Here at Exhilarating Escapes we value our educators. One of the owners, Nathan, is even married to one. So, we wanted to give back by providing educators with the information they need to utilize what we believe is an effective engagement tool in the classroom, escape room games.
To do this, we sat down with an expert. Nathan’s wife is a classroom instructor that has worked both self-contained and departmentalized in elementary schools. She holds endorsements in science, social studies, and language arts. She attended none other than Illinois State University (ISU) where she got her BA in Teaching and Learning in Elementary Education. A Heartland Community College and NCWHS alumna, Emily Lindsey.
Emily brings the practical classroom knowledge that no one who is removed from classroom teaching can have. Working with Nathan, who brings the theoretical psychological and social psychological practices, together, we believe we have created an effective starting point for teachers. For more information on Nathan’s credentials see our team-building page!
Times we believe escape room games may bring value to your classroom:
· Test review.
· Concept review.
· Critical thinking
· Introducing new content.
· Cross curricular engagement
Let us elaborate on each of these points.
· Test review: When students have made the mental associations with the content and have schematic and heuristic knowledge of the material, escape rooms can be an effective way to review. Students can utilize stored knowledge and recall it to solve puzzles and “escape” the room. This offers an engaging activity that serves to increase the speed at which a heuristic and schematic system can be recalled aiding the student on the exam.
· Concept review: Like test review, escape rooms can be set up to gamify the review process encouraging motivated responses from the students. Using the existing knowledge, they have of the concepts, and solidifying the concepts through a novel approach can increase the strength of the schematic associations and improve performance.
· Team-building: Escape room games are rarely easy enough a person can solve the problems independently. The games often require multiple people to “win”. Each student brings unique perspectives, and their diversity in-terms of connection with the content offers novelty. This novelty directly translates to solving unique problems. Even low students can contribute to the team as they bring a unique view of the material to the team. This can encourage team-building as high performers and low performers learn from each other as they work together to solve the puzzles. Escape rooms are great at fostering positive classroom culture as everyone’s experience is necessary and useful. While a student may struggle in mathematics, their linguistic capacities may serve their team.
· Critical thinking: I will elaborate on this point further below when I discuss schematics and heuristic processing. That said, escape rooms require critical thought to solve puzzles. Students must use their existing knowledge and apply the knowledge to progress in the game. By their nature, escape rooms require critical thought as students work outside the box to solve the puzzles. An area of education that should have more emphasis is training students by practice to engage in critical thought. Escape rooms offer this unique experience.
· Introducing new content: Escape rooms can be a fun and exciting way to introduce new content into the classroom. Setting up a game where students can work to earn knowledge by competing in a game can serve to increase the initial interest in new subjects, which hopefully translates to greater extended interest in the subjects during traditional instruction.
· Cross curricular engagement: Escape rooms can be created to utilize the knowledge a student has in one area, or in multiple areas. This can be an effective way to integrate the concepts learned in language and the concepts learned in mathematics (or any subjects) into one lesson. Perhaps to solve the mathematics puzzle, the students need to apply the lessons they learned in language arts to make sense of the puzzle.
Some further elaboration on critical thought, schemas and heuristics:
Escape rooms can be integrated into education at any level of the Bloom’s taxonomy pyramid. The instructor should identify the stage their students are in and create a game that assists the students from moving from one level of the pyramid to the next. Games can be created to completely move students from the bottom of the pyramid to the top. Starting with rote memorization of content students can work towards higher-order thought questions to progress engaging in critical thought is unavoidable as students analyze, evaluate, and create.
This may be particularly effective if students are given the opportunity to create parts of the escape room game for other classmates. For instance, if you have departmentalized sections, each section creates part of the game for the other sections. Or, if you have self-contained, some students create part of a mathematics-based escape room while others work on a language arts based room. As instructors, we know, when we begin to think about how to teach the content we develop a better understanding of the material. Students can be encouraged through this process to do just that with an added side benefit of encouraging positive classroom culture. Students will get to watch or hear about their classmates playing their portion of the game.
Schemas are mental associations between mental objects. We develop schemas using all of our senses. When I walk outside on a Spring day and the grass has been freshly cut, the combined smell of the ozone and grass instantly transports me, mentally, to playing soccer as a child. Our brain stores information in-terms of associations. The more associations we have to a mental object the easier it is to recall. By engaging students in different learning styles (e.g., tactile, auditory, and visual) we create more associations. Making a stronger mental construct that will be recalled with greater ease. Escape rooms offer a novel way of combining multiple forms of learning to generate more associations with a mental object.
A heuristic is an action-script a person uses to solve problems moving from the cognitive thought process to the behavioral action process. Translated from Greek, heuristic means “I discover”. As learners ourselves we know, when we can solve a problem ourselves instead of relying on rote memorization of action processes, we understand the material better. Teachers often get to witness this happen, when a student says, “it just finally clicked”, they discovered the solution. Escape rooms are an incredible tool to be utilized to encourage heuristic learning, self-discovery. By getting students to focus on the game instead of the material we can increase their motivation to self-discover, ultimately creating better learners.
Some ideas of escape room games created to be common core aligned (standard driven) and focused on next generation science standards.
In a classroom using inflatable letters (letter people) to teach the students their ABCs, one of the known letters could kidnap the new letter for the day. The students will use their existing knowledge of the ABCs to help rescue the new letter. Puzzles could include unscrambling letters to arrange them in proper alphabetic order.
Puzzle one: B, A, C,
To solve the puzzle students would have to arrange the letters as A, B, C.
On the back of the letters there would be a picture of a place in the classroom that would only make sense when the letters are in the proper order. This would then point them to the next clue.
