This year, for library orientation we did just that, but in reverse--asking the students to use clues scattered around the library to find a way in to a tool box sealed shut with four different locks. It was a fun way to get the kids to both problem solve and learn about the library and its resources at the same time. We knew this lesson was successful when we heard teams of kids cheering at the end.
Our orientation was inspired by the BreakoutEDU gaming platform, and was featured in a video produced by our school system. While it took a bunch of work on the front-end, anyone can build their own activity with plenty of pre-existing materials and ideas available. Plus, it's the kids who put in the effort once it has all begun.
What is BreakoutEDU?
Think Escape Room for education. Never heard of Escape Room? BreakoutEDU is an engaging game-based learning platform in which students collaborate, communicate, and problem solve to figure out clues and open locks to get into a box.
The BreakoutEDU web site offers a range of ready-made games across academic levels and curricular areas. You can also purchase a BreakoutEDU kit from the site, or do as we did: Build your own open source BreakoutEDU kit. The BreakoutEDU concept is immensely flexible once you own a kit; we put together two.
Breaking Out for Kilmer Library Orientation
Every year, half of our grades 7/8 school is new to the building and we are tasked with introducing these new students to our library services and our space. As we are on a completely flexible schedule, our primary goal with library orientation is to convince students to come back on their own time. We aim to answer the basic questions students always ask, but at the same time don't like to overwhelm them with policies and procedures, with slide shows and lectures. I want to get them up and moving, navigating and exploring THEIR library, giving them ownership over their new space. Our BreakoutEDU orientation did just that.
We began by briefly explaining the task: Students were to work together to solve clues to open four different locks: A 4-digit number lock; a directional lock, a letter lock, and a keyed lock. We gave an envelope of clues to each team, started our timer for 30 minutes, and our students were off and running (often quite literally), following the path of clues, learning about the library. In order to earn the next envelope, the team had to turn in an open lock to us.
Our orientation introduced our students to various sections of the library, encouraged them to interact with our web site, brought them to our makerspace and asked them to reflect on their learning. It was pretty incredible to watch the excitement and energy on the faces of our students as they problem solved together to open a lock. It was so much fun to hear the cheers go up as teams opened the final lock and opened the box!
Our BreakoutEDU materials are available for review and adaptation to your own needs. And, check out our Kilmer students in action in this video filmed by our Fairfax County Public Schools video producer, Jim Lepp.
We have two BreakoutEDU boxes and I want to make sure they get used more than once a year. On my to do list is creating a less structured BreakoutEDU, giving students a pile of clues and material to work their way through. I also think that it is important to build in lots of different kinds of clues in order to prevent the novelty factor from wearing off of this activity. One thing I haven't quite figured out is how to have students be more focused on content rather than opening the locks. We periodically had students who had to be nudged to leave the box to explore, who would have preferred to fidget with the locks throughout the entire period in an effort to get them open.
A logical next step is to ask students to building a BreakoutEDU as end-of-unit authentic assessment. This would really encourage critical thinking as students consider creative ways to share specific content. Finally, bringing BreakoutEDU to our staff as part of a professional development session would help me share this experience school-wide; perhaps one of the sessions that we should task students with creating is a PD BreakoutEDU for teachers.
* * *
A big challenge for me personally is that after running through orientation with over 30 different classes, I am tired of it--which means, each and every year my own twitchy brain forces me to change things up. This year's changeup to BreakoutEDU was so successful and so much fun that I think even my twitchy brain will be to handle using it again -- with some tweaks for variety, of course -- next year.
Have you used BreakoutEDU in your classroom or library? Would you like to? Please share your experiences and questions! We always love to hear from you!
You might also like:
Who We Are
Join our list!