I recently attended a professional development session led by a colleague titled, "How to Make Any Worksheet into an Escape Room," which helped us experience an escape activity from the student perspective. It was the bomb. Dot com. The session touched on ideas expressed in this article, which happens to share the same title.
Two weeks later, I ran an escape room in my classroom. It was the most fun I'd had all year.
Cue intro. Goal: Answer the question, "what is life?" Other than that, I gave my students VERY little prompting. I figure I'd let all the mysterious new locks that had been placed in my classroom do most of the talking.
In order to answer the question, they need to collect all four puzzle pieces, which eventually led to this:
The escape activity was designed to work in a linear fashion, so students had to unlock each combination in sequence in order to get to the next clue.
Clue 1: Integration
Students were given a numeric code that had to be converted to a word after correctly solving the given integration problem.
The answer was "SNACKS," which happens to be a location clue, leading to the refreshments centre where I provide students with water, tea, and snacks. The answer to the first clue was hidden under the snack basket. Many students got stumped at this point and wasn't sure what they were supposed to do (I didn't give them ANY other instructions). Once they got going, however, they really got into the flow of it.
Clue 2: Derivatives Matching
I used a matching activity here from Flamingo Math (teachers pay teachers) and students had to find the four digit number code based on the highlighted boxes. (So they didn't actually have to complete the entire matching activity).
Clue 3: Find the Mistake
The answer: Students convert correct answer into letter code to unlock the letter lock.
Clue 4: Calculus Crossword
The answer: Highlighted in invisible ink are the words TRIAL.
A couple observations:
A great format for STEM OLYMPICS
The same colleague who lead the Escape pro-d was also part of the planning committee for our first ever STEM Olympics (shout out to my buddies Flower, Jeon, Im, Yin and Patel if you're reading!).
ROUND 1: Unlock one of three boxes
ROUND 2: Gain 5 points in a trivia style tournament
While it does take some time and planning, the escape room format is a great way to review and preview content for a unit or course. I like that it is completely student driven and there is a great deal of collaboration that happens. The novelty factor with the physical locks also played a great role in keeping students interested and engaged, although it is possible to adapt this activity to be completely digital (Onenote or Google forms).
Since then, I've created two other escape activities with my classes. They're a lot of fun to make and the possibilities for clues and questions are endless! This is definitely an activity I'm going to keep using in my classes.
International math educator who writes, occasionally.