Every great learning experience shares three things in common: curiosity, passion, and challenge. All learning experiences have the potential to be fulfilling and joyful. But inspired learning cannot easily surface without creative freedom and collaboration, as well as the ability to be true to oneself.

This is equally true for both adults in a workspace, as well as students in the classroom.

On August 28th, all of Dayton’s staff participated in an activity that was unfamiliar and unconventional in nature. At the front of the High School, Principal Jami Fluke organized the staff into seven teams of eight. Then she told them that they had four hours to create an “escape room.” In this activity, an escape room was a problem-solving game containing puzzles, riddles, and clues to end up being deciphered by the player.

Team spirit!

Each team had their own theme, and loads of creative liberty. Although this freedom created a larger challenge, it allowed them to make an escape room unique to not only their team’s particular theme, but to each member within it. “People will surprise and impress when their creativity isn’t dictated.” Said Jami Fluke. The deeper idea was that in any given team or group of people, everyone has the potential to be independently purposeful and important. This ideology is true in both life, and in the classroom.

In the beginning of the activity, many teams felt pressure and uncertainty. Some had never even heard of an escape room activity before, so they knew that they would need to utilize everything they had as a team to collaborate on such a unique project.

A group in their escape room

Ian Reeves, the new Spanish teacher at Dayton High School says: “[the event] forced me to be a truer version of myself.” When the teams were established, the members had to quickly embrace each of their individual strengths. In doing so, they quickly found compatibilities between one another which allowed them to work more effectively and even form bonds. There was a social aspect to the activity, which made it significantly more fun.

At the end of the activity, teams met with other teams to experience each other’s escape rooms. It was clear that no team’s escape room was perfect. However, this trial and error had an important purpose. The activity connected teachers to their students by placing them in an alternative learning environment that equally embraced challenge and support, as well as failure. Jami Fluke says: “Failing feels horrible. But when you’ve felt failure and worked through it, you have a greater compassion for others.”

This school year, teachers will be embracing their students and all of the individualities that make them an important piece of any group, team, or classroom. In doing so, they are embracing failure and seeing it as an important step in any learning process.

Here’s to a new year of student-lead brilliance at Dayton School District.

Bevin Schrag Administrator

Bevin Schrag is a writer for Innovate Oregon. While working in social media and marketing at OnlineNW, she is currently studying the arts at Chemeketa Community College, to later become a media designer.