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Utah teacher creates escape room for students

Oct 9, 2023, 8:20 AM | Updated: 8:20 am

WEST VALLEY CITY — A Utah teacher is challenging her students in a new way by creating an escape room in her classroom.

It’s earned her a $2,000 grant she’ll use to take the game to a whole new level.

Sixth graders in Lindsey Larsen’s class at Kennedy Jr. High School are locked into learning.

Their classroom has been transformed into a makeshift escape room where students work together, unwrapping clues to solve a mystery.

“’Lords of the Flies’-ing it, almost to see what they do when I give them a task and I step back,” Larsen said. “To see who’s going to rise to the occasion and practice problem-solving. Who’s going to sit back and let everybody else do it?”

Students like Tayslee Gainsforth, look forward to it.

“Sometimes having so many people working in one area can be hard,” she said.

“You don’t figure it out in time, you feel like you’re going to be stuck in there forever,” added student Paislee Button.

Larsen came up with the idea while doing an escape room with friends during New Year’s.

“I thought I can make an entire escape room time travel themed and tie it directly to the curriculum,” she said.

It doesn’t take much to create a simple one in the classroom, building on concepts like decision-making, resilience and persistence.

“They’re part of that group that got hit really hard with COVID and the shutdown and online learning. They’re just looking for a reason to enjoy being at school,” Larsen said.

The experience will become even more immersive, thanks to a $2,000 grant Larsen received from Voya Financial — a nod to educators who develop innovative thinking for students.

“It’ll be really nice to invest that money in real escape room props like lock boxes, codes, stuff that has codes in it,” Larsen said.

Larsen is new to teaching — about two years in — and the methods she’s using are making a real difference.

“It’s so exciting,” Paislee said. “Yay, Mrs. Larsen’s class. If you had a hard day that morning, we can just go to that class.”

“She basically makes it feel fun like you’re not even learning,” Tayslee said.

“I want to be the teacher that inspires someone to not give up. I want to be the reason why they want to come to school and it’s so much more than a grade on a piece of paper. It’s the experience they’re getting in the classroom,” Larsen said.

Larsen will go up against 50 finalists from across the country who also received the grant. The top three will have a chance to win up to $25,000.

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Utah teacher creates escape room for students