Tuesday, November 1, 2016

My Love Affair with Breakout EDU

I couldn't decide whether to call this post "My Love Affair with Breakout EDU" or "My Obsession with Breakout EDU." Both accurately sum up my feelings regarding this innovative game. Let's start at the beginning of my journey with Breakout EDU.

I remember seeing people Tweet about Breakout EDU last year. I was intrigued. An escape room concept built for education. Everything contained in a box with puzzles to solve to get into the box. So I talked my boss into ordering a kit. Once the kit was ordered, I needed some willing participants. Keep in mind, I had never actually seen a game in person or participated in a game. But I knew I needed to try this.

The first game I ran myself was with the Senior High social studies department. We did Time Warp which actually fits in very well with their curriculum. Within seconds of letting them go, they were all engaged in the activity. Debriefing afterward, they all had ideas on how they could use this in their classrooms.


My next victim, I mean willing participant, was a 3rd grade classroom. We used Candy Caper. This teacher wanted to reward some of her students so we worked with about half of her class or 15 students. She put the kids into groups and called one group up at a time to work through the clues. As we sat down to debrief with the students after the game, one little girl raised her hand before we even started asking questions. She said, "Mrs. Coffin, it is not about the prize. It is about working together!" Without any prompting, she had it figured out. That is when I really knew, Breakout EDU was something special.


I knew that my one kit in a district of 4,000 students and 325 certified staff probably wouldn't be enough. So I wrote a special projects grant to the Norfolk Public Schools Foundation. Instead of a presentation to the Foundation board, I had them participate in a Breakout EDU game. Needless to say, they were sold! The Foundation funded ten kits - one for each building in our district.


I think people sometime have trouble seeing the power of this activity if they only look at the wooden box and a bunch of locks. So I knew I needed to have our building administrators actually participate in a game. At one of their summer retreat days, I set up Dr. Johnson's Lab and turned them loose.


They successfully survived the zombie apocalypse and were able to see what an engaging activity this was. Our Senior High principal was so impressed he purchased five kits for the SH building. Having a total of six kits in this building means teachers can check out multiple kits to have smaller groups of students working on solving the puzzles. We have set up as many as six kits at one time to have large classes working on the same activity.

In order to "sell" this activity to teachers, I really think they need to participate in a game. During our back to school work days, we set up five kits in the Senior High gym and divided the SH staff into groups. We used the scoreboard for the timer and they were off trying to solve the Attack of the Locks.


I have done Breakout EDU with kindergarten, 1st grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, high school students and adults. The #1 comment I get when people are done with a game? "When can we do this again?"

So why do I love this activity so much? This one activity works on all of the 4 Cs: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity. These "soft skills" that in education we actually work on on a daily basis but are often difficult to assess. This one activity works on all of these things and more.

Next steps for me and my teachers would include creating our own games to match our curriculum. After a game with a 4th grade classroom this week, the students decided they wanted to make a game for the 4th graders in the classroom across the hall. Wow! What a great idea!

If you haven't tried Breakout EDU I encourage you to take the plunge and do it! Remember, I had never participated in a game before running one of my own. Sharing this one activity with teachers throughout our district has been extremely rewarding. I am excited to see where this can go!

Ready to get started? Head on over to Breakout EDU. Everything you need to get started is available at their website. 

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