Gifted and Talented Students Across the District Participate in Communication Cave Escape Room Lesson

Jared Kitchens is the GT teacher at Crestview and Oak Ridge, and along with fellow District GT teachers Donna Branch, Tanya Carder, and Amy Mitchell, he created a “Communication Cave Escape Room” to help GT students learn about the history of communication.

“We started out the year learning Morse Code, Braille, Sign Language, and the Military Alphabet as we talked about how people communicate,” Kitchens said. “The main purpose of building a Communication Cave was to introduce the idea that communication originated as drawings on cave walls, long before people had a written language.  The escape room also reinforced those other alphabets we had covered in prior weeks, because the codes in the cave had to be translated from Braille, Sign language, Morse Code, or the Military Alphabet.”

Kitchens said that over his eleven year of GT teaching, he has tried to incorporate an escape room with each years’ theme. He said it is a fun, kinetic way to learn for students who love problem-solving, puzzles and new challenges.

In the past Kitchens has used a program called Breakout Edu, which provides hundreds of ready-made physical and digital escape room lessons. However, he said he typically only uses the program for ideas.

“I love creating my own [escape rooms] even more, so it can be tailored specifically to my kids and what we’ve learned in class,” Kitchens said. “Due to health and safety concerns, we didn’t want to have kids unlock actual locks and boxes, so we went with a digital model this time.”

Kitchens said that the students is exceedingly well and that he, as well as the other GT teachers were amazed at how they performed.

“The codes were embedded in real, authentic pictures of cave art from the Lascaux Cave in France, so children had to find the pictures and decode them to get directions out of the cave,” Kitchens said. “The directions provided the final code to escape.  All of the students had a handy decoder notebook to carry with them into the dark cave, because we did not expect them to memorize every alphabet.  All GT kids, from first to fifth grade, managed to escape the cave, but some of the younger students needed a few more hints.”

Kitchens said he believes his students will take away a great deal of communication knowledge from this activity.

“Some kids may not remember Braille or Sign Language, but some might, and that enriches the way they communicate with others in the future,” Kitchens said “The cave itself is memorable, and I believe we learn more through experiences, especially when they’re engaging and challenging.”

Kitchens said he is fulfilled by teaching GT because the loves to watch that “light-bulb” come on when something is sparked in a child’s mind.

“Frenship’s GT program encourages new ideas, changes, and improvements to the curriculum,” Kitchens said, “which gives us opportunities to adapt to and improve our current climate.”