Table of Contents
Part 1: Storytelling in escape room for an effective pedagogy
Part 2: How to create an escape room for steam education
Part 3: Resources to find content
Part 4: Practical advice
Part 5: Disorder or disabilities
Part 6: Positive role models for girls
In this chapter we will consider how to make a STEAM escape room not only educative and inclusive but balanced regarding gender equality. Despite the recent improvements in society and STEM in terms of gender equality, something is just not working well in the classroom. The many reasons, why these gender gaps are left open, start to appear or become apparent at earlier stages of school, which should be a signal to educators to consider the issue of gender gap in curriculum more closely when creating an educational tool or method.
We will discuss the possible ways to deal with the problems and how to implement the ideas proposed through educational Escape Rooms. In a more practical part of the chapter, we will introduce seven inspirational stories about the women in STEM who influenced the world and whose stories might inspire a creation of an inclusive and gender-balanced learning tool for a better and more effective education.
1. The possible ways to deal with the problems, and how to implement the ideas proposed through an educational Escape Room
- Here we will start with an idea that might appear strange and least expected, especially in the modern educational field. However, this idea was born while observing a STEM Escape Room in a small town in Latvia not long before the creation of this guide.
An interdisciplinary Escape Room was built to teach and test students’ knowledge about water, water characteristics and water pollution. All the students were excited and loved the experience. While monitoring a group of students consisting of only girls, the teacher was surprised at how fast and how effectively the group worked, which was not the case in their classroom. Not only the girls were more collaborative and communicative in doing the STEM tasks, but they were also enthusiastic, creative, and proved to be able to perform outstanding problem-solving skills.
Repeating the experiment with other girl-only groups and after discussing and investigating the experiment, the group of teachers concluded that girls feel more confident with STEM subjects while being separated from boys.
A study in the UK by Effective Pedagogies for Girls Learning (2018) also emphasized the idea of same-sex classes. While unpopular and frequently considered old-school, this approach may actually make a significant impact on how well girls perform in STEM. Built by Me (2019)
- Being exposed to positive women role models in STEM on a regular basis can influence girls’ attitude towards science positively/favourably. We will consider and elaborate on this approach further by citing inspirational stories about famous women in STEM which can be used in STEAM Escape Rooms. Here, we would like to stress that we should expose girls to the positive examples of women in science more often. The role models should not be high-flyers in STEM, they can be next-door neighbours, friends or even teachers; real people and real things are still the best examples and role models. Therefore, our inspirational stories are for you to use.
- Allow girls to lead in STEM tasks. Very often teachers assign roles in group work, so why not to use this opportunity in designating leading parts to girls? Let them feel more responsible for the team, the scientific performance, and at the same time to get used to these roles. This will also help girls increase their competitiveness and proactivity in the task.
Furthermore, by giving positive feedback on the outcome, teachers might push girls to feel valued and more successful in STEM subjects. Moreover, this approach can boost girls’ self-confidence in science, which is often considered a barrier to STEM careers. This may apply to a STEM Escape Room, where there is a possibility to assign a leader for a group of students, though it may greatly depend on the design of the Escape Room.
- The following way to increase girls’ interest in STEM we what we called, How It Is Made. The internet is extremely rich in this field and will offer you myriads of ideas, videos, books, etc. This approach discovers how STEM is being applied in real life. The opportunity to recognize STEM subjects in everyday objects may better connect learning to real life problems and solutions, which makes learning more meaningful and thus, motivating. Findings revealed that girls who believe that experience and learning expanded intelligence were more likely to do better on math tests. They also expressed more interest in pursuing science subjects in the future. The opposite belief achieved the opposite effect. PISA (2014)
- Experimental games narrate girls’ interest in STEM. Minecraft lessons in Citadaskola in Liepaja, Latvia proved that girls, when given the opportunity, without any hesitation take up the roles of engineers, constructors, architects when playing. Legos seem to also have boosted their STEM skills and thus, confidence in the STEM curriculum. A hammer, scotch tape, a piece of wood and paper, plus the element of creativity help girls build towers as tall as the ones built by boys. Let them build and experiment. Being an experimental game itself, a STEM Escape Room fits this approach best.
- Collaboration and cooperation are highly valued and well performed by girls by their nature. Escape Rooms are a cooperative and teambuilding activity in which girls are voluntarily involved in a more proactive way. STEM and STEAM Escape Rooms are a very successful finding in a contemporary and demanding classroom, fitting and benefitting both genders in a relevant way for each.
Collaboration with parents in a STEM Escape Room is an idea brought by the already mentioned rural school in Latvia. This kind of collaboration brought girls confidence, leadership, STEM inspiration and desire for more science. The collaboration of educators with parents beyond school, collaboration with colleagues, and collaboration with the community in narrowing the gender gap in science will definitely lead towards dropping gender stereotypes.
