Episode 66 Escape rooms and orienteering with Kirsten

In this episode, Dan interviews Kirsten Lardner a grad student from the University of Woolongong to talk about her recent lessons using escape rooms and orienteering to help students engage with learning and become lifelong learners.

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Episode 66 Escape rooms and orienteering with Kirsten is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Coming up with fun engaging lessons is always a great way to set students up to enjoy earning and become lifelong in this endeavour. Kirsten’s lessons using escape rooms and orienteering are just an example of some fantastic lesson ideas to help engage students with their learning.

Video show

Show Notes

Episode Highlights

Key Point #1: What were your lessons like?

  • students were solving problems and detailing how much sugar was in various drinks etc
  • students showcased a deep understanding of the content and were engaged
  • orienteering was held on the back oval, with students navigating and learning to use a map to find words relating to teamwork.

Key Point #2: How does it help them become lifelong learners?

  • Fun engaging learning activities like these help students identify new areas of knowedge and skill that they may like to explore further
  • the students enjoy their learning and engage with it, making them more likely to succeed and identify as learners
  • enjoying learning helps them become lifelong learners

Key Point #3: where can the listeners start?

  • Do some research and find great resources or use Kirsten’s




Well hi everyone and welcome again to the Effective Teaching podcast, I’m your host Dan Jackson and today is episode 66. And today I’m going to be talking with Kirsten who is a graduate student from the University of Wollongong. She’s actually currently looking for a job for next year, in 2021, so if you have a position for a PDHPE teacher I highly recommend that you get in contact with Kirsten I’m sure she would really much appreciate that. 

Now I’m gonna say, I was chatting to Kirsten in the TeachersPD Facebook group. I put up a post just about, you know, let’s celebrate teachers who have tried something new and, you know, how it went and she put up a comment about how she had done a lesson recently where she had done some an escape room and some orienteering with her year eight classes and so I thought it would be a fantastic thing to have her on the podcast to talk about what she did how it went and to talk about how that then links in with lifelong learning. So, thank you so much for joining us Kirsten.

Thank you it’s good to be here.

So, Kirsten can you just tell us a little bit about your escape room activity that you ran with your your eight PDH class?

Yep sure, so I decided to run an escape room with my year eight class and it was, it was nutrition themed, because I thought that that would allow me to develop a lot of activities and allow them to really explore the content in depth. They had already gone over some of the content of nutrition in term one so revisiting that in term four as well I felt was a good way to just solidify and deepen their knowledge of certain content in that. So, how it worked do you want to know how it worked?

Yeah yeah tell us. 

Okay. So how it worked was ideally I would really want to develop these missions where I would put them in an envelope and hide the envelope within a classroom and then the students in groups, in small groups of about four to five, would find these envelopes around the classroom and then do their particular mission. But it didn’t work out that way for me as teachers you know might find especially not having a particular room so what I ended up doing was not hiding anything because there actually wasn’t really anywhere to hide these envelopes in the classroom and instead I sort of set up these stations or mission areas where students would come in, they would get into their groups that I would organize or that they would organize themselves, and then they would go to these different stations and they would do a particular mission that was set for that certain desk or station that they were at. 

One of the missions, for example, was for them to realize how much sugar is within certain drinks. So they had to separate these drink bottles from what they thought was the least healthiest to the most healthiest and then they stacked these sugar sachets in front of each of these drinks based on how much sugar content was in these drinks per serving. So that was really allowing them to see tangibly how much sugar is within certain drinks and it was very interesting for them and they found it very kinesthetic like learning they found it very interesting because they could see, you know, how much sugar for example was in a Gatorade. And they were able to see that very physically. And I think that really hammered the point of how much sugar is within these drinks that we typically see as being healthy when really they’re full of sugar, especially, you know, drinks like Gatorade and that sort of thing. 

So that was just one of the missions, and the idea was for them to complete a mission then they performed a ring toss game which was more like a it was set up so that they could perform a quick activity and then go on to their next mission so they took their sheets with them. And then the idea was that they completed all their missions and the first group to complete them all won. As such, and I gave them a handball as a prize for the group that that came first and I was able to see their final sheets and was able to determine if they had in-depth answers enough because I was finding that some of the groups completed them too quickly and I would go back and go oh well you know you’ve missed xyz in a certain mission. 

