Escape rooms are breaking out all over. The latest tally by Room Escape Artist counts more than 1700 in the United States alone. It only makes sense that teachers would want to find a way to bring the concept of a locked room into education as well. After all, who doesn’t want to escape from the classroom at some point during the year? But since the idea of locking up students wouldn’t translate well to most parents, some inspired teachers have figured out a better way to bring the challenge of the escape room to their instruction — with the use of breakout boxes.
Locked Room, Locked Box
Escape rooms, if you haven’t heard of them, are physical locations where you and your teammates enter a “magical world that has its own purpose,” as Sherry Jones, a philosophy and game studies subject matter expert and lecturer at Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design, explained. “There’s some reason you’re trapped in there. When you play the game, you’re trying to figure out how to get out.” The room has clues in the form of objects and gadgets, and the whole activity is timed. As the clock ticks down, the players need to figure out why those objects are there, what their function is, how they help explain why you’re locked up in the first place and how they can work as clues to help you escape before the room “blows up” or the participants inside “freeze” or some other metaphorical demise occurs.
Breakout boxes, such as those introduced by Breakout EDU, turn that formula on its head. Instead of escaping from a room, students must break into a box secured with multiple locks. They do this by drawing on what they’re learning in class to untangle clues that may help them figure out the combination to a lock, locate a key or something else to move them through the game.