Especially JCE: May 2019

JCE cove for May 2019

Take a flight. No, I’m not asking you to step on a plane. Take a page out of a wine and beer tasting approach as you look at the May 2019 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education.

Taste testing a flight of drinks—several selections, in smaller amounts—gives you a chance to sample a greater variety and compare the collection. The idea has even been extended to Dairy Queen treats this summer. Why choose when you can just have smaller amounts of several and decide what you think about what each offers?

The May issue contains a “flight” of articles (available to JCE subscribers*) for creating a chemistry-themed escape room in your classroom, showing you how three different groups of chemistry educators used the idea. If you haven’t heard of escape rooms before, Watermeier and Salzameda explain in Escaping Boredom in First Semester General Chemistry:

"In a typical escape room game, groups are first briefed with a storyline related to a series of puzzles they must solve. After the narrative is presented, the doors to a theme-decorated room are closed, “trapping” the students in the room. The group of students must then work together to solve several puzzles to escape the room within an allotted time. By using clues and problem-solving skills, players determine the solutions to one set of problems, and are then led to another set of riddles."

Article Flight

  1. Escaping Boredom in First Semester General Chemistry
  2. A Lab-Based Chemical Escape room: Educational, Mobile, and Fun!
  3. Escape the Lab: An Interactive Escape Room Game as a Laboratory Experiment

My thoughts are below, but please, try the flight and see which might fit your taste!

Flight Notes

1. Escaping Boredom in First Semester General Chemistry

  • Reviews topics to prep for final exam: density, unit conversions, significant figures, lab equipment, electronic configurations, periodic table, nomenclature, hybridization, balancing equations, thermodynamics.
  • For general chemistry in college, but topics could work for high school.
  • Authors worked with professional game designer from Escape Room Era.
  • Linear path through seven stations, plus adjacent room—how to work out finishing? Authors have tips.
  • Adjust story to fit high school? Has a “graduate advisor” as character.

Video 1: Escape room Video_english from Department of Science Teaching on Vimeo. (accessed 5/12/19)

2. A Lab-Based Chemical Escape room: Educational, Mobile, and Fun!

  • Authors have fun introduction video (see video 1). 
  • Topics are linked to 11th/12th grade chemistry curriculum.
  • Authors created a kit that teachers can borrow, to then set up escape room at their own school.
  • Non-linear path to solving mystery, so can accommodate more students simultaneously.
  • Online supplement shows escape room photo for when students exit, just like commercial ones.

3. Escape the Lab: An Interactive Escape Room Game as a Laboratory Experiment

  • Uses sequence of analytical instruments, so for higher level than high school.
  • Could use some of the ideas: groups can ask for hints, but with a time penalty after a certain point.
  • Good suggestions for items to use:
  • “numeric-combination lock boxes, commonly used in real estate”
  • “soda-can diversion safe” — looks like a soda can, but can be opened to reveal a clue
  • 100-piece puzzle, with “clue … added to the back of the assembled puzzle”

General Thoughts

  • Every article includes the use of personal protective equipment as part of it. Safety must be part of the experience.
  • How are the puzzles reset, particularly if the room presents a non-linear path and there is a lot of student activity going on?
  • An escape room could be an activity to connect a high school chemistry club with a college-level student chapter.
  • If the goal is efficient, straightforward review, this is more elaborate. It can have other benefits though—promotion of teamwork among student groups and perseverance if an answer cannot be figured out quickly.

The end of the school year is in sight for many. Looking for summer reading recommendations? Use Mary Saecker’s JCE 96.05 May 2019 Issue Highlights to quickly look through the entire May issue and note which you’re most interested in for some leisurely professional development reading (on the beach, perhaps?).

Have you tried an escape room in your classroom? Share! Start by submitting a contribution form, explaining you would like to contribute to the Especially JCE column. Then, put your thoughts together in a blog post. Questions? Contact us using the ChemEd X contact form.

*See Accessing Cited Articles