4 Escape Room Ideas for Classrooms
Our students learn best when they invest themselves in the lesson at hand. What better way to break away from the classic, “sit-n-listen” learning environment than with a classroom escape room or breakout game? Escape rooms make for an engaging and unique lesson that students will take to heart.
Escape Rooms Teach Students The ‘How’
The old “teach a man to fish” adage is a bit of a cliche, but it holds up. The more we inspire our students to learn how to answer a question, the better equipped they will be to tackle new problems moving forward.
Escape rooms accomplish that admirably. Escape room classrooms teach:
- Communication and teamwork
These are powerful, vital skills for our students to pick up. Even better, escape room or breakout game lessons fit in any time of year – especially in that start-of-school period – and work for almost any topic.
1. It Doesn’t Need To Be Fancy!
Remember, this isn’t an ‘escape room’ in the strictest sense – please, don’t lock anyone in a classroom! Instead, the classroom will have a locked box that requires students to solve puzzles. Once the puzzles are solved, the students can open the box.
If you’re struggling to think of what to put in the box, the answer depends. If your scenario is that the students must solve the puzzles in order to avoid spending all of their summer break in school, some toy keys would be fine. On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with a box filled with prizes – first team to open the box gets first pick, perhaps – so long as the entire class is rewarded in some fashion.
Stick with simple locks. Any local hardware store will have plenty of options – we find that little 3-4 digit luggage locks work well for most breakout or escape room ideas – so don’t fret about lock selection! You’ll need a box with locks as well: try BreakoutEDU if you’re looking for a pre-made kit. It’s more than possible to whip up a box yourself with a little bit of elbow grease as well.
Truth be told, a simple toolbox works just as well as a purpose-built box.
2. Get Organized (Don’t Waste Time)
You’ve got your box (or boxes), locks aplenty, and a sufficient number of quality riddles and puzzles. It’s time to get organized!
Decide how many teams are appropriate for your classroom size. Depending on the number of puzzles you have, allocating different parts of the classroom for each puzzle is not a bad idea. Take a few minutes and practice explaining the instructions and goals of the game. Figure out the most effective way to communicate how to succeed in the lesson and get that information over to your students ASAP – the quicker the game begins, the better.
After all, time is a precious resource!
3. Tell A Story
Students love stories: narratives help them make sense of the knowledge you’re imparting. Take a lesson on the Declaration of Independence, for example. The first puzzle might elicit the name of the Declaration’s principal author, Thomas Jefferson, by staging a series of clues and hints in a short text. You could then continue the puzzles by asking students to figure out the date, location, and purpose of the Declaration of Independence.
A little bit of role play might be just what your students need. Instead of being students in a middle school social studies class, why not make them American freedom fighters trying to help find the Declaration? Perhaps your students are now art thieves trying to escape from a Parisian museum, or Thanksgiving-era Pilgrims looking to host a feast.
Keep it fun and your students will fall in love with your escape room ideas for classrooms!
4. Keep The Puzzles Sane
There’s no need to make the puzzles complicated – we want our students to enjoy the activity, not stress about it – so keep things simple. If you’re covering history or civics, short text excerpts with important information bolded may work well. Alternatively, a mathematics lesson may have answers that correspond to a particular lock’s combination.
Some Useful Resources
Check out Teach Every Day for some great tips on escape room classroom ideas. Likewise, The Breakout EDU Kit is a staple and for good reason – it works! Kelser Science has a great article on science-specific escape room puzzle ideas as well: check it out here.
Looking for additional resources to enforce critical thinking? Check out some of EVERFI’s courses like Future Goals Hockey Scholar, Summer Slugger, and WORD Force. These are all gamified courses with creative virtual worlds. In the courses, students must use their critical thinking skills to transform a hockey rink, make their way through a Grand Slam, and identify foundational literacy sounds on a farm.
Escape Room Ideas for Classrooms: Have Fun!
The beauty of classroom escape rooms and breakout games is their versatility and immersion. Students become involved in the game (yes, tempers may flare!) and that’s good – students learn best when they actively engage with a topic.
Take the time to tell a story, stick with simple puzzles, and your students will thank you for it.