Students’ concentration was intense as the time clock ticked down. After an hour of plotting, planning, examining, and solving the sections of puzzles placed before them, the team had figured out their escape with just moments to spare. Hands waved. Some jumped up and down. Eyes widened and squeals of delight could be heard. The mystery code was typed into the computer and the door unlocked. Everyone cheered with excitement. The team of eighth–graders at Washington Jr. High School had won. Their ability to work as a team, remember what they had learned, and apply that knowledge, enabled them to escape.
Escape from learning? No, it’s an escape through learning. By using the skills they acquired in their core subjects, the teams were able to work under time constraints to solve the puzzles to escape their “entrapment in the classroom.” English, math, science, and especially U.S. History from the social studies class were used in combination in this escape room. Series of questions and clues throughout the classroom were solved by one group while other groups worked on other subjects, each then moving to the next area until all the questions were answered and problems solved, allowing the escape to be completed.
Eighth-grade social studies teacher Erin Moore said that this project encourages the teamwork and “interactive learning the students truly enjoy.” The excitement exhibited by the students shows that this type of classroom structure is unlike the lecturing by a teacher to a room of students taking notes to then repeat on a test. Rather, the interactive way of teaching students allows them to be creative, seeking each other’s ideas and suggestions and showing what they can accomplish together.
Many video games have layers of problems to solve to move forward from one level to the next. Students can develop critical thinking and collaborative skills by playing these games, but interactive learning like escape rooms takes that learning away from the video screen and puts it into real life actions.
Mrs. Moore is working with the district curriculum planning to obtain grants for more interactive learning with activities incorporating engineering skills. “We hope to work more with the Bricolage theater group and the Enter the Imaginarium staffs to create in-service for teachers who would like to use the Escape room concept.”