Grade 4 Students at Battalion Park School in Calgary, AB created their own escape room inside the school. Over the course of one week they tried professional escape rooms, prototyped their own clues, blueprinted an escape room, implemented their ideas, and worked collaboratively between 3 classes to complete a fully-functional escape room!
The First week of February brought a new adventure to Grade 6 students at Fish Creek School as three Grade 6 classes challenged themselves to build three escape rooms. For us at Mobile Escape we were filled with excitement as two of the classes reimagined two of our past escape rooms Vanishing Villains and Forensic Frenzy.
We began our week blueprinting with each class, getting all their ideas onto paper and working with the students to pick which clues and pieces were going to be built and solved to create their own epic escape room. This process can sometimes be tough but the students all committed to listening to each other and being diplomatic as ideas were discussed and decided on. The rest of the week, teams were created and students began to divide and conquer each element that needed to be planned and built.
The Class bringing Forensic Frenzy to life rose to the occasion using ideas from past escape rooms and what they had been learning in their Evidence and Investigation unit. The clue team created hidden messages using morse code and hiding evidence in safes, briefcases, and an amazing handmade filling cabinet that the builders created. Our décor team created posters and a full size periodic table to make their space feel like a lab. Students even traced each other in tape on the floor to create a chalk-body-outline look.
Vanishing Villain’s featured a handmade chandelier and bookcase that was also a hidden door for them to escape out of. There was also a Puzzle clue that once they found all of the pieces revealed a message in black light.
F.A.M. (Famous Art Museum) featured a full video intro and we were amazed at all of the art the students created to bring a museum to life.
At the end of our residency week, people filled the halls as they lined up to experience the escape rooms. We had many escapes as parents and guardians tested all the clues and experienced everything the students had created. The most exciting part for us was standing with the students as they took over and led guests through the rooms.
Their pride and excitement showing off what they created was contagious!
Math can tell a story...
I (Adam) am going to start by saying that I like math. Many of you reading may think that I am a little strange for saying that and probably cannot relate. A lot of people have told me math is hard to understand or they cannot see how they are going to use the concepts that they are learning. Let me do something that I love to do and imbed some math concepts into a bit of a made-up story:
Imagine that you and 2 friends have just completed the most epic of adventures and have decided to celebrate by ordering a pizza. Picture this is not an ordinary pizza, this is a one-in-a-million pizza. This is one of your favourite types of pizzas from your favourite pizza spots. The 3 of you plot the fastest route on the map, calculating the distance and time it will take you travelling at the pace of a very brisk walk. Finally, after your much-deserved wait, you arrive back home. You and your friends smell the wonderful aroma, wonder the probability that it will be as great as last time, and open up the box to discover 8 pieces of pizza staring back at you. Doing some mental math, you quickly discover that one of the 3 of you will be short-changed on pizza. How can this be easily remedied? You think back on circle geometry…
Many of you may now try doing more math to cut up the wonderful pizza into a number of slices that can be split easily between 3 people, but I have a better idea. This is a story remember, so why not make it a bit more interesting. To continue from above:
Before you do any calculations on angles, you remember what you have stored away in your living room posing as the coffee table. This item just fit perfectly there. It has the same dimensions and surface area. Introducing your time machine! You lead your friends away from the pizza and introduce them to this amazing machine. They help you clear off the magazines and you tell them to stand back at least 1.2 metres. You now have enough room and start-up the time machine using the pull-cord on the go-kart method. After a couple of pulls (these never work on the first try) the time machine kicks into gear. With the machine being calibrated in seconds, you quickly calculate how long it was to go back to before your amazing adventure, enter the number into the dial and POOF! You go back in time and invite a fourth friend on your epic adventure because it is better to share something cool with more people. This time, you decide to order 2 pizzas…
Stories, thinking outside the classroom, student ideas, hard work, and sharing experiences with each other all can make something seen as boring or irrelevant for most people, such as math, way more interesting. Now, let’s imbed Math into something a little more relevant:
My first day on the job with Mobile Escape also just so happened to be the first day of the Sir John A. MacDonald residency. This was no ordinary residency. This residency involved the entire school: 3 grades, 647 students, and 10 days to complete three separate MATH escape rooms. The students did the majority of the work. First experiencing an escape room, then conceptualizing their own rooms, designing the clues based off of their math curriculums, building the final products and finally sharing the creations with their friends and families. This experience turned out to be something special, where math took the forefront at the school. I like to use the term #awakenwonder to explain what happened over those ten days. It is quite a story, best not told by me, but from the perspective of the students and teachers themselves… stay tuned for a video update!
It was a wonder-filled week of “space exploration” for two grade 6 classes at Battalion Park school!
On Monday the students began the week by completing three escape challenges designed and built by Mobile Escape as well as experimenting with creating their own codes and puzzles.
Tuesday through Thursday the students became the makers! The grade 6 Sky Science curriculum was the focus for these students as they created clues riddles and puzzles that made up their escape rooms (Area 51 and Mission Control) as they demonstrated their understanding of the unit. From navigating constellations and stars to find codes, to understanding lunar cycles and the order of planets; the students created an interactive experience for their peers to solve.
On Tuesday the students began exploring the theme and story of their room in order to brainstorm the various clues they could create based on their Sky Science knowledge. A variety of physical puzzles and mind bending riddles began to shape the rooms.
Wednesday was filled with building! Out comes the cardboard, tinfoil, buttons and other materials necessary for creating space-themed escape rooms. The stars were the limit as these imaginative and creative students turned simple cardboard boxes in to flight simulators, control panels, jet packs, and rocket ships!
Thursday morning consisted of putting finishing touches on the two rooms along with testing it to make sure that everything worked the way the students imagined. Adjustments were made and props were fixed before the final showcase. That afternoon all the students from grades 4 and 5 had a chance to come see, and experience all the learning that took place for the grade 6 students over the week. The pride on the faces and in the body language of the students in Ms. Zietz' and Mrs. Moir's grade 6 students was priceless as they operated their very own escape rooms.
Here are some thoughts about the residency shared with us from the teaching staff at Battalion Park:
"We have worked all year long to support the students in being able to work together effectively to solve problems and this experience was awesome as it highlighted all the skills and strategies we have been building! [The Mobile Escape] program allows for so much voice and choice from the students. That makes it a very meaningful experience for them. It is an exciting topic but [Mobile Escape's] program really brings out the problem solving and teamwork skills of the students!"
Update: The Task Design Canvas can be found here.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
Thanks. This is really cool!