Page 9 - THE Journal, June/July 2017
P. 9

Taking Off in Sioux Falls
The idea of using a breakout box took off at Sioux Falls Christian Schools in South Dakota, after Kristin Mulder, the director of digital education, learned about them during an education technology conference hosted by the school. Working with a middle school math teacher, Mulder tried out a breakout box game in a sixth-grade math class. “They took off. The excitement was crazy,” she said. Since then, that
grade level has “really embraced the whole concept of how breakouts challenge their brains and make them problem solve.”
Some of the students were so captivated by that first experience, they expressed
a desire to get more involved. One boy came to the adults afterwards and asked if he could make his own breakout box. As Mulder recalled, “He made the entire thing based on a math curriculum topic, because his math teacher said, ‘If you build that, I will look at it. If I feel it’s going to work out for us, we will run your breakout in class.’” He did, so she did.
Two girls in the same class (both named Madelyn) came to Mulder and asked if they could help her run other breakouts. She agreed to mentor them, and now both are in seventh grade and work on breakouts every
chance they get. “They build most of these, and then I vet them out,” Mulder said. “We meet over lunches and after school and walk through to make sure their questions work well in teacher language and that they’re age-appropriate.”
She continued: “The part that they do so well is the creativity. They understand what the kids would like on the story end of it: ‘You’re in a burning building and
you need to get the key to escape ....’ Or, ‘Something in our environment is killing plants; the antidote is in the box ....’” Since that partnership began, the girls have
built breakouts for grades 1, 4, 5 and 7. Now, watching their success, two seventh grade science teachers have each recently assigned their class to create a breakout challenge to run for the other class.
Each breakout session, which lasts about 45 minutes, begins with a video that lays out the story for students. Then the breakout leader shares the ground rules:
The teacher’s desk is off-limits;
If you pull a poster or artwork off the wall in your hunt for a clue, you must put it back too; and
Once a lock has been opened and pulled off the box, it’s handed over immediately to the breakout leader (to
prevent it from being reset). From there, the game is afoot.
Creating Clues
Mulder works with teachers to make sure the challenge fits with his or her instructional goals. Sometimes, teachers use the breakout to review before a test. Others use it as a wrap-up. And some use it as an introduction to find out what the students already understand about a concept.
Then about two weeks out, she and
her helpers start building the game. That involves using content that the students have covered in class to create the clues. The greater the number of students who weigh in on the clue, the more inclusive the game becomes, she said. Also, the greater the variety of clues, the better, “in order to tap into a variety of kids.”
In some cases, the clue might involve them filling out a crossword puzzle or a diagram that uses the terminology they’ve learned. Then the puzzle might have a few letters or numbers circled with invisible ink that can only be read with a UV flashlight. That flashlight itself might be hidden away in a locked box as well, which has its own set of clues.
Students at Sioux Falls Christian Schools attempt to unlock the clues that will help them get into their breakout box.
JUNE/JULY 2017 | 9

   7   8   9   10   11