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Escape Room Weather Station

Venture Students Create an Unforgettable Experience

The tornado was charging! It was clearing a path toward the mobile weather station near Night Hawk Lake. There were only minutes to flee the hurling force of the storm.
Was it possible to escape the danger?

Grade 11 Venture student’s stood proudly beside their mobile weather station Escape Room on the night of Celebration of Learning and explained to their guests what was in store. Participants were to attempt to solve different puzzles to escape the trailer in ten minutes or less before a dangerous tornado would reach them. The students loved that people were lined up to experience something that they had created.

As part of the Personal Life Management module in Venture, grade 11 students build on Career Planning from Venture 10 and explore personal growth topics that include budgeting, consumerism, transitioning from adolescence to adulthood, life skills, communication, problem-solving, and decision making. Preparing and executing an escape room at the Celebration of Learning event proved to be an effective way for the students to use many of these skills.

Real-World Inspiration
Early in the semester, the class traveled to Wilfrid Laurier University’s Brantford campus and the Game Design and Development Program. Gaming expert Professor Scott Nicholson explained the concept behind game theory and gave our students the opportunity to be the first to playtest an escape room that he was building for an Amazon Prime Original series media launch. The professor spoke to Venture students about the rationale behind good escape rooms and offered some practical advice for creating one at Hamilton District Christian High.

At the time, the class didn’t have an available location inside the school to build the game. Upon hearing this, Calvin Christian School donated a trailer to house a mobile escape room with an arrangement to share the finished game with guests at the CCS fall bazaar.

Brainstorming Ideas
Before beginning construction, the class brainstormed theme ideas and created a scenario. The scenario needed puzzles to fit in with the theme logically, then props and building materials were collected. The skills required to execute an escape room are vast and involved different strengths from all the students. Through collaboration and communication, students designed and constructed the room which included measuring, cutting, and attaching wood; then decorated the space to create a convincing “scene.” Students created the puzzles, then arranged for trial groups to go through to make sure the sequencing ran smoothly. Improvements were made, based on observations and feedback.

It was great to get real-world experience working alongside others in different fields. One of my roles was to decorate and design the interior of the trailer. To do this effectively, I had to work alongside the construction group and communicate with them. I see this being a transferable skill as one day I hope to work designing building interiors. To do this, I will need to work with people in different fields (builders, architects, etc.).” ~ Matt VanVeen, Student

Venture teacher Jared Patus commented, “It’s a project with a very authentic audience. People are doing more than merely observing a product; they are coming to participate in a 10-minute escape room experience. For each new group, everything needed to be precisely reset, instructions had to be clear, and the puzzles themselves had to work. If any mishaps occurred, the experience is tainted. Because of the students’ preparation and attention to details, everything ran smoothly.”

I loved getting the chance to use my skills to contribute to a project that people would actually use.” Trevor DeVries

As expected, the participants loved the experience. Success and enjoyment didn’t necessarily go hand in hand as they had groups that never finished but expressed only positive comments when the trailer door opened because time was up. In the past two years, close to 300 people have gone through our two escape rooms.

Two other Christian elementary schools wish to feature this event at their bazaars. The Venture students were very proud to hear this, and some will return to their previous elementary schools to help run the escape room in the fall.

This example of project-based learning offered students the opportunity to create iterations of a product by observing an authentic audience. Collaboration, communication and problem-solving are real-world skills that will benefit all the students in the future.