Last fall, my colleague Kara Turner from Brown Deer shared an activity with me that she learned about at a conference called Breakout EDU. She explained that it is like an Escape Room for classrooms. I literally did an excited little hop, because I LOVE escape rooms. If you’ve never done one, an escape room is a a game in which you are locked in a room and work together with a group of people to find hidden clues, solve puzzles, and escape the room. It requires teamwork, communication, and critical thinking skills. And it’s just plain fun!
Let’s apply this to education. Collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking, and communication are skills we want our students to develop and Breakout EDU is one (really fun) way to allow them to practice those skills. Games can be aligned to all different content areas, allowing students to dive into content knowledge as well. I bought a kit right away!
General info about Breakout EDU:
- How does it work? These are challenge escape games. The students will find and solve clues in order to open locks and break into the box. A variety of games are available from BreakoutEDU with different content.
- What do I need? There is a BreakoutEDU kit full of locks, lock boxes, an invisible ink pen, UV light, and other materials. Once you have these supplies, you can play many of the games. Educators are always adding new ideas for puzzles using different materials, so each game has a list of items required.
- Why play? The game offers a fun and engaging way to strengthen students’ collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking, and communication skills without even realizing learning is happening!
Here’s a great overview video. It’s about 10 minutes, but worth a watch if this is something you’re interested in trying.
I had been sitting on this idea for a couple of months, not sure the best place to begin. After a conversation with 7th grade history teacher Bizzy Schultz, we decided that the best way to learn about it was to just do it! So the first day back from break, we ran six groups of students through the Breakout game called Time Warp.
How we prepared:
- Chose the game: Time Warp was a good fit because it focuses on the history of communication, which is something that Bizzy was already planning on covering.
- Adjusted the game: Most games are meant for smaller groups of 5-15 students, so without two kits, it would be hard to have the entire class play at once. We decided to split the class in two, so Bizzy could run a lesson while I facilitated the game. We took out two puzzles to adjust the game from 45 minutes to 30 minutes, so both groups could play within the class period.
- Prepared the materials: Each game gives a list of materials and instructions for setting up the room. We printed the resources we needed, set the locks to the correct codes, and placed these items around the room for students to explore.
The day of the game, we explained the game to the group and told them the objective was to break into the box by solving the clues. That’s about it. We showed them the game space, started the timer, and let them go. It was up to them to work together to decide what to do next. They were given two hints to use when they were really stuck, but all team members had to agree to use these hints – which was sometimes tough! Every group operated a little bit differently. In the end only one group was fully successful, but they all enjoyed and learned from the experience.
Here’s a short clip of students putting different pieces together to solve the code for a locked box.
What did we observe?
As facilitators, we saw students who were fully engaged and working together to solve the puzzles. They were excited! Some groups collaborated better than others, and often their reflection forms indicated this. They knew they would have been more successful had they communicated better or listened to all ideas. That’s a growth opportunity for them next time. Overall, their feedback was very positive. They liked the environment of working together to solve problems and being able to “think outside the box.”
How do I try this out?
All of the BreakoutEDU games and resources are completely free. Register here and you will receive access to the games. (They are password protected so that players can’t simply find the instructions during the game!) You can also join the very active Facebook group to ask questions and learn about new tools. If you (or your students) want an even greater challenge, create a Breakout game to share.
I have one set of materials and would be happy to lend them out or help facilitate a game in your classroom. The students loved it, and it is great to watch them so engaged!