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Innovating with Breakout EDU at the Primary School

Second and third graders have been engaging in Breakout EDU, an exciting new activity that teaches teamwork, problem-solving, and critical thinking. Primary School Technology Specialist Ryan Heming and Media Specialist Amy Walker worked together to create Breakout challenges in which students must work together and race against the clock to solve puzzles to find hidden keys that unlock boxes around the classroom. The challenges can incorporate a range of subject matter and engage students' math and reading skills as well as their natural drive to problem-solve. It's also exciting - with students moving around the room and having fun while learning. Mr. Heming and Mrs. Walker shared with Beyond the Gate some of the results of the Breakout sessions.

Tell us what students are learning from the Breakout EDU experience?

Breakout EDU offers a more real world situational environment where students get to apply what they are learning while using teamwork, communication skills, and critical thinking. They get to problem solve in a more authentic and meaningful way. For the students, the game seems "real" and many students comment on how they felt excitement, disappointment, frustration, and even empathy for each other. The transfer of students' new knowledge to application and hands-on activities is where many learners can make what they've learned stick and transfer to other parts of their personal learning experience.

Can you give us an example of a Breakout challenge that you've used?

We have worked closely with our personal learning networks in Google Groups, Facebook, and Twitter to bring several teacher-written Breakouts to our school. We have shared and borrowed many ideas from other more experienced teachers to bring a Breakout called "The Wolf's Den" to third grade and "Simple Machines" to second grade. We borrow these ideas and tweak them quite significantly to fit our students' curriculum and learning styles. We are also working on writing our own breakout for kindergarten focused on zoo animals, dinosaurs, fiction and nonfiction. In addition, we are about to embark on our first teacher Breakout during a professional development session.

How have the students responded?

Excellent! Most cannot wait to get another chance to try it. Even in failing to "break out," students are begging to get another opportunity to try again.

Are you and the teachers learning from the experience as well?

Yes, we have realized that as teachers sometimes we step in and help students to soon or too often. The struggle, challenge, and, sometimes, failure are really important parts of the learning process. Likewise, this challenge has helped teachers see how reflective students can be when given the time and opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings regarding their teamwork, character, and choices.

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