LightBreakoutI am a novice with Breakout Edu – not that it’s been around too long. I started seeing teachers post about it and asked my friend Marcie Hebert to tell me more.  I’ve never experience an “escape room” but it sort of has that feel to it…with an education focused twist. Now that I’ve facilitated three in two weeks I want to share what I learned. I get to be a participant in one next weekend!

Getting Started

I always tell teachers that they have to begin with the learning. My goal was two-fold: teach local teachers about the possibilities of Breakout Edu AND tie it to the content that we were doing in pre-work for our April technology integration workshop. I found a game called Time Warp. It is focused on types of communication over the history of humankind. (You need to complete the beta form for the password to the game but it’s all free).

Next, you need to decide how you will put together your kit. You can outright purchase a kit. It is made in a person’s garage so it takes about three weeks to arrive. You can also do it on a shoestring budget. I did purchase a kit.

Preparing Your Breakout Experience

If you find a game on the Breakout Edu site, you will have everything you need to get the job done. Beware…you may need to purchase an extra lock or two. I had to purchase an additional 4-digit combination lock. You can use the game as-is or adjust it to fit your needs. I used Time Warp as is. The games I looked at seem to have a video to help you set it up. Spoiler Alert – video for Time Warp.

It took me about a half day to go over and over the plan for the day, decide where things would be in the room. This game also had you set up the string with specific numbers of knots and colors. I used clothesline and Sharpie markers.

The scariest (but silly) worry was setting the locks. I was so afraid I wouldn’t set it right and ruin a lock. At $10 or so per lock I didn’t want that to happen. In truth it was easy. As I opened each box, I took a photo of the lock and the directions to set the lock then put them in a Google Doc with the codes that each lock it set to. The reason I did it was two-fold – I won’t loose the directions or the current lock setting AND since I am loaning the box and locks to other schools I can give editing permission to the teacher who has the box and they can share the new lock settings.

In addition to the video, the Time Warp game had a Google Drive full of resources. There are PDFs of all the paper clues students will need to solve the problem. They were in color and at first I just printed them in black and white. As I practiced the flow of the game, trying to solve each puzzle and open each lock, I realized there were a few times where color was part of the clue. I printed the selected items that required color again.

Introducing Breakout Edu to Teachers

I asked the teachers if anyone had gone to an Escape Room or heard of them. I explained how it was an entertainment where people went out in a group. They are locked in a room for an hour and have to “breakout” to win. Instead of a room there is a box with four locks. Two are 4-digit number locks, one is a word lock, and one is a directional lock. TIP: I learned after the first of three groups, that the directional lock has to be squeezed shut to reset it so a new combination can be tried.

Also in the room are pieces of paper and things that are not normally there. We use the same room monthly for workshops. I told them they should look at things, pick them up, turn them around, and work together as a group to try to open my four locks on the Breakout box. They also had one hint card from me. If they were stuck, they had to agree as a group what question they would ask to try to move along.

I told them it was tied to our pre-work. They were reviewing Internet browsers and the concept of networks at a birds-eye view. This entire game would require them to think about and use different forms of communication that led to our Internet connected world. There was something inside the box for them when the removed all the locks.

They had been working on our Technology Curriculum Core Maps before the Breakout session in groups of six. For the most part, they chose to stick with those groups for the Breakout. I set the Vimeo Breakout timer and they were off! It has really pleasant background music.

During the Breakout Session

I took photos and short video clips. I listened to their conversation and watched their group work. I was there to give out hints when asked. It was interesting to see how everything unfolded and it was hard not to want to give them hints!

As the timer wound down to about 10 minutes left, I reminded the groups they had the one hint card.

It was a very challenging game! One group broke the locks on day one. No one broke in on day two. One group got it on day three.

Debriefing the Session

When the timer went off, I had the teachers sit down and share with the group how the various locks opened. I pointed out the types of communication from Morse code to Incan knots to the Pony Express that were used. There was a link on a document they received which led to a gmail account id which sent an auto responder with a clue. That was the hardest to solve.

We talked about how this game can be used to engage students of all ages in their learning, problem solving, collaboration skills, Internet search skills, growth mindset, engagement, and movement. There is so much to be gotten out of this idea. I shared the Breakout Edu website and told them they could use our Equipment Loan Form to request the box.

Important Things to Know After the Session

I do have one lock that got reset by mistake. TIP – As soon as the session is over, re-lock the locks. Make sure you know the codes in case you put the box away for a few weeks or months.

Ideas Captured From #CatholicEdChat

Escape to Recess by Patti Harju

Catholic Schools Week by Patti Harju

First Eucharist Retreat by Patti Harju

Breakout Edu Pinterest Board by Debbie Fucoloro

Breakout Edu Notes for Missouri EdChat by Nick Cusumano

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Photo Credit: Ann Oro