Escape Rooms: How Do I Get Out of Here? Part 1

This school year, in our district we have been doing a great activity with students based on the concept of “escape rooms.” Escape rooms are a popular team-building activity available in commercial settings as well as public libraries and other venues. In an escape room, a group of people working together are “locked” in a space, and the participants have to work together to solve a set of clues that eventually allows them to “escape” the space. There is usually a theme for the room, and the room should be designed so that one clue leads the participants to the next clue. One of our vision teachers had heard about this activity and suggested we try it with students. It has grown into a wonderful opportunity for students to work together, even when they are enrolled in different schools. It allows them to stretch their creativity, collaborate with other students, and even challenge their vision teachers to use their skills under the blindfold!

In Part 1 of this topic I will discuss the ways in which we implemented this activity as part of a vision class. In Escape Rooms Part 2 I will share details of an escape room based on Orientation & Mobility concepts that I created for a student.

For the most part, our escape rooms have been planned by two students at a time, with guidance from one of the vision teachers. Since we are working with such a small group, we have diverged from the traditional method of having a group of people working together to follow clues and “escape” from the room. Instead, only one person (either the other vision teacher or a student who has not participated in the planning process) follows the clues to “escape” from the room. To make things more “interesting,” and because the students have all had low vision, we decided to blindfold each participant. Note that for O&M-based escape rooms I do NOT blindfold the participant (see Part 2).

Although much of the planning for escape rooms has happened during a vision resource class, we have built in an additional collaboration piece by using a shared Google Doc by the planners to note clues, materials, and other details. This allows us to add ideas between classes as well as keep the plans secret from the person who will be “escaping.” It also allows collaboration between students who attend different schools; I am currently working with one student to plan an escape room for his brother, who is also a vision student and attends a different school. The planning student and I add ideas to the Doc whenever we think of them. I am planning to expand the escape room activity to include students at some of my other schools, and we will use the planning document in the same way.

Screenshot of a Google Doc planning document

In order to illustrate how this activity works, below is a description of some of the escape rooms we have planned, with examples of the types of clues we incorporated into each room.

Escape Room 1

Theme: Music

Description: This is the first escape room we did. It was planned by the other vision teacher and two students, and I was the “escapee.” They chose this theme because of my musical background. Some of the clues were really challenging, but they were an awesome example of the kinds of clues that can be created.

Examples of clues (most of these were placed on desks around the classroom; since I am an Orientation & Mobility Specialist as well as a vision teacher, I used a long mobility cane to explore the room):

  • One of the students--who plays guitar--softy and repeatedly played a particular chord on the guitar while I followed the clues.
  • On one desk I found a small key; on another desk was a locked box. When I opened the box, inside the box I found three index cards with the letters A, B, C created with puffy paint on them. It took me quite awhile to figure out that A, B, and C were the musical notes in the chord that the student was playing on the guitar, although I still wasn’t sure how that connected to the other clues.

Open lockbox; inside is cards with raised A, B, C

  • The last set of clues was really surprising. When I reached that desk and explored it with my hands, I suddenly felt something very warm! Reflexively I pulled back my hands, and suddenly I understood what students feel when they have to feel something unusual without being warned about it ahead of time! I forced myself to feel the object again, and I figured out that it was a heating pad. On the same desk I found a bag of hamburger buns. What?? The kids encouraged me to keep feeling around, and finally, between the pad and the buns, I found a small wooden cross. After more minutes of confusion, I finally connected all the dots: “Hot Cross Buns!” That’s the tune that one hears if the notes C, B, A are played. But there was one more challenge: in order to escape the room, I had to sing, “Hot Cross Buns!”

Escape Room 2

Theme: JROTC

I planned this room with one student. The other student in our vision resource class, who is enrolled in JROTC, completed the activity.

Examples of clues:

  • Identify epaulets and cap badge by feel.
  • Several index cards were on a desk; this clue was to remind the student of studying the cadet’s creed in our vision class. The task was to recite at least 4/8 of the statements of the creed, but the student succeeded in reciting all 8!
  • “Physical Training” (or PT): we had an exercise mat available, and we had the student do some modified sit-ups and push-ups (nothing too strenuous, as we did want the activity to be fun!)
  • The student followed marching instructions to escape the room.

Escape Room 3

Theme: Specialized Technology/Equipment that vision teachers taught students and clients how to use “back in the day.”

Two students and I planned this room for the other vision teacher. I suggested this theme because both of us vision teachers have been in the field for a very long time, and I thought it would be fun to see her reaction when she encountered some of the materials that have been sitting on shelves for quite a while!

Examples of clues:

  • Book with an index card with a raised numeral 2 on it. The teacher had to figure out that she needed to go to the bookshelf and search the second shelf.
  • On the shelf was a cassette tape. The task was to find a tape player on a desk and play the tape. The tape had a recorded riddle that led her to a desk with a slate and stylus and an index card with the teacher’s first name in raised print. The task was to write her first name with the slate and stylus, then she was handed a ballpoint pen.
  • The final clue was a piece of paper and a signature guide; with the ballpoint pen from the previous clue, the teacher had to sign her name with the signature guide to escape the room.

Slate, stylus, signature guide, cards with signatures

I encourage readers to take these examples as a “jumping off” point to create their own escape rooms. Have fun and “think outside the box!” I invite anyone to add comments to this post about escape room activities that they try with their students. As noted in the beginning, Part 2 of this post will present a description of an O&M-themed escape room.

Part 2:

Picture of a hand about to turn a doorknob