Students Escape Classroom to Build 21st Century Skills


The idea that technology and artificial intelligence (AI) will replace humans in the workplace is debatable. Though automation and AI may occupy some jobs in the future, there are many things that robots can’t do as well as humans, like improvised creativity. We don’t know what the future will look like, but we know that learning how to work with people and learning how to solve complex problems will help us adapt to whatever comes our way.

In order to prepare our students for jobs that don't exist yet, we have designed an immersive learning experience to help them develop 21st Century skills. The skills of communication, critical thinking, collaboration and creativity have been identified by education researchers as some of the most important for the future of work. That’s why this year, all ninth graders at Alain LeRoy Locke College Preparatory Academy went through a unique 21st century skills unit in the JetSpace, an innovation space and library Green Dot renovated after taking on the campus from LAUSD.

Building an Escape Room

As part of this special unit in “Advisory” class, students learned to solve puzzles and gained a deeper understanding of so-called escape rooms. An escape room is a physical adventure game in which participants solve a series of puzzles and clues to complete the objective of the room’s storyline. The JetSpace escape room contained 12 independent puzzles based on the philosophy and life of the school’s namesake, Alain LeRoy Locke. Each puzzle held a combination to a lock and motivated students to collaborate and create plans to open as many locks as possible in the allotted time. One puzzle required students to place cubes on a grid based on a series of clues, and once placed in the correct positions, the grid revealed the lock’s combination.

The escape room required students to utilize 21st century skills such as collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking, and teamwork. By the end of the course, students who demonstrated the best employment of 21st century skills had the opportunity to meet with a professional escape room designer in Downtown Los Angeles, and to test out their skills on a more advanced escape room.

Because of this unit, and our partnership with both the JetSpace and Escape Room LA, many ninth graders were challenged in a way they never thought possible. In an anonymous survey, students reflected on the experience: “I feel comfortable in the JetSpace and the activities help us communicate better with others you know or don’t talk to on a normal basis,” said one.

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