A TRUE Escape Room – kids locked inside a converted green room, the only way out by solving challenges directly related to the curriculum for that term…
Kelda has created her room in such a way that it can easily be adapted for each primary year level at her school. Listen to find out exactly how she did it, and how you can too! It’s a lot easier than you might think…
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Emily: Hello, my lovely people. Welcome to Staffroom Stories I’m your host, Emily Aslin, and I’m here to bring you the topics that Australian teachers are talking about behind their closed staffroom doors. Join me each episode, usually with an incredible guest to explore the things we’re talking about as well as the things that we ought to know, enjoy!
Welcome to the Staffroom. We have a bit of a fun one today. I’m joined by teacher Kelda Wray from Queensland. I came across Kelda through a Facebook post in a Queensland teachers group where she shared about an escape room that she had created for her students.
Now, this escape room is curriculum linked and she has done it in such a way that she can actually roll it out across the entire school. That has come from necessity. She originally planned to do it with just her class, but it became so popular that she actually had to adapt it to be applicable for the whole school.
And she’s still working through the school into term three. So. I knew I had to get her onto the show so we could all share in her wisdom of how she’s made this room and hopefully we can adapt it ourselves.
Seems like the process is a lot easier than you might first think. Enjoy.
Welcome Kelda. How are you today?
Kelda: Yeah. Good. Thank you. Very good. School holidays.
Emily: I know finally. Oh, I was about to say, get to sleep in a bit, but not when we’ve got kids. No doesn’t happen. Does it?
I think yesterday mine were up at about four and went, oh, that’s early.
Kelda: Oh, we went to a Guy Sebastian concert in Cairns the other, oh, wow. Not last night, the night before. So we didn’t get home till about one o’clock. So they did sleep in a bit this morning, which was good. Yeah. yeah. A bit of catch up. Yeah.
Emily: All right. Would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey into teaching?
Kelda: Yeah. So, um, so my history is I was in optics for 20 years, so working with eyes, and then I had the kids and then I started doing a family daycare from home, cuz I didn’t wanna go back to work, but I didn’t wanna leave the kids.
So I did that. And then I started doing children’s parties. So I’d have lots of different themes. Like I’d dress up as Elsa and pirates and all sorts of things. And then the more I did that, I was like, oh, I love working with kids. So I decided to do my degree, which took me six, six years working full time and had the kids.
And studying, I only registered on 9th of March this year, so it’s been wow. Pretty quick. Yeah.
Kelda: Thank you. It’s very exciting. But yeah, so it was a long journey and a complete switch of career change. But I feel lucky to have had two different careers in my life.
So that’s pretty cool.
Emily: Yeah, for sure. It gives you certainly a lot to talk about with the kids, doesn’t it?
Kelda: Oh, exactly. Yeah. And I’ve already recommended a few for eye tests, so that’s pretty,
Emily: little bonus there. So you are working primary school now?
Kelda: Yes. Yep. Primary school. Yeah. I’ve got a three, four class. I love it. Love it.
Emily: And so you had this idea to run an escape room. What made you come up with that idea?
Kelda: So basically I was just thinking of ways to kind of keep the kids busy and engaged cuz they’re, they’re such a hands on cohort.
So I was thinking of things to do, and I’d done a few escape rooms myself, like the adult ones that are around and I was like, oh, this would be so cool. How could I get it into the classroom. And I, I remember I couldn’t sleep for weeks cuz I was just thinking, oh, how can I do this? How am I gonna get it in the classroom?
Like um, cause I I’d looked online and I’d seen a few people had done similar things, but it was just in the classroom and it was just different challenges going around the classroom.
So I wanted, I just wanted like an actual room where I could lock ’em in and, you know, make it a bit more exciting. We’ve got a green room at work, like, you know, for technology and stuff, but it never really gets used. So I just emailed the principal one night it was like probably like 11 o’clock or something.
Cause I remember him saying, what are you doing up at this time? And I was just like, oh, that green room, can I turn that into an escape room? And I think he’s just so used to my. I’m just always trying to think of things and I’m always asking, can I do this? Can I do that?
