BreakoutEDU Box: A Christmas Week Challenge in Critical Thinking and Cooperation
This week, Seba Beach Middle years students spent 3 mornings solving puzzles and riddles using the MLI BreakoutEDU boxes on loan from PSD70 division office. Each of the 3 teachers, Mr. Chiles, Mr. Schiltroth, and myself, chose different games from the BreakoutEDU website and set up our rooms to challenge the students to think critically and work together in order to solve all the puzzles and open the box. Each morning, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, a different class was in each of rooms trying to solve the games.
In the spirit of the season, I chose the game “ELF”, based on the popular Christmas movie. This game has 6 different puzzles to solve, all of which are stand-alone, which meant my students could break into smaller groups to solve them. I liked the variety of puzzles this game had, as there were some that were simple and involved noticing colours or patterns, and others that involved codes or had multiple steps to solve them. I also had to improvise slightly as I needed two letter locks for this puzzle but only had one, so I added a keypad with letters to convert it to numeric values for them.
I noticed a few changes in the students throughout the week as they became more familiar with the games. At first, the game materials were new and intriguing to them, so there was a lot of time spent just playing with the locks and the UV flashlight, and not so much on solving the puzzles. By the 3rd day, however, they were more focused on solving the game and less so on just playing.
The second thing I noticed is that the students started engaging with the puzzles, and with each other, much more by the third day. My first group was the grade 8 homeroom, and while I had quite a few of them trying at first, most gave up when the solutions weren’t obvious and only a core group of 4 continued to solve the game. I had the chance to see this group in the different games each day and I noticed more had joined the core group by Tuesday and most were actively working together by the third.
We gave each group 120 minutes for the games so that at the end they could complete debrief questions that are included in each of the games. Students struggled with the questions at first, especially when asked how they found each other’s strengths, but they were all able to make curricular connections and see how these games help with strategy, problem solving, and critical thinking skills. Because each game was a different theme, they were also able to see how these games could be used in a variety of classes and subjects like Math, Language Arts, or Social Studies.
I am happy with how this week turned out, and I even have some students working to create their own games for after the break. I am excited to create our own Seba-owned box so that we can continue with these activities throughout the year.
Happy Holidays from Ms. McCluskey and all the students at Seba Beach!