On July 31st, Mr. Andrew Walsh, author, librarian and director of the company Innovative Libraries, came to Canterbury to give a workshop on designing escape rooms for teaching purposes to a packed room of (mostly) librarians. The afternoon began, appropriately with puzzle games to give everyone an idea of what an escape room is like. For those who are unaware, escape rooms usually involve at least one room that has a theme or a story around it and puzzles that people need to solve so that they can “escape” the room.
After playing for a bit, it was easy to see why these types of games are so engaging, as it was difficult to stop when the time was up. Andrew invited the participants to think about some of the possible benefits of play in education. Some of the highlights being:
- It’s fun so you don’t know you are learning.
- It’s a social game therefore inherently team building.
- There are no stakes, you are allowed to make mistakes.
- It promotes creative thinking.
- And in a library, escape rooms provide a zone where there is permission to play, something that is usually quite different from a normal library space.
Our next task was to think about what we would want people to learn from the escape room. For this, Andrew provided everyone with an informational booklet that describes different types of puzzles and how they might link to one or more learning objectives. All of the puzzles he lists can be created by anyone, no technical skill is involved.
Finally, the room was divided into groups so that we could work on designing an escape room for a theoretical lesson such as learning to use the library catalogue. We needed to consider the constraints such as space and materials as well as the number of puzzles involved. There wasn’t enough time to devise a theme, but it is easy to see how that might be the best part. Your library could have a murder mystery escape room or one based on a literary theme. Our school library is looking forward to making an escape room for teaching researching and referencing for pupil extended projects. However, escape rooms can be equally good for teaching in public and academic libraries.
For further information about Educational Escape Rooms or to book Andrew Walsh for a workshop, visit his website at: http://innovativelibraries.org.uk/