Castaic Middle School ASB creates escape rooms for district

From left to right, Castaic Middle School Assistant Principal Brandy Nez, Principal Bob Brauneisen, CUSD Board Member Stacy Dobbs, ASB President Will Bennett, CUSD Board Member Mayreen Burk, Administrator on Special Assignment Allison West and And Assistant Superintendent, Educational Services Janene Maxon. Courtesy Photo

Students in the Castaic Union School District tested their investigative skills as they attempted to unlock clues and solve mysteries in three original escape rooms created by Castaic Middle School’s Associated Student Body (ASB).

Acting as both a district-wide fundraiser and a hands-on learning experience, the escape rooms allowed students from the district’s four schools to work together in teams to solve a series of clues and participate in a new teambuilding exercise.

“It was fun that I got to experience this for the first time with all my friends,” eighth grade student Audrey-Alane Hallare said.  “I thought it was really fun to be able to find different clues, put all the pieces together and successfully escape.”

Castaic Middle School’s ASB decided to create the different escape rooms in September when ASB President Will Bennett brought the idea to his classmates.

“I had recently experienced my first escape back in August. I believed it would be a great event and group building experience to put our students’ problem solving skills to use in a fun environment,” Bennett said.

Before he proposed the idea to ASB, Bennett created the themes and clue ideas for the school’s three escape rooms: Escape the Mummy’s Tomb, Escape Mount Weather Laboratory and The Cabin in the Woods.

He then helped organize a field trip to a local escape room so his fellow ASB members could understand what an escape room is and what it would take to build one.

“At first many of our ASB members didn’t know what an escape room was,” Bennett said.  “In September, ASB took a field trip to Arcane and Cryptic escape rooms in the Santa Clarita Valley. This was a very fun and helpful field trip as it really gave ASB the idea of what an escape room is.”

Together, the group of students gathered props and created puzzles for the escape rooms and filmed five original videos explaining the rules of the escape room, tips to escape and the room’s three original themes.

In the Mount Weather Laboratory escape room, students acted as scientists and engineers who had 30 minutes to disarm the lab’s security system before it self-destructed.

Students in the Mummy’s Tomb escape room were transported to Cairo, Egypt where they acted as archeologists in a hidden temple with 30 minutes to escape the pharaoh’s falling tomb and earn numerous riches for their findings.

And in the Cabin the Woods escape room, students had 30 minutes to break out of an abandoned cabin where a kidnapper took them earlier that day.

From left to right, Castaic Middle School Principal Bob Brauneisen, Assistant Principal Brandy Nez, CUSD Board Member Mayreen Burk, Administrator on Special Assignment Allison West, CUSD Board Member Stacy Dobbs and Assistant Superintendent, Educational Services Janene Maxon smile after they escaped the “Mummy’s Tomb” room at the Escape Room at Castaic Middle School. Courtesy Photo

For two weeks during lunch and after school hours, Castaic Middle School students and fifth and sixth grade students at the district’s elementary schools had the opportunity to test out the rooms and beat the clock.  A total of 166 spots were filled for the escape rooms’ openings.

“At first many of the students had no idea of what an escape room is,” Bennett said.  “All of the students who attended had a great time and had nothing but positive feedback.  We were even contacted by students from across the valley who were interested.”

In addition to being a fun experience for students, the escape rooms acted as a fundraiser for not only the middle school’s ASB program, but also the district’s elementary schools.

“We sold tickets at a base price of $10 per room a person.  When we didn’t fill up all of the time slots and witnessed a growing demand we decided to open up the rooms for an additional week,” Bennett said.  “We offered this experience to fifth and sixth graders at the three elementary schools in our district.  We then gave 40 percent of the elementary school proceeds back to their schools.”

After the success of Castaic Middle School’s event, Bennett hopes other schools throughout the Santa Clarita Valley latch on to the idea and open up the unique event at their own schools.

“It is definitely something that we would do again and many other schools should as well,” he said.  “It brought very good team building and creative problem solving to our school that students loved.”

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