Learning through Play with Breakout EDU

There are plenty of educational games for students that help them either explore new topics through inquiry, solidify learning, or make new connections through extension.

Most educational games cater towards younger students. This means that in higher levels, we often have to resort to lecture-style lessons. Lectures are not inherently bad; they simulate what students will experience in university or college. But high school students are still kids, and I think there’s more room for fun in the high school classroom.

I desperately wanted to revamp my lessons to make them more fun for my higher level students. Gamification is a hot topic these days, but gamifying a curriculum requires significant time investment. There also aren’t a lot of good examples for higher level classes, in particular higher level science. I did discover two Australian teachers who have done a fantastic job gamifying their high school science classes. Still, it would be very time-consuming to develop a gamified curriculum all by myself.

That’s when a colleague told me to look into Breakout EDU. I’m a big fan of escape rooms, so I was instantly hooked.

What is Breakout EDU?

The Breakout EDU kit comes with 19 objects that allow you to fully deploy a code-breaking game. The kit includes a platform access code that grants access to premade game modules online. You can also set up a free account to view all user-generated material. I was impressed by the wide range of activities available to download.

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The kit comes with a deck of reflection cards, each describing a different reflection task. This lets you different tasks to each student and helps ensure their reflections are personal.

You can, of course, supplement the kit with more locks or objects if you want activities to last longer.

The kit is quite expensive, but you could easily build a DIY version with the following components:

  • Digit locks

  • Directional lock

  • Key lock

  • Word lock

  • Box or bag that you can lock

  • UV pen

  • UV flashlight

How has it impacted my teaching?

I recently hosted my first game with my Year 10s. They had to solve a series of puzzles related to atomic structure. I made sure that all the students understood how the locks worked before starting the game. The game was a huge success. Every student participated, and after finishing the game they immediately asked if they could play another.

Bolstered by that success, I decided to run a game on moles and molar mass with my Year 11 Diploma Programme students. The response was equally enthusiastic. Students who couldn’t solve it in the 40-minute time limit had another shot in the next lesson. I was very pleased to see how much fun my higher level students had and how effective the games were.

Next steps

In both of the examples above, I used official game modules from Breakout EDU. Now that I understand how to run and construct games, I’m going to create my own for my IB Middle Year Programme students. I’m also going to expand the kits with more locks so students can solve more than 4 problems at a time.