Teamwork teaches communication, critical thinking and creativity
Beth Buehler’s classroom had been ransacked; chairs were overturned and papers were scattered everywhere.
“There’s been a robbery,” Mrs. Buehler announced to her third and fourth-grade students at East Washington Academy as they entered the classroom from recess. “A robbery?” shrieked a girl; “Did they take anything?” asked a boy. “Someone has broken into our tombs and has stolen something from us. You are all now detectives and must work together to solve this mystery,” responded Mrs. Buehler.
A Robert P. Bell Education Grant for $156 provided Mrs. Buehler and her students the opportunity to travel to Luxor, Egypt where they solved a variety of puzzles that reinforced their learning about Egypt. Breakout EDU is a classroom phenomenon that has gained tremendous popularity since its development almost two years ago. It encourages collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity among student users. There are hundreds of resources for educators to utilize Breakout EDU, and tools for how to make it their own, which is what Mrs. Buehler did.
“I am teaching both third and fourth graders in the same class. They are an educationally diverse student population who come to our school from all corners of the city,” she wrote in her application. “While I have seen each of their strengths, I want them to learn that each student has something to offer to the group to bring cohesiveness to the classroom.”
The support from the Bell Grant program allowed Mrs. Buehler to create two breakout boxes for her classroom, each with four locks and one flashlight. The boxes are metal boxes purchased from a local hardware store and the locks included combination locks, padlocks, and luggage locks.
Divided into two teams, the students worked together to solve math problems, complete a word search, decode hieroglyphics, and uncover hidden clues that provided the codes to open the locks. Each of the problems and hidden clues were designed exclusively by Mrs. Buehler. “I decided to create my own activities to decode the locks to make sure that the skills needed covered a variety of problem-solving techniques and matched our curriculum.”
Solving the mystery about the robbery didn’t stop at unlocking the boxes; inside the boxes were pictures of the thieves that the students had to figure out, find in the school, and bring them back to the classroom. Each group solved their mystery before the 45-minute time limit expired.
“Students had to work together because the clues were not simple. They needed different perspectives on each problem to be able to solve it,” said Mrs. Buehler as she reflected on the project. “The hardest thing about this project was letting other people help because I like to work by myself,” reflected one student. “The time limit was stressful,” reflected another.
Mrs. Buehler looks forward to using the materials for other projects and activities and shared that she plans on creating different lock codes for each group. “The Bell Grant has allowed me to create a unique experience for my students that I would otherwise be unable to find.”