January 30, 2024

The Great Library Escape

In January, 2nd-grade students embarked on a journey of imagination and collaboration as they delved into the exciting realm of escape rooms. Each class seized the opportunity to transform the library into its own unique escape room, approaching the challenge with remarkable dedication. United by a shared theme, and with the support of librarian Kat Svetlik, these students planned every intricate detail, eventually turning their vision into reality. 

The library was alive with the buzz of ideas and teamwork as Jessie’s 2nd Grade class brainstormed themes for their upcoming escape room. The collective creativity of the children filled the room, sparking a flurry of suggestions that ranged from “gremlins” and “trains” to “atomic bombs” and “haunted houses.” Kat notes that “they are coming up with everything on their own” and explains how they ultimately agree on one. “Everyone receives individual sticky notes and sits down to talk about their ideas in small groups. One child from each group presents to the class.” She adds that the entire class then votes on one theme.

In Nicole’s class, the theme was Ancient Egypt and the goal was to uncover a hidden “key” tucked away inside one of the 15,000 books in the library. The children incorporated call numbers and book titles as clues to crack in their quest to unveil the elusive key. Kat shares that the students cleverly created “mummy clues” that had to be felt and not seen, including a paper bag with pom poms glued in the shape of a three, a jigsaw puzzle, and sticks that formed a number. The clues guided escape room go-ers to a maze that concluded with an impressive, student-crafted sarcophagus, featuring a real mummy for added excitement. “I think they were most excited to have their teachers as the escapees,” Kat adds, emphasizing the students’ great enthusiasm throughout the planning process. 

Jessie’s class settled on the theme “help your students escape from space,” which integrated many of the suggestions announced during their brainstorming session as clues. The second graders built a fort with boxes and a book cart, and all but one were stuck in “space.” Eva ‘34 joined Kat to welcome the participants and encourage them to hurry and help get their students out of the space station and back to Earth. To do so, the teachers had to begin their hunt for the numbers that would eventually lead to the key. Some of the clues included popping a balloon with a note inside, deciphering a challenging riddle, following a map, and solving a word jumble. Once the students had been successfully freed and brought back to earth, they spent some time with their teachers, reflecting on the process. The teachers also offered positive feedback, highlighting the aspects they found particularly interesting from each clue.  

Kat underscores the important skills necessary to create an escape room from scratch. “I know that many kids have participated in and enjoyed escape rooms, but making an escape room uses different skills than solving one. It requires teamwork, especially when clues need to come together to solve a problem.” Following their escape room triumph, both classes marked their success with a small party and a chance to explore books in the library. “The kids wanted the escape room to be hard enough for the teachers but also solvable. The clues needed to be tested and set up. They did an amazing job and they are still talking about it today. We are hoping we will have another opportunity!”