Students in Ms. Connell's chemistry classes at John Stark Regional High School were recently challenged to re-create the Periodic Table by taking a page from the popular game “escape room” where players solve successive problems to escape and win. Through some sharing and collaboration with the librarian, Katie Gadwah, Lorraine Connell and several Equity teachers including, Christina Sullivan and Justin Connell, the plan came together to design this activity for a the chemistry classes. Ms. Connell came up with a story of students traveling back in time and losing the period table. By solving various problems, students figured out the necessary letters and numbers to unlock the multiple padlocks on their group’s box using their chemistry knowledge.
Students were required to prep for the locked boxes doing the normal curriculum, but this activity was a reward for those who excelled through the content with confidence and speed. Some students that participated commented that the locked box, also known as an enrichment activity, was more demanding and engaging than a typical test would be, and if you had been in the room when the students were working through the challenge you would have agreed that the students were being stimulated. You could almost ‘smell’ their brains working.
One student commented, “I loved how interesting and engaging this first enrichment was.” In a survey conducted with the students after the activity, 85% students felt motivated to get the opportunity to complete the next enrichment opportunity, and 100% of the students who did the breakout felt the material was challenging to them, making them more eager to to learn the science behind the activity.
This is not just something that can be done in the typical high school classroom, students at our Equity program have also tried the breakout activities. In fact, the idea came from a professional development conference that highlighted this sort of ‘game’. Introducing more “fun” into education is something that is regularly featured as a best practice for teachers and these breakout activities are becoming more popular as a motivator in classroom learning.
This type of exercise poses a challenge and level of engagement which can be implemented and achieved at all levels of learning. It can be content focused, or simply team building, There are activities at the preschool level all the way up to adults. John Stark hopes to utilize this in a variety of ways in the future.