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Running away from a meteor in class

Running away from a meteor in class
Running away from a meteor in class

More and more teachers are applying the principles of what are known as’ Scape Rooms’ in the classroom to motivate their students’ learning. Last year, around this same time, the 5th grade students of the San Roque de Ledaña school, in Cuenca, received very bad news. His professor, Juan Luis Galiano, projected a video in which some experts from NASA itself warned them that a meteorite was about to fall right at their study center. But that was not all. They were also the soldiers in charge of finding the code that would allow the doors of the school to be opened so that everyone could escape. To do this, they would have to guess a series of riddles that would test much of what they have learned in recent months about planet Earth itself. So, with almost no time to assimilate such misfortune, they got to work. There was no time to lose. Running away from a meteor in class.

From the emotion, some during those days did not sleep, ”Galiano recalls laughing by phone when he thinks of that December when the news about the coronavirus barely reached Spain as a distant rumor from China. Like more and more teachers in the country, Galiano then decided to apply the principles that govern what are known as Scape Rooms in the classroom. Arisen in Japan about a decade ago, these experiences consist of using the pretext of a more or less elaborate story to lock clients in rooms from which they must escape in a limited time solving puzzles.

While the adrenaline explosion produced by these spaces is gaining more and more followers and even served to kill the tedium during the quarantine, many teachers are already wondering if they are not also an ideal vehicle to promote the learning of their students. At the end of the day, if the fundamental thing is to have a closed and controlled space, few places are more suitable than the classroom. The rest, Galiano explains, is to use imagination: “I had never participated in a Scape Room, but the story of the meteorite occurred to me, I recorded it with a distorted voice and uploaded it to YouTube.” The involvement of the students, recalls Galiano, was maximum, and even today the majority of those who participated remember the answers to some of the tests that they passed with greater clarity than if they had studied them for whole days.

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Lola Herrero, a tutor at the San Gabriel school, in the town of Zuera, almost 30 kilometers from Zaragoza, also applied a good dose of imagination to convince her students that they were no longer a 4th year Primary class, but an agency of detectives tasked with investigating what happened to Van Gogh’s The Bedroom in Arles after it was stolen by thieves and forced to leave it at their school to flee.

Assisted by their tablets, the students quickly began to work in groups to solve a mystery that Herrero herself presented to them in the form of a newspaper story written by her. “I am 58 years old, so I am not exactly a digital native, but I like the books that Scape Rooms offers, and I was encouraged to try. I tried it because I think that learning only makes sense if it adapts to the way of learning of each one and its applied in something. It is very worthwhile, I am sure that neither the title of the painting nor the author will ever forget them ”, she says.

An experience for all ages

For these types of sessions to go well, teachers acknowledge, it is necessary to prepare them for a long time, leave few details to chance and be prepared for all kinds of contingencies. These are experiences, in return, that can be carried out from the lowest grades to the highest.

Marcos Romero, a Latin and Greek teacher at the Salesian San Miguel Arcángel school in Madrid, knows this. He put his 1st year high school students to solve some riddles that had a particularity: they were written in Latin. “I think they translated more that day than in all the previous weeks together,” he says. With the only help of a dictionary, his students saw them and wished them to answer questions as seemingly simple as the name of Jesus Gil’s horse. “That mix of contemporary questions posed in an ancient language puzzled them greatly. They expected riddles about Julius Caesar or things like that. It was a lot of fun ”, details the teacher, who already warns that, although in fact one hour of Scape Room meant at least three or four hours of preparation, he will repeat the experience.

But if there is anyone, however, who knows first-hand how addictive preparing Scape Room can be, it is Iñaki Fernández, professor of Biology at the Colegio Real Monasterio de Santa Isabel, in Barcelona. In his case, what began as a brief experiment four years ago with his students to explore certain possibilities, has in recent years become an international project. Through Genially, online software that allows creating animated and interactive presentations, and QR codes, he first managed to involve half a dozen teachers from other centers in his digital Scape Rooms. By 2018, schools throughout Italy, France and much of South America had already signed up for their Scape Room challenges: in total, 10,000 students aged 12 or 13 who participated almost simultaneously in an experience that forced them to put in practice a good part of what has been learned in recent months in various subjects.

For this year, for the month of April approximately they expect to exceed 30,000 students. “These types of experiences are always engaging. You have to do them well, because playing to play is useless. But there are many studies that show that the cognitive effort that is made in these experiences helps to learn and use the tools that are had in a critical way. In addition, they are ideal for reviewing. That’s why we do it before Easter, in that rare week before the holidays ”, explains Fernández, who already has a whole team of teachers who are helping him organize everything. His only goal is for his students to have fun and learn, two concepts fought in school for many years that each day seem more complementary.