Students at Tabor College are rebuilding the world one piece at a time.
Actually, they’re piecing together a massive 4,000-piece world map puzzle that is about 4 ½ feet wide by 3 feet tall and nearly covers the entire desk it rests upon in Tabor’s library.
Interlibrary loan coordinator Esther Schmidt said the library put out several puzzles over the last several months for students to do, including one of Noah’s Ark and another featuring puppies and birds.
“It’s something fun,” Schmidt said. “It’s out there for students to stop by. A variety of people work on them, but it actually all started because we had one student worker who really, really likes puzzles. She’s fairly animated about working on them whenever she can.”
Cara Duell is that student.
“I’ve always enjoyed puzzles,” Duell said. “When this one came to the library, I was very excited. It’s 4,000 little pieces of happiness.”
Schmidt said student interest in puzzles waxes and wanes. She noticed more people tended to work on them during finals.
However, Duell is a constant puzzler.
“One time, when we had the Noah’s Ark puzzle up, Cara spent a couple hours sitting in front of it,” Schmidt said.
Duell’s passion for puzzles reaches back to her childhood when her family used to put together puzzles on New Year’s Eve.
“It’s a family memory that became habit,” Duell said. “I like the challenge that putting together a picture poses. It can be stimulating and relaxing at the same time.”
She has completed dozens of 1,000- and 2,000-piece puzzles, she said. However, the 4,000-piece map is the largest puzzle Duell has ever worked on.
Within its interlocking edges, the colorful map puzzle includes all the countries, their flags, a compass rose, and a seemingly infinite expanse of open water with a buccaneer’s ship sailing dangerously close to the edge of the world.
“I always start with the border,” Duell said.
She said she feels compelled to separate the pieces from outside edge to inside pieces.
“It’s work to do a puzzle, but at the same time, I am able to let my mind wander,” she said.
Duell usually has a puzzle going at home so she has an “excuse to procrastinate” on homework. However, she also found the pastime proves a boon on certain subjects.
“I have written parts of papers or review material in my head at the same time that my eyes and hands are busy,” Duell said. “I find it also helps me with recall of information.”
As of Friday, all of the border and most of North America and Africa were complete, the North and South Poles were in good shape, and some progress had been made on South America and Australia. Most of Europe, Asia, and the world’s oceans were missing.
However, Schmidt is confident that what remains of this puzzle leviathan’s “terra incognita” will be mapped out soon enough, with the help of Duell and other students.
“It sits there and it’s kind of daunting, but we will sort it all out, eventually,” Schmidt said.