By Todd Martin

    Working together to unravel clues and unlock learning, Trimmier Elementary School teachers enjoyed a creative escape from the usual training.

    Teachers and other instructional staff members back to school for professional development divided into groups Friday and worked through three customized activities set up like escape rooms.

    The rooms and the challenges coincided with varying grade-level groups – pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, first and second grade and third through fifth grade.

    All staff members experienced a competitive timed challenge called “Case of the Mondays.” The first- and second-grade teachers won the competition.

    Team members stepped into each room, found hidden clues leading to a locked box requiring a key and worked together to come up with answers.

    Depending on the grade level, the challenges required skills ranging from matching to geography, linear equations and Spanish skills.

    Campus technology support specialist Angel Swalve and librarian Mary Stonebrook designed the series of challenges.

    First-grade teacher Olivia Musquiz said she and her teammates appreciated the effort to creatively challenge teachers and the opportunity to use the strategies with students.

    One challenge, she said, involved figuring out the number of days on the school calendar, but required knowledge of the planetary symbols and made use of a black light.

    Another challenge, she said, required teachers to decode a text message that unlocked a directional lock.

    “It was challenging,” she said. “You have to think outside the box. Anything in the room could be a clue.

    “We definitely had to work together and use all our combined background knowledge,” Musquiz said. “I didn’t know the planet symbols, but someone else on the team did.”

    A group of faculty members went to an actual escape room last spring, providing impetus to bring the concept to the professional development days and to students.

    Different educators think differently, Swalve pointed out, noting that she and her librarian colleague work closely together though their strengths vary. “Thinking differently makes you a stronger team,” she said.

    The activity utilized technology including a learning games platform called breakout.edu, a locks application and iPads and Google applications. The locks and other material are now available to teachers, too.

    “I saw them take a different point of view,” said Assistant Principal Harriet Wrabetz. “Adults became students.” She said different personalities took effect, some leading, some thinking quietly and others taking action.

    “I wanted to pull the staff together,” said Principal Penny Batts. “Now they’re learning to carry it into the classroom.”

    Killeen ISD teachers and other staff continue professional development and preparation for school the next two weeks. A district wide convocation is scheduled Aug. 18. Meet the Teacher is Aug. 24. The first day of school is Aug. 28.

    August 11, 2017

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