Learning Center Break Out Boxes

Have you heard of something called a Breakout Box? I just recently found out about them, and I can’t believe it has taken me this long! Breakout Boxes are a wonderful mix of STEM, gaming, and problem-solving, all wrapped up like an educational escape room. It makes learning fun, collaborative and best of all, gives classrooms a fun new take on Learning Centers that will have your students begging to learn more!

Fun Learning Centers with Breakout Boxes

Interlocked padlocks on a dark background with overlay text Break Out Boxes STEM Learning Centers for the Classroom inspired by Escape Rooms

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What are Learning Center Break Out Boxes?

The premise of this learning center activity is that students are trying to break into a box that is locked with several different kinds of locks. The teacher, librarian, educator or leader comes up with different activities that allow the students to discover clues or solve problems, usually working in small groups. Once they come up with the correct solution, they unlock one of the locks. Once they get all the locks opened, they get a prize that is hidden inside the box. The prize could be books, candy, or a special pass or privilege.

The wonderful thing about ”Breakout Boxes” is that they can be geared to any subject area, and pretty much any age group. Want to have your students learn about World War II? Break out Box! Are you starting a unit on common denominators? Break out Box!

The ability to scale and structure this activity is one of the things I love most about it. The concept works perfectly for any setting – classroom, library, museum, community program and more. Anytime you want a fun, educational challenge for kids, try a Break Out Box and watch the excitement!

Using Break Out Boxes in the Classroom

To start with, you will need a few basic supplies. Before you dive in head-first and buy ALL.THE.THINGS, check with the education department at local colleges, school districts, or simply other teachers. Educators are more than willing to share, so I bet you might be able to find at least a few things to borrow instead of purchase. You could also check out Breakout EDU for complete kits, but be prepared to pay a bit more for the convenience of everything bundled together.

Learning Center Break Out Box Supplies

The main supplies are of course boxes and locks. Once you have those basics, they can be reused for an unlimited number of Break Out Boxes.

To set up your first Learning Center Break Out Boxes You will need:

A box with a lid and a lock loop. You need something you can put the lock through to keep the box closed until the students have answered the clues! You might want a box for each group of students. In general, a good group size is 5 to 6 students, depending on age, so you may need multiples of everything.

A multi-lock hasp, with holes for locks of all kinds to make unlocking that much more fun! Something like THIS is exactly what you are looking for!

Locks, locks and more locks! You can buy a kit, or stock up on them at the next home improvement store sale. Just make sure you hang on to the instructions, you will want to change the unlock code quite often. There are so many different locks available including ones that use letters, numbers or keys. Playing with the types of locks can change up how you set up your Break Out Boxes.

Challenge Materials will be needed for the kids to solve. These will be around whatever theme you have chosen for the box. They can be

Prizes! You will need some sort of prizes that the kids will win when they get the box open.

Master Lock Lockout Tagout Hasp, Vinyl Coated Steel Hasp, 1-1/2 in Jaw Clearance, 421Akro-Mils 9514 14-Inch ProBox Plastic Tool Box, RedMaster Lock 1500iD Locker Lock Set Your Own Directional Combination Padlock, 1 Pack, Assorted ColorsMaster Lock Padlock, Set Your Own Combination Lock, 1-15/16 in. Wide, Assorted Colors, 1590DMaster Lock 1535DWD Locker Lock Set Your Own Word Combination Padlock, 1 Pack, Assorted ColorsMaster Lock 1533TRI Locker Lock Mini Combination Padlock, 3 Pack, Assorted ColorsMaster Lock 4691DWD TSA Set-Your-Own Password Combination Lock, Color Will Vary, 1-PieceMaster Lock Padlock, Solid Brass Lock, 3/4 in. Wide, 120Q (Pack of 4-Keyed Alike)


Setting Up Break Out Boxes

You may want to check out Breakout EDU Getting Started if this is your first time doing Break Out Boxes. There are some awesome videos and step-by-step tutorials to walk you through your first attempt.

The Locks Make All The Difference

Once you have all your materials collected, you will want to figure out what kind of locks you have.

One important consideration, is that if your locks all look the same, consider painting them or adding stickers so you can tell them apart.

If you have letter locks (locks that have letters/words to unlock them), you can have the kids decode words to unlock the locks. If it is numbers, have them find the solution to number problems to reveal the lock numbers. Or, if you are using keys, maybe you can hide the keys around the room or school and the solutions are clues to where they can find the keys.

Tip! This can be a great way for kids to learn about key places and people in the school at the beginning of the school year.

Locks close up, Break out boxes classroom learning centers

The Challenges

Once you have gathered your locks together, you can start deciding on the challenges. Make sure the challenges align with your theme and topic and that the solutions help the kids unlock one of the locks. Crosswords, Word Jumbles, Quote finding in a book (for page numbers) and anything else you can think of to reach an answer that will unlock one of your locks is fair game! You may find it easier to work backwards – program the locks, then create (or find) activities to match. I have a bunch of activities to get you started! Perhaps you can turn one of our Famous STEAMists Unit Studies into a Break Out Box Challenge!

Organizing the Learning Center

Once you have your clues/activities figured out and your locks programmed with the answers, you can start getting activities in order!

Envelopes help a lot if there are multiple activities.

Depending on the level of ability of your students, you can label the locks and the corresponding activity envelopes. That way students know which answer unlocks which lock. This is great for younger kids or those that may struggle with the activity.

If your children are older or more advanced, and enjoy a good challenge, make the kids be problem solvers, and figure out which lock the answer opens.

Ready to Break Out!

Now your Learning Center Break Out Boxes are ready! Remember you can scale these boxes with more or less challenges, and also with the difficulty of the activities. You can also scale them to work for one student or a group of students. Although keeping the group to a maximum of 5 or 6 is best.

Remember to keep those boxes and reuse them to create new escape room inspired educational Break Out Boxes!

Break Out Boxes are a fun way to reinforce concepts in a competitive, engaged and energetic environment. You definitely want to bring these to your Learning Centers.

Have fun learning and Breaking Out!

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