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!

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.

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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!

Battalion Park 2019

Another year, another epic space mission!

Last year, the grade 6 students at Battalion Park School made a Mission Control escape room, and an Area 51 landing sight as they created an escape room surrounding their learnings from the Sky Science unit. This year, the story and setting was left entirely up to the students with the only criteria being “space”.

Students from Mrs. Mason and Mrs. Moir’s classes chose to collaboratively create a spaceship that was spinning out of control towards the sun. The participants’ (the grade 5 students) task was to collect four pieces representing the earth’s lunar phases from around the ship to reorient themselves back towards earth!

There were a few things that stood out to me (Paul) this week about the wonder that was awoken at Battalion Park.

The first thing that struck me was the excitement and anticipation of the students! We often get the excitement from the teachers coordinating the residency, but the students often don’t really know what they are getting into - not at Battalion Park!

Last year all the grade 5 students got a chance to go through the grade 6 escape rooms. This set the stage so well for the students as they had fond memories of “that lit escape room” the grade 6s made for them the year before. It was so rewarding to see that we were able to awaken wonder not only in the grade 6 students last year, but also the grade 5s, and it stuck with them for over a year!

Last year’s ceiling was this year’s floor.

Because the students had a chance to experience the student-made escape rooms last year they came into the project with more excitement, motivation, and wonder than anyone could ask for. As a result, there were some pretty amazing ideas that came to fruition. One of which was the puzzle featured below, where you had to first find a code to unlock a vent in the spaceship (a cardboard tunnel made from a large trifold) and crawl through to the end with a stick that had a magnet attached to it. You had to use this stick to reach through the end of the vent to retrieve the keys sitting out of reach with just your arm - amazing!

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Thank you Mrs. Mason and Mrs. Moir for having us back again this year, and we look forward to next year with great anticipation!

Grandview Heights: One of a Kind

If you were to condense the The Grandview Heights story into one sentence it would go like this…

A government secret agent is above a museum spaceship traveling back to the wild west, and things are going wrong…

Wait a minute, that doesn’t make sense. Let’s start over, shall we?

At Grandview Heights, the grade 1-3 students tracked down artifacts in their Night at the Museum escape room; the grade 4-6 students found the location and identity of a criminal in Her Majesty’s Secret Service; and the grade 7-9 students proved their worthiness to be sheriff in the Wild West and saved a spaceship in Mission to Mars!

It is not often that we get to work with so many students over multiple weeks and see their engagement and enthusiasm for learning. It has been a great way to help launch our Edmonton and Northern Alberta programs by seeing the growth of students on multiple occasions! Take a look at some of the awesome creations so far.

We are headed back to the school for a third time this Spring to do a Mobile Escape first: we are working with the grade 7-9 students for a second time in one year! This time, the students get to build on their learning from the previous residency and even design their own theme. The students will need to present their theme idea and how it fits into the curriculum elements that they are learning about prior to starting the blueprinting, build and showcase process this May. Stay tuned for details!

"Good morning, Duffield School...."

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, involves the creation of an escape room designated “Mission: Impossible”. You may select to create any clues that you wish, but it is essential that you all work collaboratively to make it all come together. Ethan Hunt was on a top secret mission to save the world, but has gone missing. It is up to you to create an amazing escape room challenging others to solve your clues to track him down. You have 13 weeks of option classes to design your escape room and showcase the final product to the community. As always, should you learn something in the process, the better the outcome will be. And Duffield School, the next time you challenge your parents to solve your clues, please go a little easier on them. This message will self-destruct in five seconds.

Back in December, a group of Grade 7-9 students at Duffield School started an option class simply known as “Escape Room”. Little did they know that they would be spending the next 13 weeks building their very own Mission: Impossible themed escape. Escapers were challenged to track down Ethan Hunt who had been captured. They needed to find his whereabouts and start up his motorcycle to be able to rescue him before it was too late.

The students worked every week - once a week - to come up with the theme, brainstorm the clues, problem-solve the logistics of having others use the same space, construct and design all the elements, and finally showcase the finished escape room to the community in March 2019. They built in elements from their other studies including a laser maze, pulley system, electrical puzzle and various mechanical systems (including a motorcycle!) into the final product.

All this wonderful learning was made possible through Edmonton and Area Community Grants!

Sunalta School

Welcome to the amazing Sunalta School.

Why is it amazing you ask? For many reasons, I am sure, but here is one.

Grade 6 is a challenging year, with standardized testing often setting a tone of “must-do” in classrooms across Calgary. But at Sunalta, the Grade 6 teachers facilitate something remarkably creative: students build a cardboard castle in the classroom! (Totally rad.) Everything they do is linked to curriculum including math and geometry.

This is the kind of atmosphere that Principal Marie and her amazing teachers have worked to create in the school.

And that’s the atmosphere that we walked into on Day 1 of the week long residency program.

Students were so excited, many of them recalling last year’s escape rooms and mimicking clues that they remembered.

We got off to a great start with plentiful supplies and flurrious building:

All 3 room themes were firsts for us at Mobile Escape:

Candyland was built by the grade 1 and 2 students. They enjoyed making colourful creations, across different lands. Escapers were tasked with finding gingerbread pieces that would combine to make a password, granting access to King Candy’s Castle!

The Lego room was built by the Grade 3 and 4 students. They created giant blocks, minifigures and miscellaneous accessories. Escapers needed to retrieve power crystals to reboot their spaceship and get back to earth.

And the Grade 5 and 6 students built Azkaban prison from Harry Potter. Little is know about the prison in the books, so students used their imaginations including a Basilisk, Dementors, a hidden room and more. The final code for this escape room was both ingenious and tricky!