Posted Date: 04/12/2017
Game challenges RMS students to use critical thinking skills – quickly
As seconds ticked on a timer, Royster eighth graders scrambled around their science classroom searching for clues to help them solve questions and puzzles related to global warming.
Michelle Johnson’s earth science students had been studying global warming. As a culminating activity, she designed a Breakout EDU game that challenged them to use what they’d learned to solve puzzles and equations to open a well-locked box by the end of the class period. When she asked if the students could beat the time of her other earth science classes, the intensity of the adrenaline-charged room rose even higher.
Johnson smiled as the students scattered to different areas of the science room, looking for things out of place – a plastic tub filled with blown-up balloons – or a box with one of several kinds of locks on it.
“I found one,” shouted someone who brought down a locked box from the top of a cabinet while across the room several students converged around the balloons, looking for clues. Behind the blinds on a nearby window they found a piece of paper that read: “Choose Wisely: Little things ‘add’ up. Look for a few activities where we can reduce emissions to ‘go green.’”
With two words in quotations, they began looking for green items in the room that might be combined to give them an answer.
Elsewhere, a laminated photo and caption told the students that all the ice on earth is changing.
“The famed snows of Kilimanjaro have melted more than 80 percent since 1912. Glaciers in the Garhwali Himalaya in India are retreating so fast that researchers believe that most central and eastern Himalayan glaciers could virtually disappear by 2035. Find a way to get to the middle of the ice cubes to find your next clue. HURRY! Before you run out of time!”
Eventually the students found the ice cubes and melted one containing a key that opened a lock.
The posters on the walls, the periodic table, graphs, equations, anything was a possible clue to solve the puzzles.
Unlike other Breakout EDU games, Johnson involved her students in its creation.
Each class of students did the research and came up with questions about global warming that they should know. Johnson drew from those questions and answers to create the puzzles and clues. The boxes were created and donated through the USD 413 Foundation Board, with materials supplied by Clearver’s Farm and Home.
The Breakout EDU Box containing the final solution was held shut by a variety of locks such as a four-digit lock, a key lock, an alphabet multilock, and a directional multilock. By using their math and science skills to solve the puzzles, the students gleaned a series of numbers or letters that they could combine to help them open one of the five locks on the box.
While the students worked in small groups to find answers, it takes a collaborative effort by everyone to beat the clock.
As the end of the class period approached, the students finally agreed to request a hint from the teacher - everyone in the class must agree. Only then did they recognize one of the clues as the home page of a web site they’d used for their research. As two girls raced to load the site on laptops, their peers crowded around, trying to find the answers to construct the code to break the last lock.
The tension in the room finally broke as the winning combination opened the lock and stopped the timer as it was presented to the teacher. It wasn’t quite the tension of the Scorpion TV show, but close enough for these eighth graders.
Inside the breakout box, the students found peat pots and a packet of seeds.
Johnson gave them directions to plant the seeds, add water and cover with plastic wrap to ensure they would have something sprouting in two weeks.
Solving global warming “starts with you,” she told the students. “Go forth and build a better planet.”
Story by: Connie Woodard