Ask 10 students how they learn best and you can pretty much guarantee that 9 out of 10 will say they learn best when they're engaged and active.
After a long 18 months of remote learning, with no shared learning supplies and always physical distanced, it was no surprise that students in 7A's Navigating the Digital World were eager to be away from their desks, moving around, and working in a hands-on manner again as they got to "breakout" in a modified escape room activity. Rather than breaking out of a locked room, students had to break IN to a box locked with multiple locks, whose combinations were discoverable by solving a series of puzzles.
The theme of the Breakout was "It's a Code, Code World", and each of the puzzles was related to coding and programming as a way of re-introducing students to the basic principles to kick off a series of classes in Robotics. In two teams, students were forced to find ways to work together, collaborate, and communicate in order to solve the puzzles.
It was fascinating to watch how different groups of students approached problem-solving. Would they give up and leave the puzzle for someone else to solve? Would they get the whole group to agree to ask Ms. Weening for a hint? Would they persevere and figure it out on their own? After both groups broke out, we debriefed as a class using a series of reflection cards intended to get students thinking about what went well and what went poorly. Students "shouted out" classmates who were particularly innovative in solving a puzzle, or expressed frustration with how things went. We talked at length about how solving these types of puzzles was very different from a traditional school assignment or test, where the stakes seem higher if you make a mistake. Get a lock combination wrong? There's no penalty for wrong answers in an escape room! Working together as a team was excellent preparation for our upcoming lessons.
This year in Navigating the Digital World, each Grade 7 class will have the opportunity to explore the VEX robotics program for a series of four classes, which will allow them to work in teams to build and program robots to compete with each other. This is the same robotics program that Mr. Jugoon and Ms. Weening run as an extracurricular activity for Middle School students, and it is our hope that by giving all Grade 7 students a chance to experience robotics in a fun and low-risk environment, we will continue to grow the program and encourage all students to get involved with it.