Confidence through Escape Game planning

4 preteen campers prepare 3-room escape game for 18 participants


Setting the scene: the facilitator-created Escape Game

Picture it: A wet, gray day in Derval, France. 12 preteens arrive for a week-long camp at an ex-Catholic boarding school redesigned as an open-air shared space (with retired monks) for unplugged retreats and a “return to nature” experience. The youngsters are met by the directors of the camp, who organize them into small groups, then set the scene: the Queen (one director) wants to enter the locked room and start the camp, but the Guardian (the other director) blocks her path: she is missing the three keys to enter the room, and the three groups of campers must embark on a quest to find those keys by completing tasks.

Every task has a task master, each of whom is a facilitator of the camp, and his or her activity creates a certain culture around himself/herself. For example, the facilitator who created the English activity becomes the language person for the rest of the camp’s duration; the person who created the sport activity becomes the figure for all sports questions for the rest of camp; and so on. The duty of the task masters is not to lead the task directly, but give the initial hint so that the groups can work together to figure out how to proceed together. Each task touches on a different value of the camp as well as a skill developed during the task: teamwork, critical thinking, logical reasoning, sensory precision, orientation on a map, division of labor, trust in team members, valorizing the strengths of each team member, understanding one’s self-worth, and working together to achieve a task.

At the end of each task, the groups are given a part of a map of the camp. When put together, the completed map indicates where a key is located. The “keys” are actually three words, the slogan of the camp: “Ensemble, évadons-nous !” Therefore, if one group decides to come back and enter the room, the guardian will not allow them access because they do not have all three keys, or in other words, all three words. Once all the keys have been assembled, the students are given markers and a banner to write and display the words on a banner that will stay up the entirety of the camp. Finally, they are given access to the room, and the camp is officially declared a-go!

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The Reality

Sounds great in theory, but in practice, not all campers wanted to participate at first. In the end, all but one camper participated, the other that had initially said no having decided to join when she saw the fun that others were having, running around the camp grounds exploring. There was a lack of rigor in the time-management aspect: the campers spent too much time on the English activity, and they had to rush to complete the other activities. Although this did not lead to discontent among the facilitators, the organizers of the camp were not pleased with the time setback. Despite this, during the Agora (the feedback and announcement session post-Escape Game), the campers all agreed that they are very confident with getting around the camp, they learned everyone’s names very quickly, and their initial hesitance toward finding friends and “fitting in” during the camp were dissipated. In fact, the time they spent together performing an activity across the grounds seemed to build their confidence in each other and to build their familiarity with the place and its resources.

One unexpected outcome of this Escape Game was the campers’ motivation to create their own Escape Game that would correct the setbacks of the facilitators’ Escape Game.

Visual list of Escape Game needs

From experience to experience-creation

Fast-forward to three days later. At the morning agora, the campers propose the escape game preparation as a morning activity. One facilitator indicated five main aspects needed to create an escape game (in the posterboard photo), namely limited time, something locked, many steps or stations, a theme, and a story. At the end of the agora, the campers split into three groups to brainstorm different ideas for the theme and the story, in collaboration with a facilitator. In less than thirty minutes, each group had developed various ideas for an escape game of their choosing: one who had created a story around a second COVID virus named OLOGIR (“rigolo” or “funny” in reverse), a second group that focused on a zombie apocalypse and a complete change to the global economic system, and the last group had designed a locked-box activity that strangely fit into the stories created by the other two teams. After presenting each situation, the campers decided who wanted to stay and who would become escape game organizers. From there, the escape game started taking place, connecting the work of all three groups into something that the campers’ parents would experience when they came to pick up their children.

Results

Photos of the actual escape game were not permitted to be shown on this research blog. The organizational team consisted solely of the campers – the facilitators came, observed, pushed the campers’ thinking a bit further, then got updates every now and then. One facilitator stayed throughout the process, and served as a timekeeper to boost efficiency.

The story was about a virus that a mad scientist had created that turned people into zombies rather than healing them from their illness. The participants would have to “travel back in time” to stop the scientist from accidentally creating the virus, then return to the present day to complete the escape game. Therefore, three activities in the zombie apocalypse world, one activity in the “time travel” space, and two activities in the past were created. The game started when the parents entered the room, and the doors were locked behind them “to prevent the zombies from getting in”. They had to leave through the opposite door into the welcome area of the building, known in this game as the “time travel space”; however, when they found the first key, there was yet ANOTHER locked door behind the first one, so they would have to find another key. Upon solving the riddles and leaving the room under 20 minutes, they must complete an activity in the time travel space to retrieve the arrow needed to change the time back to the past. From there, the participants complete two activities in the past, stop the scientist, then time travel back to the present to win the game. The parents were able to complete the activities and successfully complete the game.

Confidence in Escape Game planning

When discussing confidence in teaching, perhaps it is common to think of confidence as teacher-given, a top-down process. It makes sense to think like this, especially within the framework of a top-down educational system. However, confidence between campers, the most prevalent type during this experience, could be a strong indicator of changes to the top-down system. For context, one camper took a major lead in organizing the escape game, dividing tasks, conceptualizing most of the activities, approving designs and valorizing others’ work through encouragement and implementing their ideas and naming them task leader. This camper was a quiet voice in the camp, but his leader voice came out when organizing the escape game. Other incidents of confidence-boosting came from the use of other campers’ stories and activities in the escape game design, incorporation of campers – those who did not participate in the organization – as active characters with which escape game participants interact during gameplay, and “listening with attention, speaking with intention” rules put in place by the camp, but repeated by the campers. Indeed, the campers created a sort of counter-culture to a vertical schooling process through their leadership and intention-focused interactions. Confidence was not a byproduct of this experience, but the driving force behind their actions; they would not have been able to implement or achieve this escape game without the confidence that propelled them forward. Here, confidence does not mean motivation – they were clearly motivated, but there was something more – confidence was confidence, without synonym. The campers relied on each other, built from each other, and imagined in tandem. Confidence, for them, seemed to define as the freedom to create with support and encouragement, while believing in their ability to achieve through actions that lead them little by little to the end goal: a successful escape game. ✺


Further information:

Escape Game created for the colonie de vacances du printemps hosted by the Ekölo organization and L’École du Sens foundation. For more information, please visit their sites:

Ekölo website: click here

L’École du Sens website: click here



Cite this blog post
Brendan Geer (2023, May 1). Confidence through Escape Game planning. Confidence: language learning. Retrieved June 26, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.58079/vvqd

Brendan Geer

Language teaching expert and researcher in language confidence. Founder of Prism: Language Confidence. Also director of the HeOnTe online teaching program, co-director of the Rennes Café des Langues, and cat dad.

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