Calgary Christian School - Samurai Escape

Our first residency of the 2019-20 school year was a thrilling launch. The tallest structure every built in Mobile Escape history was crafted during this residency - and that is no small feat! This week, students were tasked with creating a room themed on the iconic Edo Period of Japanese history. Embracing the rich cultural elements of the Meiji Restoration empowered students to construct incredible props and works of art that transported you to the age of the samurai.

As you enter their room, you are stunned by the looming figure of a colossal torii (archway) that leads you through a bamboo-lined pathway and into another world. You are then met by a dragon statue that commands your attention and immerses you in an Edo Period marketplace. Vendor stalls line the walls displaying various goods and curious weaponry. Further investigation of the room will allow you to discover the secret locked bookcase that is your safe haven from an impending Shogun invasion! Solving this lock is no simple task – four throwing stars must be found in order to reveal the code to your safety.

The artwork in the room portrays students’ interpretations of famous Edo paintings including the quintessential Great Wave off Kanagawa and add to the feeling of authenticity of the time period. This is brought together masterfully by a soundtrack that was composed and written by Calgary Christian students.

From a massive torii, to breathtaking paintings, the Grade 8s Calgary Christian School know how to compel an audience!

U of A Discover-E: Round Three

Week 3 of the University of Alberta DiscoverE Mobile Escape Room Summer Camp has come to a close. Even though all three weeks of campers had the exact same theme and mission brief somehow they managed to create very different and very unique rooms.

This is why we do what we do!

Each individual is unique in their ideas, learning, method for solving, and creations. We love to see these differences in a setting where each individual has the opportunity to thrive. Building an escape room has the uncanny ability of bringing all of these elements out within a group.

We had three very different and unique creations come from a single theme by just changing the group of people involved. It has been amazing and exciting to see the differences. We saw firsthand that no one individual, group or experience is the same, and that is always exciting!

For the final week of Mobile Escape Camp this summer, campers from 10-12 years old set out to design an alien planet where you and your team have crash-landed. You need to find resources to survive and the location of your rescue ship before being able to transmit for rescue. Campers created a map of the planet and the sky above for participants to solve. The end creation truly felt like you had crash-landed a spaceship on another planet. The University faculty even challenged the room. Don’t worry, they managed to survive and get rescued!

We had a blast working with the University of Alberta, the Faculty of Engineering and everyone at DiscoverE this summer. We look forward to a future of more exciting ideas and creations!

Discover-E: Space Race Too!

If you had told me on Sunday that by Wednesday morning, I would have a group of 13-year-olds clustered around a three foot by three foot piece of paper lovingly adding details to an immense headshot of Vladimir Putin, I don’t think I would have believed you. However, “Kylie Lip Kit Putin” (as he was lovingly monikered) made an appearance alongside “Orange You Glad We’re Canadian” Donald Trump in DiscoverE x Mobile Escape Camp Week 2!


The theme: A modern space race. What initially began as Elon Musk vs. Mystery Scientist sending a car to space morphed into a beautiful piece of tomfoolery called “Space Race Too”. (Yes, too not two.)

Donald Trump, in an effort to prove his superiority over Russia, has started a new race to the moon. Putin, caught up in his own competitive spirit, meets the challenge and he and the Russian Space Program rush to be the first to send their new rockets to the moon.

This room was a particular challenge because we built two rooms, side by side, that were a head-to-head contest where one team represents NASA, and one was the Russian Space team. You had to hit your rocket launch button first to win! It was a huge build, but it turned out so neat! The detail work in the security cameras and the Laika memorial were absolutely hilarious and essential. I’m so proud of all the work we got done, especially because lots of it was done without my direct involvement! We couldn’t have done it without the great team of counsellors at DiscoverE.

School’s out for the summer: Now let’s build an escape room…

This summer, we partnered with DiscoverE at the University of Alberta to do a one of a kind summer camp. From July 8-12, campers between the ages of 10-12 years old joined us in a week of story writing, design, prototyping, building and making with the goal of creating a fully functional escape room in only 5 days.

Starting from scratch with an empty classroom on Monday, campers took the theme of space and began to design an escape experience to present at the end of the week. What would the story be? Where was it going to take place? What puzzles were people going to have to solve? These were all questions that the campers had to answer.