He’s just like, do whatever you want to that room. It doesn’t use as much as it should. So I was like, right. So then the next day I just went and I got some caution tape and I just taped over the doors of the green room. And I was like, Miss Kelda’s escape room coming soon.
Emily: So that would’ve built some interest from the kids.
Kelda: Oh, my gosh. Yeah. They were all like, what’s that what’s going on miss? What’s going on. And even the teachers, cause none of the teachers knew either. It was just the principal that had spoken to. So they’re like, what you doing now? And I was like “You’ll see”. So, yeah, so it just kind came from my love of escape rooms and wanting to keep the kids busy.
Emily: And how long did it take you to go from this, you know, approval of the green room to actually having it set up and ready to go?
Kelda: Yeah, so in my head I got the approval and I was like, right, it’s gonna be finished by the end of this week.
But that didn’t happen because obviously back to school, it was crazy. So it took me about six weeks. So there was a lot of, anticipation from the kids, like, when’s it gonna be ready? And then, and then I put a sign on the door and I was like, guess the date that Ms Kelda’s rooms are opening and then I’ll miss Calder’s rooms opening.
And then all the kids just like put their name and a date of like when it would be opening . So that, that was pretty cool. It was like the whole door full of names full of guesses, guesses. Yeah, it was pretty funny. And then as things, as I got more used to, you know, planning for my lessons and things, then I had more time and I’d go in on the weekends and just get it done.
Um, yeah. Was own time. Yeah. Yes. Yeah. Cause you don’t have any other time as a teacher really do you so, yeah, but no, it was, and I took my own kids in there first. Um, they don’t go to that school, but they came in with me on a weekend and I got them to test, test it out before I opened it up to the school.
Yeah. So it was good and they loved it, but they they’re a bit sad now. Cause their time got beaten. But I was like, sorry.
Emily: So you have a bit of a champions board of who beats it in the quickest time.
Kelda: Yeah, but I haven’t actually released the times yet. So what I do is when they come out of the room and they escape, there’s all these screams and woo. We did it. And then I take a group photo and then I’ve just displayed all the photos on the window of the escape room. And I’ve just put we escaped and then I’ve got all the different times just dotted all around. So nobody knows which their time is. Yeah. Which is really good because they’re still so excited.
So nobody knows yet. Well I do obviously, but no, none of the kids do so, so it’s so exciting.
They’re just like, is that me? Are we the ones who, and I’m like, you’ll have to wait and see.
Emily: So when are you going to announce that like when’s the end point.
Kelda: So probably week three of this new term. I was doing a lot of the upper years and then I just, in the last week of last term, opened it to the younger ones.
So what happens is at second lunch, I hide, five keys. So I’ve printed out these gold keys and laminated them and I hide them all around the school.
And then, oh, so you should hear ’em they’re just like, there’s two keys left. There’s two keys left! And they’re all running around, like looking for the keys and there’s five kids that find those keys into the escape room the next day. Yep. So they, then that like gives them entry to the escape room that
Emily: Forms their group or do they form their own group?
Kelda: No, that’s, what’s really good about it. They go with people who they wouldn’t normally choose. Yeah. So I hide them all over the place. So they’re not with their friends. It’s just completely random children, whoever find the key goes in. Yeah. I absolutely love it cuz they all work together so well and they wouldn’t normally choose to work with that person, which is really nice.
So that’s yeah, that was my idea behind hiding the keys, which was pretty cool. So, yeah. So it’s on a lunch. Sometimes I do a morning session if I get to school early enough and I’ll just grab whoever’s there and we do another one, but it’s normally just first lunch. That I do.
Emily: Yeah. Right. And is it the same room? Like that’s been set up this whole time. All the kids are doing the same room.
Kelda: Yes. Yeah. So I wanted to make it fair. And obviously for the younger ones, I changed a few of the activities to match obviously their curriculum ability. It’s to all set up and I’ve got quite good now cuz what happens is obviously they go through all these tests and the room gets messy as they’re looking for everything. And then I’d have to tidy it all up and reset everything for the next day, which I’d do after class finished, because I wouldn’t have time after lunch, but now I’ve got quite savvy and as they’ve finished each activity, whilst I’m in there with them, I go reset that bit. Like, and then by the end of it, I’ve only got a couple left to do so it only takes maximum of like 10 minutes now.
