A lot of University
of Delaware students surely wished they could have escaped the stress
of final exams and end-of-semester grades in December, but only a few
were able to do that in an actual escape room on campus.
Beth Morling, professor of psychological and brain sciences, came up
with the idea as an ungraded fun activity for students in her Research
Methods class. She had heard on social media about instructors at other
schools who created escape rooms for students to enjoy while also using
some of what they had learned in class.
Morling and Caroline Abbott, a doctoral student and also a Research
Methods instructor, worked together to devise a series of 10 puzzles for
students to solve. The optional activity took place in a Memorial Hall
classroom on Thursday evening, Dec. 5, the last day of fall semester
As in any escape room, participants were presented a series of
puzzles to solve, one by one, eventually reaching the final set of clues
and — if successful — the ability to “unlock” the door and escape. The
Memorial Hall classroom wasn’t actually locked, and the handmade puzzles
were low-budget, Morling noted, but students said the experience was
just as much fun as a commercial escape room.
“Thursday night is the best night to go out, and there are no Friday
classes this week, but here we are doing this instead,” said sophomore
Sarah Prendergast from the escape room. “We knew it would be fun, and it
Natalie Epps, also a sophomore in the class, said she was impressed
that Morling and Abbott had taken so much time to design the series of
puzzles. Many of the clues did relate to material learned in class, “and
that actually made it more fun,” she said.
The puzzles included a paper word-search problem, featuring such
terms related to research methods as “sample size,” “population” and
“internal validity.” At another worktable in the escape room, students
had to arrange popsicle sticks in the correct order to spell out a
sentence, then convert their phone into a black light to read an
additional clue written on the sticks,
There were Tetris-style tiles to match, also with clues written on
the reverse, and an activity that required students to shoot foam darts
at a target representing the importance of distinguishing between
reliability and validity in measurement.
As in other escape rooms, if participants got stuck for too long on a
particular puzzle, they could ask for a hint — in this case, supplied
via index cards.
After successfully completing the tasks, students were rewarded with
snacks and “I (Heart) Research Methods” buttons to wear. Before the
group left the escape room, Morling and Abbott were already thinking
about ways to repeat the activity next year.
Article by Ann Manser; photo by Maria Errico
Published Dec. 23, 2019