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Real Brain-stretchers: Non-Google-able Riddles

Game Teaches Teamwork, Problem-solving and Math

Second-graders were stumped.

Class time had turned into an out-of-your-seats scavenger hunt that combined math, reading, art and some thoughtful sleuthing. But in figuring out the passcode to a lockbox where stickers waited inside, students had reached a point of frustration.

“But there is no key!” one said. “We’ve tried everything. There’s just no way to get it open,” another added in despair.

Mason Caine puts his headband together with the stickers he’s gotten from the lockboxes
Mason Caine puts his headband together with the stickers he’s gotten from the lockboxes

“You’re getting frustrated. I can see that,” said teacher Kara Jones. “So let’s take a step back so we don’t get super-frustrated.”

Lo and behold, after more examination and just a little guidance from Jones, students Lacey Smith, Ashley Morales-Vega and Keonah Wilson realized a pattern in the clues in front of them. It was unveiled by using subtraction and matching colors. “I figured it out!” Lacey yelled, jumping up and down. It was time to open the box and get the stickers.

In playing Breakout EDU, teacher Kara Jones’ students scrambled to crack codes at six stations using their math, teamwork and problem-solving skills. The game involved pre-created learning adventures and kits, challenging students to solve riddle after riddle as they worked toward a prize or treat. Godfrey Early Childhood Center students who successfully finished the puzzles to open all six boxes earned stickers that spelled the words “We make hard things look easy,” across Thanksgiving-themed headbands.

“It is so hard not to give them a clue to help,” said Jones, laughing. Instead, her students must rely on one another. “They use critical thinking skills; I think that’s the important part. They have to decipher the code and try to figure out things… Sometimes it’s right in front of them and they don’t see it.”

Mia Porter works to get the lock open
Mia Porter works to get the lock open

Fun for All Ages

The elementary students were doing a fairly simple version of the game, but Sarah Wood, Godfrey-Lee technology and media integration specialist, and Kelly McGee, district media specialist, have since introduced it to elementary through high school classrooms.

They learned about Breakout EDU during professional development at Kent ISD. Similar to The Great Escape Room (a popular team-building activity in the corporate world in which players are locked in a room and have to use elements of the room to solve a series of puzzles to escape), Breakout EDU challenges students to think outside the box to open the box.

The point is for participants to solve “non-Google-able” riddles. “You have to use and apply your brain,” Wood said.

While Jones’ students participated in a “no-tech” version of Breakout EDU, the game often involves technology like QR codes that lead to online puzzles. Teachers can use different themes in any content area.

“The content is the focus, but there’s so much else that goes into Breakout (such as) being able to work with a team and persevere,” Wood said, and students unexpectedly often step out as leaders and apply skills that they learn in class.

Not to mention it’s a fun way of reinforcing what they’re already learning. “They don’t realize they are doing the math. They just want to get into that box.”


Breakout EDU

Group work is key to solving Breakout EDU challenges

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.


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