Emily: And what’s physically in the room.
Kelda: Yeah. So I went, this is the other thing, cuz there was nothing in the green room. So I just went around and just got heaps of different furniture that was like spare in different parts of the school.
So I’ve got some table and chairs and I’ve got bookshelves and I’ve got, um, gloves. I, I even put some fake grass in there. It’s really random furniture actually just random stuff just to fill it up and some of it isn’t useful. It’s a trick. I’ve got one of the clues they have to pop a balloon. But they have to make sure they pop the right balloon and to get the answer to the balloon. It’s a maths equation. So once they’ve worked out the algorithm, then they pop that balloon and inside it’s like, look under the chair. So then like which chair? Yeah. Oh. And they’re just like going through all the chair and there’s just random chairs that obviously got nothing to do with it. I just love watching it. It’s so cool to watch ’em they just get so excited.
Emily: And that, that maths equation, is that something that you would adapt based on the year level? That’s going in that day.
Kelda: Yes. So what happened originally was I wanted to do it just for my classroom and I was going to do it as kind of a like a fun formative assessment. So I could kind of see where they are with their learning concepts.
So for example, we were doing odd and even numbers. So one of the challenges in there is they’ve got to sort these numbers that they find into odd and even piles. So the idea was that I could track the kids and see, you know, who needed more help with that or. Whatever, but it became so popular that I ended up just doing it for the whole school because yeah.
I felt everyone wanted to join in. Yeah. They were like, what, where you do it. And that was originally, I was like, maybe I’ll hire the room out to the teachers for, you know, but then I was just, so I wanted to do it myself in the end. So I was just like, oh, I’ll just do it at lunchtime. So it was funny, but you can change.
Like the good thing is I’ve got so many different, um, curriculum links in there. Cuz another thing that we were doing in class was so for, has we were exploring like directions using the compass rows and things. So I set a globe challenge, which is the hardest challenge that I’ve got in there, but the kids are really like, I’m so proud of them.
They’re just smashing it. And they’ve only got clues, like for example, down the east coast of Africa, Underneath Ethiopia. Is where I sit. So they’ve gotta like, look on the globes and find what country where’s the east. And, and then they find it. And then the first letter of each country spells out another clue, which leads them to another place in the room.
And then I’ve got science in there. I’ve got all these different magnetic materials and they’ve gotta see which one is magnetics to get their key. And yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s really cool. And you can just put anything you want, whatever you’re doing in. You can just link into one of the tasks it’s really
So you just put a task in and have the answer lead you to the next task. Yeah.
Emily: How do they escape?
Kelda: So basically the very last thing that they have to do is find some cups. So basically I’ve just got 15 cups stacked on top of each other hidden.
But what what’s funny is that they see those cups right at the very beginning. So if they remember, then they do that bit really quick and it’s really cute, cuz some of them are like, oh, where’s the cups. And someone’s like, I saw them somewhere. Where did I see them? Like looking around for these cups. And then what they have to do is they’re just gonna make a, like a pyramid with the cups.
And as soon as they put the last cup on the top, like I press stop. And then I give them like a fake key and they just unlock the door. Cause it’s just a block and then they get out. So yeah. So they only way there is two ways that they can get evicted from the room if they do it wrong. And one is the maths challenge.
So if they do that sum incorrect and pop the wrong balloon . The wrong balloons. Say you have been ejected from the escape room, but I’ve not let it get that far. I’m too nice for that. I’m like “Ohh check your answer!”.
Emily: Are you sure? That’s the right balloon?
Kelda: So yeah, I haven’t let anybody get kicked out yet.
Emily: No cause you want them to have success with it. You don’t want them leaving it cranky because they lost.
Kelda: Yeah, exactly. Right. So, yeah. So yeah, I’ll just give them a bit of a hint if it’s looking like they’re going wrong.
