Unlocking locks

Westfall High School students (from left), Isabelle Thomas, Gabby Henry, Isabel Stevens and Brianna Carter work to unlock one of the escape boxes.

WILLIAMSPORT — Students at Westfall High School have a creative way to learn about their library and the books they’re reading.

Cheryl Lorson, librarian at Westfall High School, began giving students an escape room-style experience in order to acquaint them with the library, at their request, and some of the books they’ve read over the years.

While visiting family in Boston, she went to an escape room and attended a SPARK conference in Canton where the idea was brought up.

“I had a lot of fun with it,” she said. “I thought it could be a fun way to do library orientation and other things, like on the different books.”

Lorson said the idea is to connect to the reading and the library in a different and memorable way.

“We do the escape rooms for all freshman, and it’s a fun way to learn about where things are in the library, how to use the card catalogue, how to use InfoOhio and where to find books,” she said.

In addition to library orientation, they’ve done escape rooms on Mary Shell’s “Frankenstein,” “Uprising” by Margaret Person, William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and R.J. Palacio’s “Wonder.” They’ve done them for the school’s book club and Battle Over Books, a sort of knowledge-based quiz show that area schools compete in.

Lorson explained that while students aren’t locked in the library for the whole period, they do need to track down clues to unlock a box that contains a prize.

“The box is locked with six locks and they have to solve the six clues to open all the locks,” she said. “I don’t give them any hints and they have to talk to their group to unlock their box.

They’re not locked in the library, but they have a box that’s locked and they have to work together to figure out from the clues that are given to unlock the locks. They’re usually given a prize and it’s a treat related to the topic. For “Frankenstein,” we had gummy candy body parts.”

In addition to learning about the material, Lorson said other skills can be developed as well.

“We don’t tell them what they have to do, but they have to talk amongst themselves,” she said. “It’s supposed to build good communication among the team members. Usually, when they ask me, I shrug my shoulders and tell them to talk to their group. It builds good communication skills, critical thinking skills, creativity and collaboration skills.”

Lorson said she’s even made one up a few years ago for staff members as a get-to-know you type event.

“Mr. Dennis asked if I would do it at Christmas time and we did it when students weren’t here and it involved interesting facts about each teacher and about Westfall,” she said. “I think they enjoyed it, at least they said they did.”

While the participants of Lorson’s creative escape ideas enjoy them, she’s had her fun as well.

“I’m glad that we’ve gotten to do this; I enjoy getting them ready,” she said.

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