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Henninger Library Becomes Creative Escape with Mysteries to Solve and Journals to Make

This is a photo of two students standing in the Henninger library, smiling at the camera, each holding an artifact they discovered during a library scavenger hunt.A pair of sisters faced identity theft. A maid killed her employer to fund her child support. What initially looked like two unrelated suicides started looking a lot like murder. And it was Henninger students who tracked down the culprits for all three!
Thanks to two grants funded by the SCSD Educational Foundation, The Secret Society of Sabrina Steele is just one of the new initiatives in the Henninger High School Library this year. Intended to help foster community in the library and get students off their devices, Librarian Assistant Kelaiah Wolf created both the self-directed mystery “game” and a journaling space.
“I was hopeful that self-directed programs like these would increase the number of students who use the library and feel comfortable in the space,” Ms. Wolf shared. “The mysteries challenge students to think outside the box and learn how to use library resources, while the journaling space provides a quiet area for students to be creative, listen to music and unwind.”
Through the mystery series, students are encouraged to stop in to the library during a free period or lunch break. They’re given a letter as a starting point, and must identify clues to lead them through the library, finding a disguised safe, decoding Morse code, reading documents created in invisible ink, solving puzzle boxes, and more.  
“I love mysteries and doing escape rooms,” Ms. Wolf explained of her motivation in creating these activities. “We have such a big space, and there are so many kids who come in with free periods who ask for things to do! The reaction to both activities has been very positive. Students are always excited to comb through our sticker books and even more excited when they are given a free journal to keep. Many students return to the library every month in anticipation of the newest case there is to investigate, sometimes bringing new friends with them. Overall, the best side effect I have noticed from these two programs is that they have been a vessel for student connection. Whether students are mingling at the journaling table or forming a team to solve a case, these activities help us build community in our library!”
Henninger junior Charlie Armstead and senior Jovani Baum have solved three mysteries together already this year, and are now working on their fourth. They said the process of piecing together clues, for them, is greater than the eraser or keychain prize they receive for completing each mystery.
“I’m a big fan of the Sherlock Holmes books,” Jovani said. “These mysteries compare really well! They’re well put together and they have twists and turns… they really make me want to come to the library more! I enjoy going around, taking apart the pieces, and piecing together the full story of what happened.”
“We try to take the small pieces of evidence and use those to figure out the full story,” Charlie added. “I like the puzzles and seeing how everything comes together in the end. I didn’t really come to the library until we started doing trivia, and then I got hooked on the mysteries… it’s so fun! I’ve especially liked the puzzle boxes and the hidden books with secret papers inside.”
 This is a photo of the Journaling Space in the Henninger library - shelves of scrapbooking supplies and more.
For students who may not have a knack for solving murders, the library team also developed a journaling space. Complete with blank journals and an assortment of decorating materials like maps, books and magazines for collaging, stickers, and more, students are welcome to cozy up and get creative.
“I use mine for collaging,” senior Isabella Stewart said, showing her small journal bursting at the seams with colorful images. “It was meant to be an opportunity for me to just make something pretty… but as time went on, it became something more, and now it has sentimental value to me. I do a lot of art – I plan to study art in college. A lot of thought goes into art and the composition. This journaling project allowed me to be artistic but just for fun… it was relaxing!”
Classmate Fnu Sarah said the journaling opportunity turned out to be a great way to scrapbook her senior year.
“Growing up, I didn’t have many memories,” she said. “I wanted to use this as an opportunity to capture everyone and everything that has been part of my life. The cover shows things that make up me – where I’m from, where I live, what I like, my religion. Then, inside, I have pages that show more about my life now and the things in it. I’m not really into the writing part of journaling, but this really makes me happy!”
Way to go, Ms. Wolf, for creating such unique opportunities to build student connections in the school library! To learn more about the grant projects funded by the SCSD Educational Foundation this year, visit
Anthony Q. Davis, Superintendent
725 Harrison Street
Syracuse, NY 13210
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