Seeing the enthusiasm for the task at hand was amazing! Campers faced the challenge head on and set out to create a challenging build. It was two separate rooms in one. People solving the room would be split into two teams and be either be in mission control or on the star cruiser. They would then need to figure out how to communicate (unlocking the backup radios) and then solve problems for the other team to complete a common goal. It was an ambitious concept that reaped the rewards of all the hard work. Feedback about the experience of solving the Mobile Escape Room was extremely positive!

Engagement from the campers throughout the week was amazing. Breaks needed to be scheduled for the campers because they just wanted to keep working on the project. This is shown through a note-able quote from on of the campers: “This was the first camp I have been at where other campers did not pull out their phones at all during the week. Everyone was so engaged!”

We have two more weeks of camp with discoverE this summer. We at Mobile Escape cannot wait to see what amazing creations are yet to come!

Grandview 2.0

It was a Mobile Escape Residency 2.0.

Let me explain…

The students at Grandview Heights in grades 7-9 took part in their second residency this year (2019) at the beginning of May. They had all built an escape room once before, and went at it again for another week of designing, building and showcasing.

Traditionally, we meet with teachers prior to the Residency to understand curriculum that should be built into the final escape room. Then we come up with the theme to present to the students for them to brainstorm clues, blueprint, design and build.

We are turning things on their head for residency 2.0.

Back in April, we gave the students specific curricular outcomes and topics to consider, then pretty much said. “Go!”

The students presented their ideas to each other, followed by a vote in the weeks leading up to the actual residency. Throughout the month of April, the students narrowed the themes down to Mad Scientist and Harry Potter. We showed up for the residency with two things after helping the students through this process: The winning topic from the vote and a plan to help the students make it happen.

Students first figured out the story and the objective of their escape room, and then went back into the process of brainstorming, blueprinting, designing, building and showcasing. This time it was absolutely amazing to see how much leadership and ownership the students took in their project… and it showed in the final escape rooms.

The Mad Scientist Escape Room was built based on plants, genetics, solving equations, and systems of equations.

The Harry Potter room was built based on storyline development, mixing substances, electric circuits and systems, and isolationism.

What is next? Well, the students get to build again in the Fall with a more intense focus on specific curriculum outcomes. Why? They are going to be running a field trip for other schools and students in their area using the escape rooms that they build during their next residency.

Will this be residency 3.0?

Growing a New Mindset at Dovercourt School

Building and showcasing an escape room in 4 days is not an easy task for students and teachers to undertake.

The majority of students taking part in a Mobile Escape project like this have never experienced anything remotely close to the size and scope of what they are embarking on.

You can see it: Day 1 is filled with wide-eyed amazement and wonder at how they (the students) are going to complete the difficult task.

How can 280 people work together to build not one, but two escape rooms in less than a week of school?

Diving into the project head-on is the only way to go. The students from Kindergarten to Grade 6 at Dovercourt School embraced the challenge in front of them. They were not afraid of the difficult task, making mistakes and learning from them. They came up with creative solutions to their problems, doing their best to improve and, most importantly, kept going when things got tough. It just so happened to be a great example of students learning how to have a growth mindset through a design thinking process.

Image from iOS (13).jpg

The Kindergarten to Grade 3 students built “Up, Oops and Away”, based off of the movie “Up!”. Their parents were transported to Iqaluit, where their vacation plans went astray and they ended up in the North rather than on a beach in Hawaii. While on vacation their pet dog had ended up with a dogsled company. To get their dog back, they must track down his location by solving clues based off of the needs of plants and animals, measurement, magnets, and Iqaluit while building with a variety of materials.

The Grade 4-6 students built “Wall-E’scape”, where parents have left Earth and are now aboard the spaceship AR7-49 holding all of Earth’s population. To get back to Earth, they must track down the only living thing locked away in the small robot, figure out how to keep it alive for the trip home and shut down the AUTO-pilot keeping them at bay. All of this by solving clues based on waste in the world, fractions, classroom chemistry, electric circuits, sky science, evidence and investigation.

Wow, did the growth mindset and design thinking of the students ever pay off! By the end of the week all 280 students collaborated to have their hand in one of the two escape rooms.

Bearspaw Christian School Residency

I (Jackie) had been pondering the idea of creating an under the sea theme for several weeks, and at Bearspaw’s School I got to make that dream come true. Working with this group was an amazing experience for me. These talented students were so engaged, and created a scene greater than my imagination.

