Dawson County Junior High School language arts students recently celebrated the rollout of new content in a fun and creative way.
On Halloween, students participated in an escape room challenge based around the works of Edgar Allan Poe that got them thinking about the elements of figurative language in a new, engaging way.
“There are a lot of ways to do this. It doesn’t always have to be sitting in a row being talked at,” said DCJH English teacher Mary Geeza.
Geeza was the mastermind behind the challenging escape room, having done several similar activities at her former school, Liberty Middle School in Cumming. The escape room was a first for the junior high and something Geeza felt would be a big language arts review session for students.
“It really did start with showing them ‘The Raven,’ the Simpsons’ version of ‘The Raven’ and doing blackout poetry and then it became this,” Geeza said.
The school’s auditorium was dark, lit only by a few spooky cobweb lights and candlelit trees on stage and decorated with Poe inspired decorations, including the man himself portrayed by Instructional Technology Specialist Charles Beusse.
During 90 minute blocks, teams of students filed into “Poe’s Family Crypt” and were challenged to escape the crypt and break Poe free so that he could haunt souls on Halloween night. Faculty and volunteers dressed up as some of Poe’s famous literary characters to help guide the teams as they raced to complete six missions during their challenge.
The missions included working together to solve crosswords, Sudoku puzzles, acrostics and complete parts of a maze that were based on literary elements to help students apply their knowledge.
“When you can apply it you’ve learned it,” Geeza said.
With the popularity of timed escape rooms increasing, Geeza and DCJH Principal Connie Stovall were excited to bring the concept to Dawson County to foster a deeper engagement with the material.
“This was the first one we’ve done and we had a lot to learn,” Geeza said. “I think they have had a good time.”Next semester, the school has plans for a Shakespeare themed escape room activity along the same vein as their escape from Poe’s family crypt.