"Fellow Americans, I know you're probably confused and scared. You should be."
The lines from a video announcement created by Dickinson High School students tell participants what to expect in an escape room they created as part of a school project. The theme for that room is Cold War Bunker.
The video continues: "Because of the intense fear of Russian air raids to the triggering of the nuclear sirens, you have rushed into your underground bunker. To your distress, the emergency lock has malfunctioned, and you are locked in. Your bunker was built in a rush during the suburbanization and little to your knowledge, the oxygen tank wasn't installed properly and it has a leak. Within 45 minutes, you will run out of oxygen. You only have that amount of time to get out of the room and save yourself. Good luck."
Upon entering the former Hagen classroom turned escape room, participants are locked in.
"There's a security camera in here monitoring you, and they'll give you clues if you get stuck on that screen. Then you have to find four or five puzzles or clues to find the key that will let you out," said Brian Ham, history teacher.
Participants must solve puzzles also created by students to escape the room.
Ham is in charge of three of the escape rooms, all of which are history-themed - Cold War Bunker, Underground Railroad and The Wild West. The fourth room, Murder Mystery, was created by teacher Greg Jung's project-based biology class students.
"I thought it would be good to use our unit on DNA and RNA to kind of tie in with the theme that we're going to have. ... It's kind of like a murder mystery kind of thing that's surrounding DNA and RNA," Jung said.
The escape room project was Jung's idea.
"In my preparations for that class, I was trying to come up with some big ideas for some bigger projects for the kids, and one of the ideas that I had was doing an escape room. I know a lot of kids and adults have been to escape rooms in bigger cities and they're really cool. It's kind of a new trend," he said.
Jung said the project also allows students to work on their soft skills.
"Creativity and collaboration are two really key components to project-based learning," he said.
The students used both creativity and collaboration to design and create their escape rooms.
"All I did is give them the idea and find the space," Ham said. "The kids did everything else. I just helped them when they were confused or didn't know what to do. They made that video. They came up with all of the technology. They designed the room all by their lonesome. And that's why we're really proud of them."
The students who created The Wild West escape room put an iPad in the room with Facetime so they could monitor the participants. When needed, they told them clues or reminded them of rules by typing into Google translator, which would then read what they had typed through speakers set up in the room.
The project also required students to problem-solve.
For their prison-themed Murder Mystery escape room, Jung's sophomores Zoey Fisher, Allisyn Lucas and Shayne Hoffman burned a pillowcase to make it look shabby and worn, but it wasn't easy and a number of things went wrong. Their lighter wouldn't work, so they replaced it. The wind kept blowing out the lighter's flame, and when they did manage to keep it, the cloth wouldn't light.
They poured alcohol on the cloth, but it was only 50% instead of a 100% alcohol, so it was less flammable. They moved behind the building to block the wind, but were still in its path. They used their bodies to shield the cloth, and finally, they were able to burn through it to create the look they were going for.
In the Underground Railroad room, participants are escaped slaves who must escape the barn before the slave catcher returns.
In The Wild West room, each participant plays a specific criminal and must escape handcuffs, their jail cell and finally the jail itself (the room).
"What's unique about this room is they're the only one that has an actor in there," Ham said. "We have a sheriff in there that if you're too loud or you're going too fast, then he interacts with you and he'll lock you back up. Then you've got to find another way to get out. ... And that came from (the students). That was their idea. What's cool about that is it allows you to control what's going on in the room a bit more than the other rooms."