escapebox met sleutels webversie

Escape boxes for secondary education


Teacher training at Utrecht University makes escape boxes for secondary school science subjects. The boxes have a fixed shape: a fairly high box with five sides. An assignment can be hidden in each side and a tablet fits inside to show videos. The assignments are devised and developed by students in the programme and tested in secondary schools.


Ik kreeg de kans om een van de twee boxen uit te proberen. De keuze was: 1. Plastic Soep of 2. Zoönose. Ik koos voor de tweede. Niet per se voor voor het onderwerp, maar voor de witte jas die erbij lag. Een echte doktersjas! Met een naamkaartje. Altijd al dierenarts willen zijn. Dus de keuze was snel gemaakt.

Dierenarts witte jas wegversie
escapebox met sleutels webversie

Find a cure for Q fever

Very cool to have such a jacket on for once, but I was especially curious to see if this puzzle had specific input from the players. That’s what I like about the game Pandemie, for example. Every player there has a role with a specific skill. Your skill is indispensable for the game, so everyone has to contribute.

We started with a video. In the movie, we were given information about zoonosis and given an assignment. Our goal was to find a cure for Q fever. As is the way with group assignments, everyone started searching and pulling valves at the same time. The different professions we had chosen didn’t really play a role. What did play was the parties involved in Q fever who had to work together to find a solution. In any case, I kept my white vet coat on throughout the game. Well, if you get the chance….


In the end, we found several tasks with substantive questions, where we also had to think logically. I personally liked the task with the syringes: the cylinders had descriptions and the push button had terms.

We had to make the right combinations. There was a line on each push button. When you pressed the button in the cylinder, the line ended with a number. We had to key that number into a combination lock. A fun exercise in professional knowledge with instant feedback. We also had to pay close attention to the short films we saw. Occasionally, we needed this information to solve a puzzle.

Each puzzle gave a code to open a lock of the next flap. Each flap was again important for the final code.


escape box puzzel spuitjes webversie

Our escape box gave us fun, varied tasks that, even though all four of us had lost a lot of biology knowledge, we solved just within the time limit.

After the euphoria of winning, we delved into the theory of the escape box for a while. For example, there are different types of puzzles and also different ways to arrange them. And what do you do, for instance, if students can’t figure it out? What ratio between subject content and game element should you aim for? Read more background information and practical tips for creating an escape box here.

And? Do escape boxes add value in science subjects? According to the developers, yes. They did a literature review and concluded that:


escape box sheet conclusies webversie

Utrecht University’s teacher training programme, together with the Freudental Institute, is running a two-day workshop on making escape boxes for science subjects.

By the way, you can also have students make their own escape boxes. Or, perhaps slightly easier, a game. Read how one biology teacher tackled that here.

At the end of the afternoon, I unfortunately had to hand in my white vet coat….


Update 2023

During the inspiration café on Thursday 20 April 2023, lecturers Alice Veldkamp and Anneke van Houwelingen talked about using escape rooms and escape boxes in education. Read the review of the meeting here. There is also a link to Anneke’s thesis on escape boxes on this page: No escape! The rise of escape rooms in secondary science education. 


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