Parents’ and teachers’ support of and interest in their students, and school policies and practices, can help shape students’ perceptions of their own strengths. Closing gender gaps in the labour market requires that all parents, educators and employers become more aware of their own assumptions and conscious or unconscious biases. By doing so, they will be able to provide girls and boys with the appropriate support, and ensure that success at school and beyond is gender blind. (Boston, J., & Cimpian, A. 2018)
- Making STEM classrooms more interactive and modern has always been a key to successful teaching and motivation, especially for girls. An Educational Escape Room is a very interactive tool if not the most interactive one. Bringing an Escape Room to a STEM classroom is possible. Bringing a STEM classroom to a STEM Escape Room is possible too. Including positive role models for girls in an Escape Room is doable as well. Therefore, it means that bringing more positive role models for the girls in the STEM classrooms through STEM Escape Rooms will be a beneficial multitude.
Additionally, integrating inspiring films, books, TED Talks about women in STEM within the narrative of the Escape Room will help bring more positive role models for girls in the STEM classes.
2. Seven inspirational stories about the women in STEM
Here we will present more practical suggestions on using role models in STEM for girls. Sharing the extraordinary stories worth being used for fiction literature and films, (and some have been used already!), the stories we have been fascinated by ourselves, and the stories, which contain not only outstanding achievements in STEM but mystery, enigmas and even detective investigations. The main characters of all these stories are women who influenced the world of STEM in different ways. We will share the stories in a riddle way-giving the key words to guess the character, and then providing readers with a short introduction and some useful websites allowing readers to conduct a deeper research. Moreover, all these stories can be used for creating STEM and STEAM Escape Rooms using these stories either as scenarios, narratives, or separate puzzles, etc. but one idea will be provided as an example.
- Key words: an actress, Marine Navy, Bluetooth, WiFi, beauty icon, secure radio communication, munition, torpedo. Although these words seem to present a riddle themselves, they depict the lifelong enigmas that is Hedy Lamarr. Said to be one of the most beautiful women and actresses, Hedy Lamarr was an inventor by nature, inspired and obsessed to contribute to the sooner end of WW2. She was passionate about inventing and patiently waited for the world to recognize her innovations. “Improving things comes naturally to me.” Hedy Lamarr.
Hedy Lamarr helped invent WiFi and secret radio communication. However, her Patent on technology was confiscated.
Our suggestion for an Escape Room idea would be a STEM Escape Suitcase brought to the classroom, once owned by Hady Lamarr, full of secrets and secret ciphers, and containing … a beauty kit.
- Key words: primatology, ethnology, anthropology, chimpanzees, East Africa, UN Messenger of Peace, low-top canvas sneakers, barefoot, zoologist, genetic kinship, 60-year immersion, chimps mother, mentor. This laboratory definitely has different sounds, which became an integral part of Jane Goodall’s life. Equipped with little more than a notebook, binoculars, and her fascination for wildlife, Jane Goodall braved a realm of unknowns to give the world a remarkable window into humankind’s closest living relatives. Through nearly 60 years of ground-breaking work, Dr Jane Goodall has not only shown us the urgent need to protect chimpanzees from extinction; she has also redefined species conservation to include the needs of local people and the environment. Today she travels the world, speaking about the threats facing chimpanzees and environmental crises, urging each of us to take action on behalf of all living things and the planet we share. (The Jane Goodall Institute)
Escape Room suggestion: Newspaper article title: A Young Woman, 26, Disappears for 60 years in African Forest. Investigation should be updated, volunteers wanted!
- Key words: Nobel prize unearned, stolen Photograph 51, the Dark Lady of DNA, double helix, crystallography, X-Ray laboratory, robot to Mars, the double helix. A sad, yet full of glorious scientific discoveries, story about the unsung mother of the double helix, Rosalind Franklin has been attracting people’s attention for decades now. The Dark Lady of DNA spent most of her short life in dark labs, surrounded by men who did not accept her as a scientist, but instead used her scientific research for their own work, making their way to the Nobel Prize. In May 1952, Franklin took a picture that would become famous – Photograph 51 – capturing the X-ray diffraction pattern of DNA. This image, along with other data from Franklin’s research, made their way to Watson and Crick, who were also studying DNA at the same time. This data gave them the insight they needed to determine the true double helix structure of DNA. Rosalind Franklin was fully devoted to science, working not only with DNA, but also studying viruses, as a result of which, she brought valuable “lasting benefits to mankind”.
Our idea to honour Rosalind Franklin through an Escape Room is to create an abandoned house and a dark secret room of the female scientist, where the famous photograph’s frame is on the wall. The photograph is hidden in a safe. There are a lot of papers containing studies on DNA, formulas, pictures and descriptions all in a jumble, which once put back in order will provide a code…
- Key words: theorem, worthy a Nobel Prize, Physics, Mathematics, symmetry, conservation, supersymmetry, Albert Einstein. Creative Mathematics Genius, as she is often addressed now, Emmy Noether is one of the most inspirational female role models in the history of science. The Noether’s Theorem, also labelled as the most beautiful idea in physics – is symmetries applied to conservation laws, or a relationship between symmetries in physics and conservation principles. Although it sounds too complicated for a non-mathematician and/or a non-physicist, Noether’s Theorem is explicable and understandable enough for school students who study physics. This basic result in the theory of relativity was praised by Einstein in a letter to Hilbert when he referred to Noether’s penetrating mathematical thinking. But it is not only for the theorem that Emmy Noether is famous. She constantly struggled her entire life for a place in Mathematics, where there was hardly any space for a woman at that time.
