At our very first PLC (Professional Learning Community) of the year, we had a choice: we could work with our tech educator to learn how to use Canvas, our classroom management system, OR we could work with our media specialist on breakout boxes. Since I already have a very good working knowledge of Canvas and the media specialist happens to be one of my best friends in the universe, my choice was easy.
If you aren’t familiar with a breakout box, it is basically a small scale escape room. The concept is exactly the same: solve a bunch of riddles and clues in order to break out. Unlike an escape room, participants aren’t trying to break out of the room, but rather break into the locked box which holds some sort of prize or treasure.
Our school bought 10 break out boxes from Breakout EDU and those of us who joined our media specialist got a taste of teamwork and fun at a PLC (it might be a first). We worked on a pre-made Breakout EDU game called “The Faculty Meeting.” The scenario was all too real–the principal has locked the agenda for the faculty meeting in the box in an attempt to make the meeting last forever. Unless we could break into the box and retrieve the agenda, we would be stuck in the meeting forever. If our competitive natures were not enough motivation, we were told we could actually leave the meeting as soon as we got the box open. We ran for out box.
Through a series of clever clues, all designed to get us to think critically and work together, we managed to open each lock. The directional lock (the red one) gave us a bit of trouble. We figured out the pattern easy enough, but accidentally hit one wrong direction and didn’t know we had to clear the pattern by double clicking the lock. Once we figured that out, we were on our way. Our only other slight hiccup was finding the key for the final lock. Based on the word clues, I knew that it had to be hidden in the dictionary, but the person looking through the dictionary wouldn’t listen to my initial suggestion. Although the delay only cost a minute or so, it was just enough so that our competition broke out first. We were less than 30 seconds behind, but our pride was a bit hurt.
The activity was so much fun that I immediately scheduled a meeting with our media specialist during my prep so that we could work on a break out box for my film lit class. Unfortunately there were no ready made games that would fit my rather unique curriculum, so I set about making my own version. With the help of my trusty media specialist, we got the planning sheet and got to work.
My game mirrored some aspects of the Faculty Meeting. Instead of an agenda being locked away from us, I made my students production assistants on a movie set. The director was in search of the perfect shot for her movie and they had it. Unfortunately, a rival assistant stole the coveted shot and hid it away. Working together with their fellow production assistants, they had to decode a series of clues, all related to the aspects of cinematography we’d learned in class to recover their perfect shots.
My students needed a lot more guidance and most groups needed both of their hints to break into their boxes and find the shots, but all four groups managed to work together and escape. I was amazed that despite being in a very social setting, my kids stayed on task and really did work together. As I walked around their “rooms” (different sections of the library)–they were all discussing the puzzles and trying to figure out how to put the clues in order to discover the combinations. It didn’t quite take the 45 minutes I’d allotted for the activity, but after they were done, I gave them question cards to discuss with their groups and then we came back as a big group to discuss them.
The following day we not only talked about what they liked/disliked about the activity (the only negative was that one of the locks had the number imputed in out of order so it did take awhile to figure out–but it taught the adults a lesson). I also then displayed each group’s perfect shot on the white board and as a class we discussed all the elements of cinematography we’d learned as part of a review before the test.
It was fun and productive for everyone involved. I cannot wait to try another breakout box with my AP Lit kids when we start working on The Crucible.