October 26, 2018

Halloween Problem-Solving: An Escape Room in the Classroom

GoGuardian Team
Two students in Halloween costumes, one a witch and another a devil

On Halloween, spooky-themed lesson plans and activities are all the rage in our classrooms. Costume contests. Classroom door decorating. Pumpkin carving. Among the “All Hallows’ Eve” festivities, it’s also important to do something educational. Ever heard of an Escape Room?

An escape room is a game in which a group of participants has an hour to solve a series of puzzles and various challenges that provide further clues... leading to a final puzzle that unlocks the door of the room. This is problem-solving at its best: it’s fun, creative and makes students think.

Here are some tips for how you can make your classroom into the ultimate escape room this Halloween:

Work Backwards

When you’re setting up your escape room, you’ll need a strategy. One clue leads to the next. The easiest way to create your game is to start at the end and work backward. The most difficult puzzle should be the last one because, once solved, it wins the game. If you’re stuck, think about how you can creatively use your class space and classroom technology.

Clues can be locked, or in hiding places, but they can also come from less likely places: like from writing on the wall... or a Google Chromebook! For example, there might be a slip of paper in the room containing a coded message or math puzzle that, when deciphered or solved, reveals the combination to a safe in the room. Inside that safe might be the URL of a website that kids can use their Chromebooks to pull up to reveal a reading passage, with a clue to the next location in it. Already, your students have used math skills, technology skills, reading skills, and critical thinking skills… and you’re not even on the second puzzle.

Locks and Blacklights

When you’re mapping out your escape room, be sure to cover all learning styles. Escape games can be designed with elements that simultaneously serve visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners.

To take your escape room to the next level and incorporate all the senses: stock up on supplies. Stop by your local hardware store, and grab some combination locks. These are ideal for clues that are math problems. For example, a clue could be, “The first three prime numbers that are positive integers”. Well, that’s 2,3 and 5 of course!

Other fun tools are a blacklight pen and black light. You can get a blacklight pen for less than ten dollars at Walmart, Amazon, or Home Depot. Scribble your clue on a piece of parchment, and your students will be decoding messages like the kids from From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

Create a Theme

No escape room is complete without a creative theme. Ideally, one that ties into your lesson plan or unit. For example, let’s say you’re currently learning about Greek mythology. A great escape room could be one in which the goal is to escape the Underworld! You could incorporate Greek myth, like the myth of Persephone and Hades, and to escape, your students must cross the River Styx. By picking a theme that relates to a current literature or history unit, you engage your students’ imaginations, which helps them better engage with the lesson and apply their knowledge. For Halloween, you could do a Halloween related theme that reveals the history of the holiday, or which is tied to literature such as The Legend of Sleepy Hollow or The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Ultimately, an escape room is an innovative way to weave problem-solving, critical thinking, and team-building into the process of learning new information for students. Locks guarding hidden clues related to student learning must be solved and opened before the time runs out. What better time than Halloween to create an escape room for YOUR classroom? To incorporate a little extra thrill into your lessons this fall...create your own!

We invite you to comment on this blog post about ideas and suggestions for escape rooms in the classroom, or please share them to our Twitter handle @goguardian.