And I got that idea mainly from the internet and it’s really used really well in classes like history and that sort of thing because that they could actually use memorabilia from like old times like 1950s and things like that, which I found really really cool. So in future I would want to plan something that is a bit more that involves a bit more of different cross skilling so I could like go into a bit more of science and involve, you know, they’re measuring something or something along those lines so with more time I would, you know, go into it a bit more. But I felt like it worked well and the students were really engaged which was my primary goal.


Great so it did have that result that the students were engaged in your in your lesson and when you were collecting those sheets and stuff at the end and you’re looking at their depth of understanding was it… did you see that.. like were most of them actually getting a really good grasp of what was happening?

Yes, Yes definitely. Especially with the certain especially with the sugar activity they really got that and then I had another activity which was measuring the sodium within products because a lot of students don’t really realize how much sodium is in certain certain products such as tiny teddies for example. There’s a lot of sodium within those because of the manufacturing. So again they were able to see and measure how much sodium was in these products and then minus that from a sodium total that they don’t that they’re required to have for the day. And I found that they were able to work that out really well and really have a deeper level of knowledge with those certain activities.


Yeah yeah that’s cool, that’s very coo. So you’ve had this great activity with this escape room thing your kids really enjoyed it they got lots of learning out of it you then also you know shared your orienteering activity that you did what did you do with the students in relation to orienteering and how was that helpful for your students?

Yes, so that was another lesson. Ideally I would want to have that over a unit but having that one lesson what I really wanted them to get out of that was to develop their teamwork skills and their communication skills between each other and to work with people that they’re not used to working with. So I made sure that I determine the groups for that and what I did with that was I really wanted them to gain a sense of of what orienteering is, but within the refines of me being able to supervise them in a school setting. So what that meant was that it was a very miniature version of orienteering as such because I couldn’t go out into the bush and that sort of thing and you know set up control points and stuff like that.

So what I ended up doing with that is, I took them down to the back oval so they met at a certain classroom and then I talked about what was going to happen. I taught them through what orientary was. I even showed them a little bit of a video to get them thinking about the idea conceptually. Then I took them down to the back oval and I said okay we all have to start in the middle of the oval you’re in your groups and you’re all given a map and the map was just of this uh the this back oval of the school and it had certain control points. In orienteering they call them control points, and it’s just basically circles on a map that they had to go to and that one person from each group had to go to and find an envelope and in that envelope was a letter and they had to find all the envelopes and all the letters and then bring it back to me in the middle of the oval and unjumble a word. 

So the letters created a word and the word was something to do with teamwork. So I had them as being teams or united or collaboration that sort of those sort of words. I had those within those envelopes and then they created that and then they filled out a table and that. 

On the table I was trying to get them to think about certain aspects of a map so uh where north is where east is how how to actually turn the map to find that and to find the envelope. And I saw a lot of kids using their maps holding them up and going oh yep there’s north you know there’s west okay so we need to turn it that way and then you know go that way, which is what I really wanted them to get out of it. So I found that really really good and then they were also required to fill out on this table landmarks that they saw, so, you know, rocks, AFL post, whatever they could say. They then drew that and and they counted their paces as well and all of that are things that are in a map just a way to for them to see it tangibly. So the pacers thing my idea behind that was that they actually were working out a scale of a map but just with their own feet and walking a certain distance and then counting how many paces to a certain distance and and the idea behind that was that they learn how to read maps because I feel like that’s a skill now that is lost on a lot of students including like including myself. 

I didn’t really know before even doing this activity how much I needed to know where north was like true north and… 


You’re too young Kirsten you’re too young. I remember the days seeing cars trying to drive and navigate maps and flicking pages in the big Gregory’s directory of streets and stuff trying to work out where we were going. 


I remember my mum taking me to parties where she would get out the old you know street map and be looking at that and I would be trying to you know direct her and she’d be freaking out. But yeah but nowadays, I just feel like it’s so phones you know so Google maps straight away it’s got it all done for you. Yeah so it was very interesting to see my students self-direct themselves in trying to understand that knowledge. 


