And why not? Most of the students are already thinking they wish they could leave.
When this semester started, I decided to play a game with my new students. It was a Friday. They had just finished finals. I was positive they didn’t want to listen to ramble about the syllabus and the 8-10 page paper they were going to have to write.
So, after I checked attendance, I opened up a file that popped up on the smart board and looked like a Power Point slide that said, “English III: Introduction.” I didn’t quite hear the groans, but I think they may have been there. Not for long though, because about 5 seconds later, a burst of static crossed the screen and a picture of a teenage boy lit only by the laptop screen in his lap was visible. Static and the English III slide returned.
The students were curious now. They all looked at me as I hurried towards my desk mumbling something about “what is going on here?” More static and some more flashes ensued until finally the image settled on the teen boy who directed his comments to my students.
The boy (my son who is 19 today) introduced himself as 3d62r 2ll3n p0wn (Edgar Allen P0wn), a brilliant hacker who thought that he, as one of my former students, would offer the students some help with their upcoming journey through American literature. Most of them had caught on by now and were smiling. 3d62r went on to say that the students had to earn his help by working together in groups (I keep my kids in 5 groups of 3-6) and together. He then directed them to pull out a wooden chest from under my desk that was chained and padlocked. 3d62r said they had about 30 minutes and the first clue was under their desks.
Chaos. It was glorious! Kids stared looking around under their chairs and desks till they found the one envelope that was taped to one desk per group. Each envelope contained a short (pretty horrible) couplet that directed to the student to look somewhere else in the room.
I did have to shoo them out of their chairs to get them started, but after that, it was on. That first clue led them to a QR code. The QR code brought them to one of five blog posts I designed for this event.
The blog post contained a jumbled sentence and some numbers. Oh, on the board I had a quote from Julius Cesar and a mysterious h = e. A little prompting got them to realize the jumbled sentence was actually encoded with a Cesar cipher. Decoding it led them to a book. Inside the book was another horrible poem that led them to one of five small padlocked boxes.
Then they had to decode the combination to the padlock by using the numbers on the blog post as a book cipher. The numbers led the students to a page, then a word on that page. By using the first letter of each word, they were able to open the padlock.
Inside the boxes, was a note from 3d62r congratulating them, but asking them if they had found the last, hidden clue. I had placed UV flashlights on each group of desks during the chaos and when they finally thought to use them, a single letter or number was visible on the note from 3d62r.
By determining the proper arrangement of these final clues, the students were able to open the final padlock on the wooden chest. Inside the chest I had brown paper lunch bags that each contained a pencil, some candy, a bathroom pass, and a free homework pass.
Hopefully, the kids learned something about each other during this fun exercise. They all seemed to enjoy it. In fact, a week or so later I got the ultimate teacher compliment. A student said, “You know, Mrs. B., you don’t teach like everyone else. I don’t even want to skip this class.”
I’m working on another escape room now.