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Students Break Out of the Box with Interactive Library Challenge
Students Break Out of the Box with Interactive Library Challenge

Some librarians make you whisper. This month in Winston Library, the librarians encouraged fifth grade students to get excited, be active, talk amongst themselves... and maybe even (shhh!) shout.

Inspired by the popularity of "escape room" activities — in which participants are locked in a room and must work together to find clues, solve problems and avoid pitfalls while racing against the clock to break out — Lower School librarians Emily Harkey and Jessica Ortolano led students in an active learning experience that linked a clever breakout challenge with the popular Global Read Aloud program.

"Global Read Aloud was established in 2010 with the goal of connecting students across the world with one book," Harkey explained. "This year's selection was 'The Wild Robot' by Peter Brown, which is also a North Carolina Children's Book Award nominee."

In the story, a robot named Roz becomes shipwrecked on an island and must learn how to survive the elements and co-exist with the animals that live there. "Many Ravenscroft students read 'The Wild Robot' as part of a book club," Harkey noted. "However, it was not necessary for students to have read the book to complete the Breakout EDU activity."

Breakout EDU's educational kits facilitate games where players use teamwork and critical thinking to solve a series of challenging puzzles in order to open a locked box. Harkey and Ortolano introduced their challenge to students this way:

Oh no! You were so absorbed in the book you were reading, THE WILD ROBOT, that your boat crashed on the shore and you have become stranded on this deserted island, just like the Robot in the book! Your boat is smashed and is mixed with all the other debris that the tide washed ashore.

Luckily, everything you need to be rescued is locked in the Breakout EDU box, which of course did not get smashed! The problem is, all the clues you need to open the box are mixed in with the debris.

You have 45 minutes to open the box before the tide returns to take all of the clues back out to sea. Use your best thinking skills, work together and pay attention to everything around you!

Because students love games, they quickly became engaged in the activity and worked together to complete the challenge.

"Students apply their content knowledge to solve problems as a team. In addition to content knowledge, breakout activities require students to collaborate, think critically, communicate with team members and approach each challenge with creativity and a growth mindset," Harkey said. "Breakout EDU provides opportunities for students to fail, learn from mistakes, and emerge as leaders in a small group setting."

In addition to being fun, Harkey added, this type of learning experience "complements Ravenscroft's Lead From Here framework, allowing students to lead self as well as lead with others. Students demonstrated perseverance and resilience throughout this activity while working as a collaborative team. At the conclusion of the final session students reflected individually and debriefed as a group with guidance from Jessica and me."

Learn more about Breakout EDU in this article by the School Library Journal.