Students were locked in the Corl Street Elementary School library Thursday night until they solved a series of clues that led to their release.
The scenario — similar to an escape room — was part of a group project for the fourth- and fifth-grade students’ monthly book club, which is facilitated by school librarian Paije Davis and district technology specialist Florence Milutinovic.
At a normal book club meeting, students and their parents meet at the school to discuss the assigned book.
But Thursday’s event came with a twist.
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Thanks to State College Area School District’s new set of activities, the book club was able to use a newly purchased Breakout Box.
The tool works through an immersive learning game program called Breakout EDU, which encourages people to solve riddles and figure out clues that can unlock the box.
For those in Corl Street’s book club, clues relating to literacy helped them unlock four different kinds of padlocks to access the box.
In three groups of students and parents, participants had to unscramble words, solve puzzles and use clues to find a key, a word and a set of numbers and arrows.
Fittingly, this month’s assigned book was “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library” by Chris Grabenstein.
“Basically, in order to leave, students must get what’s in the lockbox,” Davis said. “But they’re also working as a team, and bouncing ideas off each other to meet the mission. It works well for 21st century learners with collaboration and technology and working in teams.”
When the box was unlocked, the participants found candy, along with notes of encouragement.
“It’s kind of like an incentive,” Davis said. “They get something at the end of it.”
But for most of the students , reading is one of their favorite hobbies.
“This book was awesome,” Caden Frisco, 11, said enthusiastically when he entered the library. “It was one of the best books we read.”
Sean Spielvogel, 10, said he also enjoyed the book, and got a letter back from the author upon finishing the book and the riddle at the end.
Sean’s mother, Laurie Spielvogel, said that together they solved the clues by combining letters and numbers to create a message — something Sean said was “kind of easy,” though few book club students completed.
“We sent an email to the author who responded the next day,” Sean said. “It was really cool.”
The book club was established about eight years ago to help promote literacy in a way that Davis said is fun for the students.
“Children can read chapter books, but it might not be their thing until they see the excitement of it,” she said. “They also like to do special things with their parents, so this is really good for them.”
Davis said she also piggybacks her reading program off class curriculum with teachers. She called it “teach to transfer.”
“I want to make sure what we’re doing here enhances what they’re doing (in the classroom),” Davis said.