Magic at Sarah Thompson School

November became December at Sarah Thompson School in Langdon, AB and it couldn't have been more brilliant.

Picture this: the school's gymnasium divided into two halves. On one half, students showcasing their learning from the past two months of User Experience . They have been coached in stage and set design, web design, and more. All of their learning recorded in journals an on display.

And on the other side of the gym?

Six escape rooms, built by students, according to the novels they read in class: 

  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  • Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
  • Rules
  • The Mixed Up Files of Basil E. Frankweiler
  • Inkheart
  • and more...

The students first launched into the world of escape rooms with Mobile Escape's two mobile rooms, Mayan Mystery, and a maker space. After getting on the same page through this immersive experience, the students then started to blueprint their own rooms.

This process started to uncover some of the difficulties associated with teamwork and collaboration. But they persisted, overcoming obstacles and working together.

Finally, after consolidating ideas, it was time to start building the rooms! It was a flurrious day indeed. (That's a new word by the way. You can use it.)

The last day included room completion, testing, and showcasing to the grade 3s and 4s. This was our favourite moment of the whole week. The younger students came into the gym with rapt attention, fascinated by what the older students made. And the grade 5s owned their projects with such enthusiasm, explaining rules, telling stories, and providing guidance when necessary.

students giving clues escape rooms

It was a beautiful moment that encapsulated a powerful week of learning at Sarah Thompson School.

Thank you for sharing it with us!

6 Questions to Support Task Design

Update: The Task Design Canvas can be found here.

  1. How can I design a “real world” task that my students will be intrinsically interested in?

    • Perform a drama? Build a city? Make a movie? Build a robot? Extract a natural resource? Operate a mini-Saddledome for a week? Revitalize a community or brownfield?

    • Remember: A person’s perspective of reality is primary (their story) – therefore, we need to value and start the change process with what is important to the person.

  2. How can I effectively level the playing field for all students at the outset?

    • Instructions? Examples? Big-group sharing of past experience?

    • Remember: People have more confidence and comfort to journey to the future (the unknown) when they are invited to start with what they already know.

  3. How can I set parameters that encourage my students rather than discourage them?

    • How can we help the students to see challenges as capacity fostering (not something to avoid)?

    • Remember: The language we use creates our reality

  4. If there's a chance my students could feel like they failed, how can I mitigate this?

    • Remember: Positive change occurs in the context of authentic relationships - people need to know someone cares and will be there unconditionally for them.

  5. How can I give multiple points of validation and affirmation throughout the experience?

    • Remember: Capacity building is a process and a goal – a life long journey that is dynamic as opposed to static.

  6. How can I showcase student ingenuity and creativity?

    • Remember: It is important to value differences and the essential need to collaborate – effective change is a collaborative, inclusive and participatory process – “It takes a village to raise a child”.

Mobile Escape Rooms on the Rise Worldwide

As more and more people fall in love with escape rooms, its only natural that mobile escape rooms will become more and common. We're excited to see 8 more mobile escape rooms worldwide that are serving customers by coming to them. Woohoo! 

In fact, there's a mobile escape room right here in Calgary debuting tomorrow! Servus Credit Union leads the list at number one, and will be showcasing their room at a few events this summer.

  1. Servus Credit Union in Calgary, Alberta.
  2. Grey Bruce Escape Room Adventures in Grey Bruce, Ontario.
  3. Imaginar Mobile Escape Room in Wausau, Wisconsin.
  4. Get Lost! in Huntington, West Virginia.
  5. Escape Boats in Dublin, Ireland.
  6. KL Escape Rooms in Janesville, Wisconsin.
  7. Exodus Escape Room in Windsor, Ontario.
  8. Operation Escape Room in Brighton, UK.

At Mobile Escape, we bring the escape room to you.

Happy escaping everyone!

A new way to teach

Some people say education is out-dated. That's it's not relevant to students any more. While this may be true in some places, we're meeting some incredible teachers who are really thinking outside the box. Want to meet a thought-leader? Introducing Amanda Klager.

Amanda recently engaged her Grade 7 class in a year-end assessment of their knowledge of curriculum by employing escape room methodology. Check in out!

Grade 7 students at Rancheview School were challenged to express their understanding of curriculum through the escape room format. The class formed several groups with each group making their own blueprints and prototypes. Escape rooms included "Mystery of the Collapsed Building", "Escape the Atmosphere", "Golden Inn and Suites", "NO VACANCY", "Escape the Classroom", "Green Thumbs Greenhouse", "Poison Flower", "Escape the Rodeo", and "Trapped in a Boat".

Crazy Creative

Last week Mobile Escape put on several field trips at schools in and around the Calgary area. While it was a lot of fun having the kids try our escape rooms, what was even more exhilarating was the creations they came up with: codes and ciphers, riddles and puzzles, and even escape room prototypes! Here's some of their amazing creations:

Thought Leader: Grace Miao

We spoke with Grace Maio in April. She’s a Grade 4 teacher at Grant MacEwan School. We asked her about inquiry-based learning and what she thinks of gamifying the classroom. 