Emily: So obviously it’s been very popular. You’ve said you’ve had to expand it from your own class to the other classes. And now it’s sort of the whole school. Um, yes. Did the students consciously realize that they are learning and revising their learning?
Kelda: You know what I think they definitely do. So I had one student and she goes, “oh, I can do this. We learn this in class!”. They’re connecting their learning in the classroom to other situations, which is really cool.
And then like other kids are like, “oh, we’ve done this before. How do we do it again?” Like, and they, they they’re definitely linking it to what they’ve already learned, which is really nice. Cuz it just shows that they’ve got, you know, purpose for their learning and they’re putting it to real life situations.
It’s just fun. Like it’s, it’s play as well. So they probably,
Emily: They don’t mind when they realize .
Kelda: Yeah, exactly. Cuz they’ve just had such a great time and they just can’t wait to do it again. I’ve already had requests for a Halloween theme when it’s, when it’s Halloween, but in HASS this term I’m doing Convict children and the European settlement.
So I was like, Ooh, I could turn it into a, um, like a, you know, jail or something. That would be pretty cool. Cause all the kids who’ve done it. They wanna do it again. And they’re like, can I come in again? I was like, oh, I’ve gotta get through the other 200 children first.
Um, but yeah, I’ll let them do it. So, yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s really cool. I’m loving it. And even the teachers wanna have a go. So the principal said that at one of the staff meetings, this term is just gonna let them go for it and see who can get out the quickest yeah. Nice.
Emily: Maybe they can win a bottle of wine or something.
Kelda: Yeah, exactly. And I was gonna, um, I was gonna change it and make it harder but I think I’m just gonna leave it the same as the kids and see if they can actually do it. yeah.
Emily: And then they can experience exactly what the kids are experiencing too.
Kelda: Yeah, exactly. It’s very popular and I’m gonna have to keep it going cuz the kids are so excited.
Emily: So I imagine this takes up a lot of your time. Like every morning break. Does that then sort of count as your playground duty time?
Kelda: Yeah. So, so my duty was normally on a Friday morning, but I’m in there every day. So I asked another teacher to take my Friday duty from me.
Which I don’t mind though. Cuz I just, I love it. It’s so fun, but um, I think this term I’ll try and maybe speak to the other staff and we’ll get it on a bit of a roster if I just show ’em how to do it and then, you know, everyone can see it and then I can have a break
Emily: Cause otherwise you’re risk burning out don’t you?
Kelda: Yeah, exactly. Right. I don’t mind doing it at lunch. It’s. Sometimes I have been like, oh, I forgot to bring the keys today or something. And I’m like, oh, I’ll just have my lunch today. But I’ve only done that once.
And that’s like the end of term when I was trying to do all the assessments.
Emily: So your, your school sounds like they’ve been very supportive of it.
Kelda: They have, they’ve been great. They’ve like I said, they’re just like, oh, what’s she doing now?
Like, they’re just like, just let her do it.
Emily: And you think this will be something that’ll be ongoing.
Kelda: Yeah, I think it’s gonna have to be. The librarian he was using that room sometimes to put the books in when it was book fair. And I said to him on the last day of term, I was like, oh, I don’t think you’re gonna be able to have that room for the book fair. And he is like, yeah, I didn’t think I’ve written it off anyway for the rest of the years. So I’ll just keep keep changing the theme around a little bit.
Emily: And do you think planning the next one will be a bit quicker and easier now that you’ve done it once?
Kelda: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. Cause I can use a lot of the stuff I’ve got and just change the concepts around a little bit. Yeah. So it’ll be, yeah, it’ll be way easier next time.
Emily: And do you get most of the curriculum areas in there, do you think?
Kelda: Yeah. And like, see, you can add anything in like I’ve got , English I’ve got literacy. So the very first clue that they have to do is they a big box that says start here, so obviously there’s lots of reading cause they’ve gotta read the clues. And when they open it it says put these letters in order to spell a word and that’s where your next clue is.
So they’ve gotta rearrange all these mumble, jumbled up letters to spell a word, which is Teddy Bear. And that’s where one of the keys is hidden. So just using like, you know, problem solving, like that’s really cool. So there’s English, I’ve got geography, I’ve got science. I’ve got ha everything. You can put anything in there.
