Halle — wracked their brains trying to solve a particularly difficult riddle in which they had to figure out which words corresponded to three images and then replace certain letters in each word to form a phrase. Maybe it was just the frustration talking, but when asked whether they like puzzles, the response was indifferent.
"No," one said.
"I don't know," another hedged.
Why come out to the park for the scavenger hunt, then?
"Because home is boring," said Averi Lewis succinctly.
That was a good enough reason for many of the teens to spend a pleasant weekday afternoon at the park with their friends. Recognizing that, the Tualatin Library is offering regular summer programming for families, children and teens: entertainment on the Tualatin Commons on Tuesday evenings and hands-on activities for middle- and high-schoolers Wednesday afternoons. If one week's events aren't to somebody's liking, the next week might offer something they really enjoy.
Like other libraries in the area, the Tualatin Library encourages patrons of all ages to participate in its summer reading program, which is another way for students to keep their brains engaged over summer break.
Separate from summer reading, Meuchel and Tualatin Recreation Supervisor Julie Ludemann try to organize at least one "big" outdoor event every summer, like a carnival or the scavenger hunt.
"We have to switch it up," Meuchel said.
Without fail, when asked about the programs she puts on as the teen services librarian at the Tualatin Library, Meuchel credits her volunteers for making them possible.
For last Wednesday's scavenger hunt, the Tualatin Library Committee teens partnered up with members of the Youth Advisory Council, manning each clue station and giving helpful hints on request.
Morgan Darby has been volunteering at city events for the YAC for a few years now. Like Elaine Meslow, she's an incoming senior at Tualatin High.
"It's fun," Darby said. "I joined the group when I was in eighth grade, so at that point, it was just kind of something to do. And now … it helps with getting into college, but I also just really enjoy it."
By Mark Miller
Assistant Editor, The Times