Monday, March 14, 2016

Escape Rooms in Schools

This blog post is part of a 10-day blogging initiative started by @tina_zita back in January. I saw some amazing blog posts from many colleagues during the initial challenge, but wasn't able to contribute, myself... until now! This is blog post number 4/10.

This past weekend, I attempted my first Escape Room with a group of friends. I am a sucker for puzzles of all types, and my friends are all equally-minded. We had an amazing time! But I'm now left wondering how we can duplicate an exciting experience like this in school.

If you aren't familiar with Escape Rooms, here's an example of one the crew on The Big Bang Theory tackled last season:

Basically, participants get locked in a room (which has a theme or story tying everything together), where they have to solve puzzles in order to locate the key that will get them out of the room. Did I mention the time limit and the distractions?

(For those of you reading this in Ontario, Escape Manor - the company that runs Escape Rooms in Ottawa - has just created one where you escape from the Diefenbunker, in the actual Diefenbunker! How cool is that?!)

What we loved about the experience was that all the puzzles were do-able, but tricky. With next to no instructions, we really had to work as a group to figure out the clues (some of which had multiple steps involved), and come up with the solutions. There were both physical puzzles (things that had to be manipulated) as well as mental puzzles. The time limit was key: long enough to make it possible, but short enough to make it a challenge. There was definitely some pressure to get things done!

Could we recreate an experience like this at school? Would students be just as interested in it as we were? I put some wonderings out on Twitter, and was thrilled to hear back not only from others who were interested in trying it, but also some who had already done this - with great success!

Check out the Storify archive of the tweets at the bottom of this post.

When we applied for a Teacher Learning and Leadership Program project for 2016-2017 for the creation of rich tasks in our flipped classrooms, we mentioned @breakoutEDU ( as a possible resource for multi-step puzzles like these. The overwhelming recommendation coming from the Twittersphere - as well as my own new experience in this type of challenge - has convinced me it's well worth looking into.

I'm looking forward to exploring this further, and the wheels are already turning as to how we might do this for junior science classes, or perhaps have a senior class create one for a junior class. It certainly takes the scavenger hunt project to the next level!

I'd love to explore how teachers have used this type of experience. Please comment if you can share!

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