Breaking Out of the Learning Commons – Orientation 2018


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Escape rooms seem to be popping up all over the place these days. These physical adventure games, in which players solve a series of puzzles and riddles using clues, hints, and strategy within a set time limit, became the inspiration for this year’s Learning Commons Orientation.


Using a toolbox, a hasp, a collection of resettable locks (i.e. directional lock, keyed lock, three-digit lock and five-letter wordlock), a four-digit lockbox, a hidden Battleship-style code, a quirky maze and a UV pen, students of all ages were thrown into quite the immersive scavenger hunt. It was thrilling to see their teachers taking interest, too!

As they attempted to solve each clue, participants reviewed key library skills such as how to search according to a specific title, collection and/or author. They were also reminded of where fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels and picture books are housed in the Mazo collection.

Perhaps the most important lessons came with the realization that critical thinking and communication skills are paramount, and seem to thrive when students collaborate, and work as a team. Although students began their quest in small groups, this quickly morphed into combined teams and eventually ended with a whole-class sprint to the finish. I never seen puzzles put together with so much gusto!

Not surprisingly, the most successful classes were fortunate to rely on a little creativity, too.


In the end, most junior and intermediate classes were successful in their breakout quest… had the timeline been 30-35 minutes; however, only three teams managed to crack the last lock within the 25 minutes allotted. Congratulations to Mme Crouchman’s 7/8s who successfully broke out with just under 7 minutes to spare. Mme Uddenberg-Hay’s Grade 8s and Mme McGhee’s 5/6s were also successful, albeit down to the wire with less than 2 minutes left!

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