I did an Escape Room class. Well, okay, no matter how much they wanted to they could never escape class, so instead I built Puzzle Boxes they had to get into.
|The thermos is just for my tea. Only I could earn the caffeinated treasure inside that.|
It turns out that an actual Escape Room is easier to plan than this kind of thing. For one thing, you can just set things out all over the room, which makes it a bit easier to manage the puzzles. I have been hunting for ever smaller and smaller boxes and locks for a month now to prep for this. I am reminded of this scene in that ridiculous genius, Flann O'Brien's, crazy novel, The Third Policeman:
And making the boxes fit a narrative is harder than if I can lay down bear rugs and have a saloon with a player piano:
Each box I use has a theme, like what's inside the carry-on or the pink backpack or the boat emergency box. Sometimes it is easier to carry off the idea as things get smaller, and sometimes not.
|I know this is revealing secrets to the puzzle, but if you've ever done an Escape Room, you've used the black-light trick.|
Hearing them get excited to open a box and then groan when they see two locked bags inside was pretty great. The first group to hold up the doubloon was really stoked. I think amping up the between-group speed competition in the future will be a good thing. That will be interesting, since I also want to build puzzles where they have to trade keys to finish, either as a surprise they have to figure out without prompting, or as a negotiation bit to add more communication learning outcomes, or as an artificial way to even the timing of completion out so one group doesn't get too far ahead.
They had two brands of locks which shared a key size. In other words, the key went in but didn't turn. That was as it should be for the puzzle, but they were convinced I had messed up the puzzle, even through the key had a different brand etched on it than the lock's brand.
They were LOOKING RIGHT AT IT, BUT THEY COULD NOT SEE IT. Their groupthink had literally led their culture to write over reality. In fact, they convinced Dr. Bollinger and myself, for a second, that there had been some mistake. We had been primed for this, as we were a bit uncertain whether or not we'd made a locking error, but they still convinced us, PEOPLE NOT IN THEIR GROUP, that their groupthink version of reality was true. #FakeNews. That was a really important takeaway. Each group had their own moments of this, just a bit less intense.
I think then I can make really hard boxes they can't finish in time. They leave class and need to do some homework to be able to finish? Because they are in boxes we can have them put it all away and then have another crack at it next session? This was part of my thinking in making Puzzle Boxes instead of Escape Rooms. I am a college professor and do not have the luxury of my "own" classroom.