By ERIN ROLL
A group of students at Buzz Aldrin are learning to think outside the box.
Actually, they are learning how to break into the box.
Shivan Persad and Jacqueline Brower, teachers at Buzz Aldrin Middle School, recently introduced their classes to a lock box game created by the company Breakout EDU.
The game consists of a black plastic box and a series of combination locks. With the game, students try to unlock each of the locks by solving a set of customized clues. The games can be geared around any subject area, including English, social studies, science and math.
“They liked it. They definitely liked it,” Persad said of the students’ first response to the games. “They like to solve problems and figure out clues.”
The games got a public display at the Jan. 22 Board of Education meeting, when a group of Buzz Aldrin students challenged the board to a contest to see who could open the boxes first. (The students won.) The theme was “How Well Do You Know Montclair,” and each of the clues involved something about the schools or the town. Example: Who is the middle school named for? (Answer: “Buzz A.”)
“The more and more you play, the more mindful you become of looking for clues when you start,” Brower said.
Some students have tried picking the locks. “They’ll put it to their ear and say, I can hear it,” Brower said.
Breakout offers several different varieties of the game, as well as templates for classrooms to make their own games. The combination locks are adjustable, so the game designer can decide what combination to use.
There are also holiday-themed games, Brower said, and she just created an Olympics-themed game for her students.
Persad said that he followed other teachers and education professionals on Twitter and that he had seen a lot of discussion about the Breakout games. “Finally, I just bought a kit on my own,” Persad said.
Brower came to Persad’s classroom to see a demonstration of the game, and she decided to try it with her students.
Persad and Brower said that the games seemed to be more enjoyable for the students when they were working in small groups.
Sometimes, Brower said, in groups students will each work on solving one particular clue. “I’ll take this clue and you’ll take that one and we’ll meet in the middle.”
Since Breakout offers digital versions of the game online, it’s possible to use both versions. “Sometimes you can really get creative and interweave them together,” Brower said.
The kits cost about $150 apiece.
Some other teachers at Buzz Aldrin applied for grants from the Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence.
Other teachers have come by to ask questions about the game, and Persad said he had just lent one of the kits to a teacher at Edgemont to try with her students.
The next step, he said, was to give students a chance to try to design their own version of the game.