Yeah well that’s that’s fantastic it such a good skill that orienteering skills it can be used in lots of different contexts it’s not just for yeah, we tend to often put it in the category of you know bush walking and you know the whole idea of you know maybe in the army or people who are in remote rescue or just when you get completely lost or something you know these big things that people often don’t associate with themselves. But it wasn’t that long ago that you know we were using it for our basic traveling getting around places and, yeah, Google has a lot to answer for sometimes. So, very good in some ways.


Yes you totally forget you know what it’s like and students you know get being given a map they may not even know how how to turn a page you know or that there’s another page like you know afterwards after a certain street so yeah very interesting and yes totally a skill that I feel is very overlooked nowadays. 


Yeah, so let’s go back to your two lessons and talk about how you think this actually helped your students to become lifelong learners how do you think that’s impacted them in that sense? 


Yes so in thinking about this I think that ultimately what it allows for is engagement with uh new content with content that they’re unfamiliar with completely. And it draws them in, it self motivates them and self directs them. And I think that that leads ultimately to lifelong learning because if I just plant you know the seed in one student’s you know mind that orienteering is a thing or I you know tell them all they get from the escape room how much sugar is in their Gatorade, the next time that they go to drink it I think that that promotes lifelong learning because it allows them to to gain motivation to to learn and to keep learning, which I think is is what ultimately these activities are about. 


Yeah I think both of your activities too, they’re both very problem-based activities where kids are really having to solve puzzles and try and find out how they actually go about the process of solving things, which I think, when it comes to real life, is very much the way reality happens. You know you get presented with something that you’re unfamiliar with you don’t know the answer to and therefore you’ve got to go and find how to do that. And it’s these kinds of activities that allow them to think about the process of well, how do I actually work out what I need to do in order to solve what’s been put in front of me, and so I think problem solving activities and particularly things like escape rooms, orienteering and there’s a great one that I know of as well called BreakoutEDU, which is all about hacking into boxes using codes and puzzles and solving all that kind of stuff as well. And people have created some really great ones of those and I’ll put a link on the teachers on the show notes for anyone who wants to get access to the BreakoutEDU or where you went Kirsten, which is the activehistory.co.uk/escaperoom link, so I’ll put all that up on the on the home on the show notes on the home page on the show notes. So can you give our teachers just one thing if they’re going to start or try and just instigate something along these lines in their classroom this week where would you recommend they start? 

Yeah so I definitely think starting with with internet research is definitely where to go. That’s obviously where I find everything. And it may take a little bit of looking to find you know a good resource that is well thought out but it’s definitely worth it and there’s certain orienteering websites and places from actual orienteering organizations that I found really helpful as well. Queensland government, I believe, was was one and they actually have resources that are already done for you like lessons and things like that that are already completed and and yeah the active history website that you were talking about that has a really really good one history based that I based my nutrition one off. So yeah those resources definitely looking at those first and then also acknowledging the fact that it is going to take a fair bit of planning and and it is going to take a fair bit of resources and…

Is there any chance that you’re going to share your lesson plans maybe that you did and I can chuck them up on my site?

Yeah definitely so I’ve then sent them to you, I’ve sent them to two other teachers that asked as well, because I’m always happy to you know share because I think that learning is should be for everyone and if one of us can improve them why don’t we all. So yeah happy to share.


That’s fantastic. So thank you so much Kirsten for coming on and I can’t believe you haven’t got a job yet for next year. So anyone who out there any head teacher of PDHPE I know there’s plenty of head teachers for PDH listening, if you have a job for Kirsten please you know get in contact with her she’s in the TeachersPD group in on Facebook so you can come in there and find her that way if you like or just shoot me an email and I’ll connect the two of you for sure because by the looks of what she’s doing she’s doing some really great stuff she’s coming out with some great ideas and I think she’s going to be a great teacher to have in any faculty. I wish my school was hiring right now. So thank you so much for for joining us Kristen uh sorry, Kirsten I think I’ve said that a couple of times wrong I apologize for that.


I get it all the time yeah


So for those of you who are listening uh if you want to head over to teacherspd.net/66 you’ll get the show notes for this episode. I’ll make sure all the links are there to the websites that uh Kirsten used and also be sharing her resources that she’s got on that site page as well so please come over to there. And… but if that’s it for this week until next week I look forward to chatting to you and don’t forget the school’s almost done it’s almost done the year’s nearly out. Bye everyone

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