Generally when your students can’t stop staring at the clock, it means they can’t wait to get out of class. Not so when teachers build escape rooms into their curriculum. If you haven’t heard, an escape room is an innovative way to bring problem solving, critical thinking, and team building into learning new information. Locks guarding hidden clues related to student learning must be figured out and opened before time runs out.
You’re going to want to build one for your students this year. The payoffs are worth the extra work and you may find there’s even funding out there for learning that’s this awesome. Here are some of our favorite items for building your own escape room experiences.
These are a huge part of making an Escape Room experience your students will really get excited about. Once they know they can’t move forward until they open the lock the whole activity takes on a new level of excitement. You can use locks at various stages of the same experience, so it’s a good idea to have several different types: directions, 3-digit, alphalocks, etc.
2. Lockable containers
While you could have opening the locks be the “final task/goal,” its more exciting if there are locks that the students have to open in order to get clues for the next part of the puzzle. You can buy a large lockable box which is a bit more expensive, but you can also get creative (we’re teachers, after all!) and use fabric pencil cases with zippers and tabs that allow you to lock them shut.
3. Blacklight pens
Never underestimate how much students like finding secret clues or hidden messages. A black light pen and a UV flashlight can add a whole new level of intrigue to your lessons.
4. UV Flashlights
While it would be wonderful to have enough resources for each student to have one of every item we use, it can also be really interesting to provide a limited number of resources and see how the students overcome this challenge. UV Flashlights are relatively inexpensive, but by placing just a few around the room you’ll be encouraging students to communicate, negotiate, and plan.
This strange looking contraption is great for locking larger items, like cabinet doors, shut. You can also add multiple locks to it if you want each student (or student group) to have to remove one of the locks before it can be opened.
6. Crazy cool items your students have never seen before
This gets a little more complex, but one of the most fun aspects of Escape Rooms is being able to bring in unusual items that you’re students don’t get to interact with on a daily basis. Imagine how excited they’ll be if they have to open a lock that looks like this:
Or figure out that their next clue is hidden in plain sight:
7. Secret codes
One of the easiest ways to create a puzzle for your students is to put it in code. You can create a cryptoquote yourself, where one letter represents another and they have to determine which letter represents which or you could have them complete a puzzle leading to a strange picture of dots and dashes and a book on Morse Code!
Sometimes items you might already have in class (or can borrow from a fellow teacher) can become awesome parts of an Escape Room experience. Magnets can be great for retrieving keys or other important items from narrow spots in your room where fingers can not reach them!
Amazon makes it really easy to purchase blank puzzles. You don’t need to be overly artistic, in fact, you can just write the next clue on the puzzle, then break it into pieces. Your students will have a blast trying to reassemble the puzzle as quickly as possible to move on to the next task!
A super way to create a simple, inexpensive puzzle your students have to solve is simply to ask a riddle. You can decide if they have to get it correct in order to move on (it could be the combination to your alpha lock, for example), or you could have them be able to continue through the game and only find out if that answers was incorrect later on, forcing them to go back.
Now that you have a ton of awesome tools to create your Escape Room, choose a theme (sites like this can help!), create your obstacles, and watch your students have the time of their lives, working together, collaborating, and developing their critical thinking skills in your class.