CSI: The brain collector serial killer case

Brief project description

“CSI: The brain collector serial killer case” is an Educational Escape Room (EER) activity with a focus on learning about human’s nervous system designed and implemented by 16-year old high school students from “Ekpaideutiki Anagennisi” in Afidnes, Greece on 19th of March 2019. But …. what is an EER?

What exactly is an Educational Escape Room?

Escape rooms are live action, team-based games where players discover clues, solve puzzles, and accomplish tasks in one or more rooms in order to accomplish a specific goal (usually escaping from the room) in a limited amount of time. Over the last year, there’s been worldwide growth in creating and introducing into the classrooms Educational Escape Room activities (EERs), facilitated by educators that have adapted the initial concept to fit the needs of their students.

What makes these activities special compared to other examples of gamification in education that have been studied in the past regarding their educational impact on the learners, is the fact that they can provide a thrilling, immersive learning experience that can intrigue students’ minds and assist them to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The incorporated collaborative elements of these activities and the limited time frame that students have at their disposal promote the development of their social and team-working skills that are necessary for them in order to succeed.

Naming brain parts puzzle

So, what exactly did you do during the activity?

The “myth” behind my EER activity is the following: A serial killer, named “the Brain Collector” has been killing people in town. Being very smart and methodical, he always leaves coded messages at the murder scene, mocking police or making some type of statement. Special police unit called CSI gets involved and asks students assistance.

Students are divided into 4 groups and are being assigned a specific colour (red, blue, green, yellow). They are being given the first elements: an envelope with clues like MRI scans, a puzzle that requires them to name different brain parts, a riddle-message, a light box to see the scans and a locked box that they need to unlock [Challenge 1]. Deciphering the 4-digit code of the padlock requires them to name correctly the brain parts, discover hidden clues with a UV torch, and combine these elements accordingly.

MRI scans
Initial clues
The 4-digit code

Unlocking the box will offer the students a variety of new items and clues that need to be combined… A small locked box, a construction that contains a 3D brain model and several MRI scans need to be associated with the exact brain sectional plane (frontal, saggital, or transverse) in order to decipher the next code and open a 3-digit lock [Challenge 2] that gives access to a smaller box.

Construction for the MRI Sectional planes puzzle
3D brain model
3-digit lock

This last box, contains a series of other objects like 3D brain slices, strange looking markers/pointers, a torn piece from a newspaper and additional elements. A list of questions needs to be answered in order to find the clues that will point out to students not only killer’s motive, but also his next victim, place and time that he will strike next [Challenge 3]. Placing the pointers on the right positions of the map will reveal the point of interest, while the rest of the clues will help them solve the case and help the CSI unit to catch him red-handed.

How teachers and students are involved during the activity?

During the challenges, the teacher acts like a facilitator that helps when students are stuck, but no more than needed. He is also “performing” as the CSI agent that is recruiting students to help him. Students receive serial killer’s clues and try to decipher them in time before he strikes again.

What are students expected to learn by participating in this activity?

Learning objectives:

  • Recognizing the parts of the brain and their functional roles.
  • Familiarizing with modern medical imaging methods for brain structural analysis (MRI, fMRI).
  • Work with 3D brain models
  • Learn about synaesthesia
  • Collaborate effectively in teams and develop their 21st century skills (4Cs – Critical thinking, Creativity, Collaboration, Communication)

What is innovative about your project?

My project introduces a whole new idea of gamifying learning experiences by promoting students‘ active involvement that offers multiple learning benefits for the students, both cognitive and social.

Science education is not just a plain memorization of information, but also the ability to observe, to recall, to analyze and to combine. It cannot be effective unless it challenges students to ask the proper questions, it encourages them to be creative, open-minded and out-of-the-box thinkers. Collaboration and task allocation are core characteristics of science research that need to be taught as well. Science education has to be inspiring and engaging for the learner and of course not only at a theoretical approach, but also at a practical and experiential level. But it also needs to be entertaining and fascinating; it must be captivating and thought-provoking.

Combining all of these properties with the key learning objectives that derive from the science curriculum is what every teacher desires. Educational escape room activities encapsulate all of the pre-mentioned qualities and make them undeniably the perfect way to implement methods of inclusive education in our professional practice.

What can other teachers implement from your project in their classes?

A new innovative way of thinking how to create fun educational activities that will allow them to include all of their students into the learning procedure and help them develop multiple useful skills as it has been previously mentioned.

Published by

georgiosvillias

... From an early age I was inclined towards science and mathematics. I hadn’t decided whether I should choose to become a scientist or an engineer, but I was sure that I didn’t want to study economics or law school. I always preferred the real world; tangible and easily to observe facts, problem solving situations, possibly in need of manual labor or the conduct of field research. It was probably my acquaintance with the scout movement and the direct contact with nature that awakened my adventurous spirit and helped me decide in favor of the life sciences academic field. Being born in a country like Greece, a place thriving of natural beauties and diverse landscapes it was not difficult to be allured by the amazing world of biology and the unique biodiversity that surrounded me. Outdoor activities and travelling has been my “transportation” means to explore the world, to become familiarized with the unknown, to initiate myself into different cultures and civilizations in order to become able to understand some of nature’s and life’s greatest secrets. Travelling gave me a different perspective for life. Hiking at the glaciers of Svalbard, a remote island in Norway close to North Pole, chatting with Dogon’s tribe elders at sub-saharian Africa, diving at the Red sea, or mountaineering at 18,000 ft in Iran, are just some of my life journey experiences. After working almost 10 years now in the field of education as a Biology teacher, I enjoy my daily interaction with youngsters and I feel proud and excited to have the ability and responsibility of contributing to their intellectual and social development. I always seek new ways to enhance my teaching methodology and to change my students' routine to a meaningful educational reality with activities and life lessons that will have a great positive impact to their future .... thus, our future. My most recent professional and educational endeavours include graduate studies (PhD level) in Education at the University of Cambridge. My research interests focus on the development, implementation and evaluation of educational escape rooms.

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