Restrictions and schedule changes for the 2020 summer camping season had campers eager to get into a resident camp. Who would have thought that once there, they would be challenged to escape?
In mid-January, a small committee of professional staff and volunteers met to discuss a new program idea for the H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation: an escape room.
Escape rooms trace back to the early 2000s as an adaption of popular video games involving teams who solve puzzles to “escape” a room. The rooms are built around themes such as hospitals, castles, and secret alien military bases. Puzzles can be easy to solve or require considerable brain power to reveal clues that will allow the participants to claim victory by escaping using the exit code in the prescribed time.
The committee tossed around several ideas from zombies to local lore and finally agreed upon a historical theme highlighting the first year of the camp, 1930. Historical research was conducted, and room decorations reflected a modified 1930s scoutmaster’s cabin.
Scouts would have 40 minutes to find clues, complete puzzles, and put together a phrase in order to escape. Puzzles in the room ranged from keys hidden in rocks, mirror image messages on the inside of an empty safety razor, a leather satchel that opened based on colors of the rainbow and more.
Creating an escape room, while it appeared easy, was an endeavor into the mind of the Scouts who would participate. What do contemporary youth enjoy? What kinds of puzzles are they good at? How do they work as a team? How do they think critically? All these questions must be considered to get the right mix of easy and challenging puzzles while also attempting to minimize frustration.
The uniqueness of the 1930s room and its dated décor was an interesting exploration of times past, and the overtones of factual history of the camp created an appealing diversion that was out of the ordinary for the Scouts.
This summer 292 Scouts put their problem-solving skills and team working abilities to the test in the escape room. Because of the popularity of the program this summer the camp plans to include a second escape room with a sinister STEM related theme.