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Grade 8’s Gamify Their Learning

Middle School
GNSGNS photo
Students have been using a new tool to amplify their learning, as Teacher-Librarian Ms. Stephanie Owen has brought Breakout EDU to the David Graham Learning Commons. Using the engagement of escape room-style puzzles, Breakout EDU gamifies learning and helps create an engaging experience for students of all grade levels. 

“When I took over the position in the Middle School library this year, one of my personal mandates was to include more play while learning, and the David Graham Learning Commons was the perfect place to do that,” said Ms. Owen. 

Together, Ms Owen and Ms. Darlene Fisher, Middle School Library Technician, collaborated to bring some fun into the learning commons, which includes magnetic poetry, puzzles and other collaborative games. 

“It adds that living room feel to the learning commons when it’s not an academic time,” added Ms. Owen. “That got me thinking about how we could add more play in our classes using our content, and it brought me to Breakout EDU because it creates this escape room type of situation, but the content is driven by whoever is creating the game.” 

She thought that her Individuals and Societies 8 class, which was in the middle of a unit learning about Islam, would be a great fit for the GNS debut of Breakout EDU. 

“I wanted to reinforce knowledge in a way that adds gamification, collaboration, creative thinking, problem-solving and critical thinking,” said Ms. Owen. “How do we get it in a fun way using the content we have? Not all classroom content should be gamified, though, so choosing which units to use for these games is important.” 

It took two weeks for Ms. Owen and Ms. Fisher to create the puzzles, which included the course textbook and primary documents that the students had been studying in class. They then piloted the game to a Grade 9 Individuals and Societies class, who were able to solve the puzzles from the resources they were given. 

The students did well with five groups out of 12 total breaking out and completing the game, some with only seconds left on the timer. Students picked their own groups and decided who they thought they would have the best chance of succeeding with, which was not necessarily their closest friends. They also had the opportunity to use two hints throughout the process. 

“The objective isn’t to have every group break into the box, but if they do, that’s a bonus,” said Ms. Owen. “My primary objective is to see students work as a team: collaborate, communicate and use critical thinking skills.”

Ms. Owen has a long-term goal that includes implementing these games for all grade levels in the Middle School: two in Grade 6 that focus on Spoken Languages and Language and Literature, two in Grade 7, with one focusing on Math and one on Science, and two in Grade 8 centred around Individuals and Societies and research. 

“As a GNS Middle School student, this format of two games, at least, per year, will allow a nice progression of games that they can look forward to playing in learning commons every year,” explained Ms. Owen.