Honestly, you can just do whatever you are doing in the classroom. You can just link it to your tasks and challenges in there. Yeah. I’ve even got like a big number, sequence thing, and they’ve gotta put them from highest to lowest, like as quick as they can, like, and then the number that’s missing is the code to one of the locks.
Like, yeah, it’s, it’s pretty easy to link it to the curriculum.
Emily: That’s so cool. I’m so blown away. Like it must seem, now that you’ve done, it must seem like such an obvious and , I don’t wanna use the word easy, but. Easy thing to do.
Kelda: Yeah, exactly. You can do it in the classroom. And like, when I was having all those sleepless nights at the beginning, I was like, oh, I could, I could put like a curtain down or, make some kind of room with a curtain and you can, you can still do it in the classroom.
Cause obviously not everyone’s gonna have a spare green room hanging around. I just liked the idea that it was just the lockable room. When we first go in, like I keep the lights off and I’m like, come in sunny is, and then I just slam the door and lock it so they can hear it.
Like lock. Yeah. Like very audible. Yeah. And then turn, take a few seconds to turn the lights on. And they’re all like, just so intrigued as to what’s gonna happen. They’re just like, oh, It’s it’s pretty cool. Yeah. I love it. I wish they were, they were around when I was at school.
Emily: Have any of the kids sort of spoiled it for each other or are they very tight lipped?
Kelda: Yeah, not none of them have, and because sometimes I change what I’ve got the locks on, or I just swapped the books around and changed the name. So even if they told them it wouldn’t really work for them and cuz I’m in there with them they have to do in order anyway. So I’d know if they were, I think cause everyone wants to win. I don’t think they want anyone to know.
Emily: They don’t want them to win instead.
Kelda: Yeah, exactly. So I haven’t really, I haven’t thought of my main prize yet.
I need to get onto that. Oh, I had all these ideas of what I was gonna give them when they were the champions, but I still haven’t got there yet. So I have to think of a really cool prize.
Emily: Um, do you have. Slightly off topic. Do you have pictures of the room that you’d be willing to share?
Kelda: Yes. Yeah, I do. And I had so when I put it onto the Queensland teacher page, and I had so many teachers messaging me asking me about it. So I I’ve created like a plan of what I did.
Yeah. And how with images and stuff. So I’m more than happy to share that I’ve already shared it with quite a few teachers who’ve emailed me. So I just put that together and then they can just change the bits that they need or whatever, adapt to, to what suits for them. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Emily: So would you be happy if I shared that through my blog?
Kelda: Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Cool. Definitely. The more schools that do it, I think the, the better it’ll be so fun. It’s, it’s awesome. I’m just so glad that I thought of it. It was.
Emily: And being able to follow through with it too, like, I’m sure there’s so many teachers out there that have so many great ideas, but they don’t either don’t get the support or just don’t have the time that they can put in. So all these ideas just fall flat.
Kelda: Yeah, exactly. Right. And I think as well, because I’m, you know, I’m, I’m so new to all this. Like I’m still just so enthusiastic and just so you know, think about everything. Like, I just wanna do everything that I’ve had all these ideas for the last six years of studying. I think that helps as well.
Emily: Maybe having kids of your own.
Kelda: Oh, exactly right. Yeah. My kids just loved it cuz they came on one of the escape rooms, like the adult ones with us, and they were so excited when I told them. But they don’t go to my school.
They go to another school. Yeah. So they’re like, oh, can’t you come and do our school too.
Emily: And you’re like, what time. When am I gonna do that?
Kelda: Maybe could be a business on the side. I’ll go set up all these things.
Emily: Is there anything that you wanted to talk about from your perspective about, you know, setting it up or finding the curriculum links.
Kelda: One of the easiest ways is obviously just use the achievement standards and that’s what I did. Like, I was like, what, what, I just picked a few achievement standards that I was focusing on that term and just set the tasks related based on to those. Achievement standards and it’s yeah, like it’s just now think about it.