Often when I speak with teachers and I tell them we will be working with knives, they are afraid. They fear the consequences of a student getting injured, however I see it as a way to teach a child a new life skill. As an adult, you use a knife in many settings, even in every day cooking. It was a really unique experience to work with the homeschool group as they often have a greater chance to learn these types of skills. There was a group of boys who had already had great skills with tools, and were able to create some pretty amazing things. They were in the building group, and within the first 2 hours of building, they had already started the base for our massive sunken ship.

I was impressed with the creativity these boys had, and the perseverance when their ship fell sideways. There was a moment of sadness, but it was quickly replaced with a challenge of how they were going to succeed. Using their problem-solving skills they decided that their ship walls needed strong reinforcement beams.

The puzzle crew did an amazing job of communicating with both the décor and building groups to ensure that their clues would fit into their projects. They created the enthralling story of a sunken treasure chest to be discovered. The décor team had quite a challenge turning the classroom into a water scene, however with a few props brought from home and a large imagination, sea creatures and coral came to life.

The teamwork the participants displayed was really quite impressive. With such a large age gap between the grade ones and the grade sevens, it was marvellous to see the older participants helping the younger ones, without being asked.

Working together these students created an impressive under the sea escape room, don’t you think?



Louis Riel Grade 8 Residency

Awaken Wonder has many expressions to us at Mobile Escape. It’s the excitement of learning new things in a fun and creative way; having students learn by doing; and working through the process of building, designing and creating that develops this wonder.

When we first come into a school, and tell the students that they are building an escape room, many look at me (Jackie) with the classic “deer in the headlights” look, where they don’t have a clue what I mean, or how we’re going to make this happen. Maliha said it best:

“The first day we basically had no idea what the room would look like, but by communicating with each other and sharing ideas, we came up with brilliant ideas!”

This is where we being our journey. We start with an understanding. The understanding of what an escape room is – what critical pieces are involved in escape rooms – and then we let the students test out the ones we have created in our mobile unit.  

From there we moved to the critical brainstorming session. In this stage, all ideas relating to our Renaissance theme are valid. Even the craziest ideas can spark another idea in someone else. With ideas popping up all over the place we start creating a few options for a story line. Having the students involved with this process is critical for several reasons. The most important thing is that this is their project. This is something they will be working on for the remainder of the week, and so it is critical that they have a choice in what they are making. 

At Mobile Escape, we always mention this:

it’s not how smart you are, it’s what type of smart you are.

And this is true for our residency program. We allow the students to choose their own work to add to our project. We start by making general groups:

·      The builders

o   These are the students who don’t want to sit and plan, but do! My lego builders and creators are making things in the room. This week the builders in “Escape the Renaissance” created jail cell bars, jail furniture (toilet included) and how could we forget the unicorn statue on the streets of Venice. In the Lost library, builders were designing book shelves, sliding fireplaces and a library full of books.

·      The decoration team

o   These are the artists, having the challenge of turning a room from black curtains into either the streets of Venice, a jail cell, or a forgotten library. They are responsible to make the environment immersive, which is a key aspect of escape room design.

·      The puzzle team

o   These are the students with fine attention to details. From creating the objective of the room, to where the locks are going to be and how each code will be discovered, these private eye detectives are not only solving the problems, but creating them as well.

·      The promotion team

o   This is the crew who wants to promote our room to as many people as possible. They create posters, ask to speak on the school’s morning announcements, create photo booths, and entertainment for the guests as they wait in line for the escape room. They are also the ones who will run the room on showcase night.

·      The technology team

o   This crew is in charge of all the video and sound effects for the room. From eerie sound effects, to a welcoming video, these advanced technological students enhance the room to its full potential.

You will see within each group there are several smaller projects that come into play. Each participant has the opportunity to learn and grow, and the results are extraordinary.

One of the teachers asked the students what they learned during our 5 days of building, and what they said sent shivers down my spine. On their own, the students came up with a list of 80 different skills they learned through this experience. Although the outcome of a working, functional room is the objective, we cannot forget about the process. It was through the process where these students learned all these skills.

Decision making, teamwork, quick thinking, ability, strength, planning, sympathy, empathy, talents, cooperation, mental flexibility, acceptance, patience, communication…

It was so rewarding for me to see all the growth that happened this week in these students, and the growth in myself. For me, this week really reaffirmed the magic I get to create within each of the students. For each student to find something that they are good at, to be able to try something new, work through the failures and learn to push through to the end is magic that not everyone gets to see.

Thank you Louis Riel Grade 8 students and teachers for a magical week!