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Breakout EDU

10 Reasons to Play BreakOutEdu
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By Maria Galanis, Shepard iCoach

Back in March of 2015 at the Future Ready Schools Summit at Leyden High School, I attended one of the featured speaker sessions led by James Sanders. It was a great session with lots of takeaways about meaningful digital learning. My biggest takeaway though, was one of the last things he mentioned in the session.

I looked back at my notes and this is the last thing I typed… “Breakout room idea”.

James shared with us this breakout room idea and gave us a little background about how this all came about. He went on to explain to us that there are these escape rooms around the world where you pay to get “locked in” a room with friends and try to escape by solving puzzles and unlocking codes. He was in Edmonton, Canada, with some high school students playing one of these escape games and he was amazed at how hard these students were working during this game. James wanted to turn this incredible learning experience of problem solving and fun and into something that can be used in the classroom. I left there super excited about this.

“You had me at Breakout!”

Soon after the summit, Breakout EDU launched!

General info about Breakout EDU:

  • How does it work? These are challenge escape games. Players have a set amount of time to solve clues in order to open locks and “breakout” of a room. Watch this quick video from the Breakout EDU site to learn more: How BreakoutEDU Works
  • Why play? Breakout EDU offers players a fun and exciting way to strengthen skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, logic, creativity, communication, collaboration… so many skills necessary to for us to have. Playing a challenging Breakout EDU game is such a fun and exciting way to strengthen skills without even realizing learning is happening.
  • Who can play? Breakout EDU games can be played by adults for team-building and collaboration or in class with students. Playing with adults is not only so much fun, but also a great way to have them experience it first hand so if they want to have students play, they understand exactly what it entails. And, giving students this fun learning experience which can be so different from what they’re used to, sparks a new energy and excitement for them.
  • What ages can play? There are games for students as young as kindergarten to play!
  • What subjects can you use these games in? Although many of the games available on Breakout EDU are linked to a specific content area, they can be played by any subject. The beauty of these challenge games are the higher-order thinking skills involved and because of this they can be integrated in many ways.

Over the summer, I purchased a Breakout EDU kit. School started up again and it was time to decide when to give this a try. Each month in my district, the iCoaches get together to collaborate. I thought our first meeting together would be a perfect opportunity to play Breakout EDU. Once we set the date, my fellow iCoach, Nikki Tye and I, started planning away.

The day came to play Breakout EDU with the iCoaches! Nikki and I, as the facilitators, introduced the game to the group and explained the objective which was to solve the clues in order to unlock the Breakout EDU box so they could escape. We started the game timer and let them go. It was fascinating to see how things rolled out. Their energy and dedication to succeed were exciting to witness. What a fantastic way to use logic and higher-order thinking and such a great way to work as a team.

With 24 seconds left on the clock, they opened the final lock. They escaped!

After having the iCoaches play, our mission was to get Breakout EDU into a classroom with students. We reached out to a teacher and immediately after hearing about it, he was sold and couldn’t wait to try Breakout EDU with his students!

Our first group of students to try this were a group of 7th grade social studies students in Tom Samorian’s class. We split one class into two smaller groups and each group played Time Warp. As facilitators, we didn’t give any clues away, but we did monitor the student’s’ progress in order to help guide them. The students in each group escaped!

The feedback we’ve heard from students has been so positive…


  • “It makes you think”
  • “I like not being told what I’m going to learn and
    having to figure it out by myself”
  • “Love the mystery of this”
  • “Makes us figure things out like how we’ll have to in college”
  • “Can’t wait to do this again”
  • “It was so much fun doing something different like this”
  • “Loved having to think out-of-the-box”

Students were so intrigued after solving one clue that they couldn’t wait to try solving the next. We debriefed with the teacher as well about how everything went. One exciting take-away was that he wants to design his own game to use in his future lessons. At some point our hope is to give students an option to design their own game to put the learning in their own hands. The wonderful thing about this is that when we give students chances like this, what they show us in return can be pretty amazing.

Soon after introducing Breakout EDU to the coaches and a few classrooms, I went on maternity leave. Things have taken off since then exponentially and I’ve been living vicariously to see what’s happening with the Breakout EDU magic though Nikki Tye, Andrea Trudeau, and Faye Hansen who have been doing a tremendous job working with teachers to implement this in their classrooms. Breakout EDU has spread through classrooms at Shepard, but also to other schools throughout the district, both middle and elementary. Not only are teachers using the games available on the Breakout EDU site, they are also creating their own games to match their curriculum and the content they are covering in class. Teachers like David Komie, Todd Hyde, Shenach Cameron, Dayna DiVenere, Alex Rummelhart, Sara Ball, Sarah Kosmach, Kim Broton, Lisa Odden are just a few who have created their own games! There is an entire 8th grade student body game being created by both teachers and students with a purpose of welcoming the incoming 8th graders. And best of all, we have had students who have been inspired by Breakout EDU so much they are creating games to use in their classrooms.

I was fortunate to collaborate with an amazing educator, Sylvia Duckworth, who creates beautiful sketchnote drawings on all sorts of educational topics. Here is a sketchnote we came up with for Breakout EDU called “10 Reasons to Play Breakout EDU”.

BreakOut Image

Students are truly loving this different learning experience. It’s so fun to hear that when they see the Breakout EDU box in sight, they become thrilled that it might be coming to their classroom! Hearing and seeing the student and adult reactions reinforces that playing Breakout EDU escape games could bring so much to learning. How great it is to be given an opportunity to apply past knowledge and make connections in order to solve new problems. Using problem-solving, critical thinking, logic, creativity, communication, collaboration…these are the skills we strive to have in our lives!



All stories by: jfilippi