The month of October is always Healthy Habits Month at RBES. This month I am using the "Escape Room" strategy to teach about the dangers of substance abuse and tips on living healthy to our students.
First, let me say that this is my first time to try this classroom activity. I have never even participated in an "Escape Room," or a "Breakout Room" as they are sometimes called. So, that being said I will have to admit that I was more than a little apprehensive in doing one myself. I was also concerned that the novelty of one may devalue the content of the lesson, as I am very passionate about kids staying drug free and living healthy happy lives.
After spending many, many, many hours researching Escape Rooms on websites such as Pinterest, TeacherPayTeacher, and the many great counseling groups on Facebook, I finally came up with something that I felt would both challenge my students and give them the tools to help them make healthy choices in life.
I started by brainstorming lessons that I felt were the most needed to help my students make healthy choices. I narrowed these down to six core topics and then turned those topics into "Tasks." I researched coding, STEM, and healthy habits materials to make these tasks appropriate for my different grade levels, as I serve grades pk-6th at our school.
My fantastic Principal, Mrs. Melissa Kirkpatrick, allowed me the use of our Science Lab this month. So I worked to turn this room into something that would hook them from the moment their little feet crossed the threshold. I am also going to admit that I loved seeing their faces light up and hearing all the "oh's" and "ah's" as they walked into the lab.
Before the Lesson:
I make sure that all the stations are ready. I have four tables set up in the classroom for the teams to work at if they choose. Each table has an envelope that holds a pencil, a marker board, a marker, iPad, flashlight, Printed version of the Google Answer Form (just in case of a tech failure or for the younger kids who have not mastered logging into their school gmail accounts. )
I also made a Google Slideshow with pictures of each station and a Google Answer Form. The Google Answer Form is set to only take the correct answer and it gives the students a hint if they enter the wrong answer. Both were shared to the students using Google Classrooms.
To Begin the Lesson:
As soon as the kids entered the room I divide them into four teams. Then I start by introducing my lesson with my Google Slideshow. The first slide introduces the lesson to the students and plays the sound of a heart beat to help set the tone. I next place a 4-digit combination lock on a file box.
Side Note: The file box was loaned to me from a very awesome 5th Grade ELA teacher and keeper of the rat, Mrs. Mindy Teague, who had to literally whittle the hole with a pair of scissors to make the hole big enough for the lock fit- Thank you Mrs. Teague!
After I lock a treasure in the box, I place the box in front of the door. I tell the kids they are now locked in and can not escape without a code. And yes, in case you are wondering, it was very obvious that all they had to do was move the box and then easily escape. The kids have been great about turning on their imaginations to assume their new roles as Escape Room prisoners.
On the next few slides, I introduce each task and give them very general instructions to follow. Each Task Station/Table has detailed task instructions in an envelope for them to follow. The slideshow and the Google Form Answer Sheet are both shared with them in my Google classroom, so that each task could be as paper free as possible.
The teams draw numbers sticks to see which station they will take on first. Teams are told that once they start a task, they have to finish it.
After a team completes a task, I give them one of the four digits they will need to open the lock on a ticket. While there are six tasks, the students only have to complete four to collect all of the tickets/digits they need to "escape."
I allow the teams 5 minutes to make a plan before I start the timer on the SmartBoard. I use an online timer that I found here. I set it for a time that I think is appropriate for each classes's grade level. Usually, around 30 minutes.
After the five minutes to prep, I start the timer and dismiss the students to their Task Tables.
The Task Tables:
Task 1: Over the Counter/ Prescription Drug Cautions The students are instructed to view this video from the Food and Drug Administration. Then they are instructed to go to this webpage at bemedwise.org and read an interactive Over The Counter Medication label. Next, the students answer the challenge question, "How much of this medication should a child your age take?"
According to the label, this medication is not recommended for children under 12. Since most of my students are under 12 years of age, this has caused some great discussions at this task table. When the students have the right dosage their Google Form accepts their answer and they can get a ticket/digit and move on to the next available task. Since there is four groups and six stations, there should always be at least two tasks open.
Task 2: Tobacco
This task has students sort a Tobacco Danger Puzzle, which was actually an old matching worksheet that I laminated and cut up. Teams had to match the the dangers to the effects. For example 1. tobacco costs a lot of _____________ and the kids have to move the picture of the stack of money to match it. Once all of the seven questions are matched the kids flip the picture and reveal a code. The students use the decoders (I made these from a free template that I found online) to decode the hidden word. If their Google Form accepts their answer, then they can come get their next digit.
Task 3: Natural High
At this task the students watch a video from the Natural High website. This is a great site for kids to watch inspirational free videos about the benefits of making healthy choices. At this station, the students are asked to complete a statement from the assigned video. Once the correct answer is accepted into the Google Form the team can come retrieve their digit and move on to the next task.
Task 4: Peer Pressure
For this task I used an idea that I got from reading the Peer Pressure Bag of Tricks from this site. I lined the table with "Bags of Tricks", the students are asked to pick a bag and pull out the "tricks" then they match each trick to a scenario (with a picture) that I taped to the table. Each "trick" has a letter on the back of it. If the "tricks" are matched to the correct scenarios then the students can flip the "tricks" slips and form a word. The word can then be entered into the students Google Answer Form to earn another digit to the code.
Task 5: Alcohol
It took me a few years, but I was finally able to purchase a pair of alcohol goggles from Nimco. At this task, the students have to time their team as they travel around my floor rug using the goggles. If they step out of line then they have "crashed" and have to start again. I want for the students to understand how difficult driving under the influence is and why it is so dangerous.
Once the team has a total team time they could enter it into their Google Form and move on to the next task. This task has taken the longest so far for the teams, but has by far been the most popular.
Task 6: Drug Danger
For this task I have loaded this table with all of the various drug danger materials that I have accumulated over the years. In the Task 6 envelope the teams will find five puzzles that I made from drug warning posters.
These were just free posters I found online about five different drugs. I printed and laminated them, then I cut them into 4 pieces. On the back of each puzzle I drew a letter. After the students assemble the puzzles, they flip the pieces on their backs. When they do, they will be able to find five letters. With these five letters they will form a phrase. Once they do this, they enter the words into their Google Answer Form, if it was the correct phrase then they came and retrieved their next digit from me.
The Escape: If a team gets all four digits of the code before the timer goes off then they get to "escape," thus winning the prizes inside (some sort of drug free promotional item.)
Some classes have finished this challenge and some have not. However, I have noticed that all of the students seem engaged and on task at each station. After each counseling lesson, we always take time to debrief. I feel that the debrief portion of my counseling lessons can sometime be the most meaningful part for the students, so planning enough time for this is a must for me. During the debrief, we discuss each station and talk about something that the students took away from the challenge. The kids have some great questions and bring up some great discussions. Sometimes the students really surprise me with their answers, too. I love seeing them learn and was excited to be able to offer this lesson in a new way to them.
Mrs. Christy M. English, Ed.S Professional School Counselor
ESCAPE ROOM Don't Get Caught In The Wicked Web Of Drugs
Enter If You Dare...
My Google Slide Examples
My Google Form Example
My Very Fancy Custom Altered (don't be jealous) Escape Room Lock Box