In the end, the letter wasn’t kidnapped, they went out to watch a movie together. This can be an effective time to discuss safety, knowing your home address, knowing your phone number, and not talking to strangers.
Common core standard 3.MD.B.3. Draw a scaled picture graph and a scaled bar graph to represent a data set with several categories. Solve one in two-step, “how many more” and “how many less problems” using information presented in scaled bar graphs.
Next generation science standard 3-ESS2-1. Represent data in tables and graphical displays to describe typical weather conditions expected during a season.
Come up with a plausible and fun theme. Perhaps there is a bandit you are trying to catch and they are hiding out in a foreign country it’s your job to track them down to save the day.
The students will get their first clue. The clue will say: The first country has the most rain in the spring. The second country has the least rain in the spring. The third country has the most warm days in the Summer. The fourth country has the most cold days in the winter.
Provide the students with data, daily average temperatures, from six countries (you can tie in geography here). The students will have to create a graph to figure out comparatively which countries meet which criteria including which two countries the bandit cannot be in according to the clue. This will then point them to a box in the room with “first country” written on top of it and the second clue. The second clue will help the student unlock the box. For instance, “according to your graph, how many rainy days did I have”? The number of days will be the combination to the lock and the third clue will be inside.
Common core standard RI.6.8. Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.
Next generation science standard MS-ESS3-3. Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
Start the students with an anthropomorphized creature, a polar bear that speaks English. The polar bear will inform the students “We all want what’s best for the environment. We want to ensure the world is taken care of, so all the creatures can continue to live and thrive. This takes personal responsibility. It’s up to you as scientist to distinguish between factual and non-factual claims to save us all. Please, use your skills to determine which claims will help me and my family, survive the next hundred years in the arctic”.
For the first clue have the students evaluate the credentials of four speakers. One a scientist who studies physics. Another a scientist who studies humans (psychology). Another a politician. And finally, an accountant. The students will have to come up with acceptable reasons as to why the person should be credible or not on this topic. The teacher will determine if their reasons are sufficient. When their reasons are, the teacher will hand them the next clue.
The next clue will have four arguments from four different credible sources (all scientists in physics). Two of the arguments will be emotional arguments and two will be logical arguments. The emotional argument will use language such as “I feel” while the logical argument will use technical language “according to the results”. The two logical arguments should be set apart by one using citations and the other not. The students should pick the logical argument with citations as the credible source. Each source will advocate a different course of action. The proper source will advocate for effective monitoring of the arctic. The students will then begin to analyze data about the temperature change in the arctic and the impact on polar bears as the next puzzle.
High school science:
Next generation science standard HS-PS1-1. Use the periodic table as a model to predict the relative properties of elements based on the patterns of electrons in the outer-most energy level of atoms.
For this activity, inform the students the winning team will get to have a victory drink with the teacher. But, you must find out what the teacher wants to drink. Water, Soda, Juice, Coffee, or Tea.
Find generic chemical equations for the substances (you could even include things like cream in the coffee or sugar in the tea) and have the students work through puzzles that utilize the properties of the periodic table to work-out the chemical equation for the teacher’s desired drink. For instance, for water (H2O) the properties of other elements in the column (e.g., Li, Na, etc..) can be referenced as a clue to which element is first in the proper chemical equation (the teacher’s preferred drink). You can make this relatively easy for freshman or, extremely complex for seniors. Have the students use the periodic table to solve clues about the properties of your preferred drink. When a group of students win, have a soda with them.
We know the classroom budgets for teachers are meager and we know you already spend the money you make on your students. We want to provide you with some insider secrets to get materials to make your own escape games. Do not be suckered in by a “kit” that some other website may offer. You can buy all the materials yourself and save some money.
· Shop at garage sales, flea markets, and places like the ReStore (we highly recommend them).
· Use websites like Amazon to find locks, invisible ink pens and black light flashlights.
· Contact us! We would love to help you find materials. You can also stop in sometime and tour our facility to see that type of puzzles we use. Hopefully this will get you comfortable with making your own puzzles and the materials we use to make the games a bit more fun.
Product links (note, these are not our products, just products that are a good price):
· Number (combination) locks (https://www.amazon.com/Adoric-Life-Weatherproof-Combination-Resettable/dp/B076Y6V9MC/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?s=office-products&ie=UTF8&qid=1522529570&sr=1-1-spons&keywords=padlocks&psc=1).
· Invisible ink (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00TOWZA82/ref=sxr_rr_xsim_1_s_it?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_p=3513574162&pd_rd_wg=bjERf&pf_rd_r=YZQKJHVCBQW3PFYENRTP&pf_rd_s=desktop-rhs-carousels&pf_rd_t=301&pd_rd_i=B00TOWZA82&pd_rd_w=ubGFy&pf_rd_i=invisible+ink&pd_rd_r=d2ded1c7-1427-40bd-a47f-9cfefd16c742&ie=UTF8&qid=1522529749&sr=1).
· Black lights for invisible ink (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ATWGCT2/ref=sxr_rr_xsim_1_s_it?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_p=3513574162&pd_rd_wg=blLdk&pf_rd_r=SG6HHFS8Y061E7JRB8VA&pf_rd_s=desktop-rhs-carousels&pf_rd_t=301&pd_rd_i=B00ATWGCT2&pd_rd_w=BieYq&pf_rd_i=black+light+flashlights&pd_rd_r=69061054-b9f2-4a39-b441-8cbb928d7f40&ie=UTF8&qid=1522529805&sr=1).
Again, if you ever have any questions about game design, materials, or anything else, let us be your guide. Contact us for a free consultation. We are always happy to give back by helping our educators.
Feel free to stop in for a tour anytime!
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