 

Hi Grace, thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

No problem.

 

You’ve checked out Mobile Escape before, yes? What do you think?

I really appreciate the concept of connecting something so fun, authentic and hands-on (like an escape room) to the curriculum. I think a lot of the kids struggle because curriculum can be boring or hard to connect. I think Mobile Escape is a cool approach.

 

Is inquiry-based learning something you focus on at your school?

Our school is very inquiry-focused. Inquiry is discipline-focused where teachers are planning lessons around how an expert in that field approaches the problem at hand. Students are learning through the lens of a junior version of such an expert. Inquiry-based learning tries to find a connection between curriculum and the real world. For example, teaching students how to blueprint makes them feel like a junior version of an engineer: authentic, real-life based. Not just knowledge-based. Students learn better when they choose to engage. We introduce a topic with a hook, maybe a video, or we’ll create something to get them interested.

 

How has your Masters program affected your teaching?

I did the first year for personal growth where I learned about wellness. In the second year I took a creativity course which has broadened how I approach teaching. I’m not spoon-feeding so much. Students go home and research and explore ideas on their own, find it in the library, it’s neat. It’s made me not focus so much on the curriculum. I personally think if you teach the basic skills, the learning will happen; it’s all correlated anyways. I am more focused on the front end of the curriculum rather than each specific learning outcome. If I can have a conversation with kids, they may take it off topic, and that’s part of learning.

 

What do you think of gamifying the classroom?

I’m all for it and it aligns well with kids today. Kids are teaching me how to use Snapchat! I think gamification is a great idea, but there are a lot of traditional teachers—maybe half of us? How are you going to engage those teachers to change a pedagogy they’ve had for 20 years? I don’t know!

 

What would you think of an escape room residency?

We’ve done art and dance residencies. The kids like looking up to someone else, in a balanced learning experience that’s not so paper-and-pencil. I really like the idea of the kids creating their own escape room. After all, when you can share an idea you really get it.

 

Any final thoughts?

It’s awesome that you guys are promoting critical thinking. It’s something that kids really need nowadays. Kids have become zombie-like. Your approach is very natural: asking questions. If you’re stuck in a room, you have to ask questions to get out.

 

Oh, and you should give them lab coats.

 

Great idea.

Thanks. This is really cool!

 

 

Thought Leader: Allison Robb-Hagg

We spoke with Allison Robb-Hagg in March. She’s a Grade 4 teacher at Westgate School. We asked her about her teaching methods, and what she thinks of gamifying the classroom. 

 

M.E. - Hi Allison, what do you think of the phrase “gamifying the classroom”?

A.R.H. - I think it’s a great way to get kids into learning without letting them know that’s what’s happening. It’s actually a big area of study at the [University of Calgary] too. Kids are playing video games, so how can we bring that into the classroom? We need to respond to what the kids are into.

 

I understand you’re completing a Masters at the U of C right now as well? 

Yes. I’m in an amazing and life-changing class called Design Thinking for Innovation. It’s all about seeing the potential in students and building their creative capacity. As educators, we are responsible to the curriculum but we can be as creative as possible to reach more students.

 

There’s a lot of talk right now about inquiry-based learning. How do you engage with that topic?

Inquiry based learning is a big name for a lot of things. My specific style is design thinking: problem solving, problem seeking. I try to make my students problem seekers and solvers in the world. I find that everybody has their own definition of inquiry-based learning.

We’re looking at task design as a school, coming from a place of empathy. Last year we talked about how our actions affect other people: from girls rights in sports, to racism, to learning disabilities in the classroom. The kids rallied around them based on their interests.

 

How do field trips play into all this? And what do you look for in a field trip?

I love field trips! I try and do as many as I can. I look for three things in a field trip. First, I’m looking for connections to curriculum, delivered in an interesting way. Second, it needs to be hands-on, and interactive, leaving my students with questions and wonder. And third, it needs to lead into my next project.

Last year we visited the landfill and recycling centre. Students journaled about what bothered them and what they saw. They ended up starting a recycling initiative. We reduced garbage from 8 bags to 5. We’re still working toward education and spreading the message. I want to create little citizens of the world.

 

In our field trips, students get a chance to be makers themselves. After doing our escape room, they get to make their own. And in the process, we’re teaching kids about what their learning style is and how they can work with others more effectively. 

It sounds like a long-term benefit, to learn how to build your own puzzles, make your own room. But how are you going to identify different types of learners through as escape room?

 

People unknowingly show their true colours throughout the process of an escape room. Because the stakes are high, people don’t self-regulate as much. And we can make observations and reflect on our behaviour in escape room to draw conclusions.

I see that all the time in my class; different kids have propensities for different engagement. How could the kids make an escape room in a 2-hour field trip?

 

We envision a “made by the kids” escape room where the rules are bent. Right now escape rooms are mostly 1-hour blocks with 3 or 4 rooms. But we’re rewriting that rulebook to include any theme, any timeframe. The important part is that kids become the makers.

That would be amazing!