Some biographies inaccurately portray Noether as a somewhat helpless genius at the mercy of men’s charitable actions. In reality, she had an assertive personality, and was eventually recognized as a leader, and as the first female plenary speaker at the renowned International Congress of Mathematicians (Celebrate the mathematics of Emmy Noether)
The Escape Room idea to honour Emmy Noether: to create a STEAM Escape Room including elements of symmetry, Illusion, mirrors, and/or flipped things around an upside-down room.
- Key words: computer, programmer, network, engineer, security, Ethernet, wireless network bridges, the mother of Internet, scientist. American computer programmer and network engineer, mostly known for her work in network security, Radia Perlman is often referred to as the Mother of the Internet. Both her parents were engineers who worked for the US government. Her father worked on radars, and her mother was a mathematician and computer programmer. Perlman was an outstanding student in school and was keenly interested in science and mathematics. Radia was raised in a progressive household, which helped her develop a moral and social conscience. She once said “The kind of diversity that I think really matters isn’t skin shade and body shape, but different ways of thinking.” Radia Perlman invented wireless network bridges, which transformed ethernet from a limited single-unit technology into a robust multi-unit one, which is currently used by the majority of internet service providers and making today’s Internet possible. Her work in network security was pioneering for her time. She is the author of a textbook on networking and network security, and holds more than 100 issued patents. A wildly creative thinker, Radia Perlman even developed a child-friendly programming language used by children as young as 3. Though she grew up in a family that was involved in science and technology, Perlman also developed a keen interest in literature and music. She wrote poetry and enjoyed playing the piano.
Escape Room idea: Lost Wi-Fi. One of the puzzles in any STEM Escape Room could be to fix the Internet connection without WIFI with the instructions given as a hint and the hint can be given by…Radia Perlman!
- Key words: analytics, metaphysics, calculation, mathematics, calculating machine, noble, commuter programmer. Enchantress of Numbers, Ada Lovelace was a very intelligent and well-educated lady from high society. Being a daughter of the famous poet Lord Byron, whom she never knew, and having been raised by a very progressive mother for those times, Ada for her short yet bright life was regretfully weak in health but made outstanding progress in science, mathematics in particular. This was a brave act for a beautiful, yet fragile young girl. Even after a marriage and birth of three children she continued her investment into mathematics. Her lifelong friend and the so-called father of the computer, Babbage, was her mentor and scientific project manager in modern interpretation. They co-wrote the creation of an analytical machine that, when given programmes, could do anything from calculating to composing music, which sounds like creating a modern computer.
Escape Room ideas to memorize Ada Lovelace could also be an Escape Suitcase of a lady with some … coding puzzles. Or, it can be a digital Escape Room on programming and coding, full of secrets of the beautiful young woman.
- Key words: engineering, princess, dolls, pink aisle, an engineering toy for girls, entrepreneur, construction toys, spatial skills. This STEM girl is definitely a role model for many girls and parents of girls. As a child, Debbie Sterling dreamt about princess dresses, as a lot of little girls do. She was smart and good at mathematics, but eventually lost interest in STEM as she never knew one woman in STEM around her. However, her high school teacher advised her to take up engineering, which surprised her but somehow set the idea in her mind. So, she followed the advice. Debbie Sterling is the Founder and CEO of GoldieBlox, the award-winning children’s multimedia company disrupting the pink aisle in toy stores globally and challenging gender stereotypes with the world’s first girl engineer character. Debbie is an engineer, entrepreneur, and one of the leaders in the movement towards empowering girls to build their confidence, dreams and ultimately, their futures. She was named TIME’s “Person of the Moment,” (2015) honoured by the National Retail Foundation as one of 25 “People Shaping Retail’s Future,” and was recently added to Fortune Magazine’s prestigious “40 Under 40” list. In 2015, Debbie was inducted as a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship and honoured by the National Women’s History Museum with a “Living Legacy” Award for her work to empower girls around the world. Debbie received her degree in Engineering at Stanford University in 2005. (https://www.engineergirl.org/13512/Debbie-Sterling)
Escape Room ideas inspired by Debbie Sterling: GoldieBlox, Debbie’s prototype toy can be a …game master; a fairy tale made from construction toys with puzzles to solve.
To conclude we would like to quote the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science statement that “ One day, we will live in a world where girls are encouraged to study science, where women have adequate support to balance the responsibilities of research and motherhood, and where scientists are judged purely on the merit of their discoveries and the potential of their work to change the world” and we proudly feel that the European project STEAMER is a small but mighty contribution to the changes that needed so much in the world and education.