Like, it took me six weeks to set it up like five or six weeks. And now I think about it. I was like, oh, I could have probably done it a lot quicker. Like, I don’t think it would have to take you that long. But I think because obviously I didn’t really know what I was going to do. I had this, you know, envisioned, but it wasn.
I didn’t actually know how I was gonna put it all together until I started getting all this random furniture in there.
Emily: And yeah, it probably very much depends on the physical things that you have in the room that sort of dictates what the activities have to point towards.
Kelda: Exactly. Yeah. Because you need places to hide stuff and, and, and even with like the locks, like when I I’ll send you all the photos and stuff, but even for some of the locks, I went and bought all the jazz lockable, jazz and things, but then I ran out. Some of them and I wanted another one.
And then I found just you know, those plastic containers that tomatoes. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. I just like ended up locking one of those together. So it’s so cheap and simple. Like you don’t even have to go buy all the jazz and stuff like. And the best thing that I did in there was I went and got some poly pipe the white poly pipe that plumbers use. And I just cut them up into different sizes and put it in a bucket of Sande. And then one of the keys is down the bottom of the pipe. And so they have to find like this long magnetic tool in there that they put down there and pull out the key. The kids love that one. It’s so exciting. They just, and they try all.
And they try all these different materials and it has to obviously be, you know a magnet on there and it’s, yeah, it’s pretty cool. And they’re just like, oh, but again, for that one, I’ve got different numbers on these pipes and they have to solve a math sum to figure out which, which pipe they need to poke it down. And you can easily change it for any age. So for the younger ones, you just make it as simple or math equation. One plus one yeah, yeah. One plus one, the preppies are so excited. I can’t wait for them to go in this week. Oh, they’d love it. Oh, my God. I’m they’re like, when can we go in the escape room?
I was like, oh, I’m trying to get through the older kids, but they they’re gonna love it. They’re gonna love it. They’re so excited. They’re so cute.
Emily: They are . I guess my very last question would be, is there like one particular thing you wish teachers would know about setting up something like this?
Kelda: Yeah, that it’s, it’s doable and it’s a lot easier than, than you can imagine. Like, I think we get carried away with trying to be a bit too creative that sometimes we overthink things a lot, whereas it’s actually really quite simple.
And it can be done so easily, but with such a big effect for all the kids. So if you’ve got an idea, just go for it and just, yeah, just do it and make it work. Just do it. Yeah, just do it, make it work and don’t overthink it and just do it simply, cuz it’s very effective .
Emily: Yeah. Perfect.
Kelda: Oh, no, it’s good. Aw, thank you so much for having me.
Emily: No, thank you so much for sharing your ideas. I think we’re gonna see a lot more escape rooms rolling out over the next two terms.
Kelda: Yeah. Yeah. All the other teachers are sent it to, I was like, oh, let me know how it goes. Yeah, it’s cool. I think the kids just love it. It’s definitely worth doing in your school for sure. Yeah, for sure.
Emily: And do you, do you have like an Instagram account or anything?
Kelda: Uh, only from my party days when I was doing the kids party, but I haven’t not really. No, no, that’s fine. Yeah. I haven’t done a teacher one. I don’t have time for that. Yeah,
Emily: No, that’s fine. I’ll share all the the pictures and stuff through the blog and, and our Instagram account so people can see.
See how to do it themselves. Yeah,
Kelda: Yeah, exactly. They can use it and it’s just got step by step. Like how each, um, clue leads to the next clue.
Emily: So it’s yeah, perfect.
Kelda: Easy done. Then they can just change whatever concepts they need. So, yeah, I’ll definitely share that with you.
Emily: Thank you so much.
Kelda: The escape room stories around Australia.
Emily: Yeah. This new revolution taking over classrooms in Australia. Yeah.
Kelda: Oh, well, thank you so much. And enjoy the rest of your holidays.
Emily: Yeah, you too. Hopefully the kids sleep in a little bit longer tomorrow and
Kelda: Yeah, hubby’s taking ’em out today. So I might enjoy the peace and quiet for a bit. Well, thank you so much.
Emily: Thank you so much. Thank you. Bye.
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