Methodist Children’s Home residents are enjoying a new “escape room” activity challenge at the MCH Boys Ranch designed with clues that reinforce MCH Life Skills in an entertaining way.
Maegan Molnar, home life manager at the Boys Ranch, and Sarah Pitman, social work graduate intern from Baylor University, have been working since January to convert the Fern Cone building at the Ranch into the intricate escape room game consisting of Western props, activities and riddles that youth must work together to solve.
Escape rooms are popular team-building venues offering problem-solving challenges built around a story or a theme. Participants test their wits against challenging clues, puzzles and mysteries embedded in the room or series of rooms. Solving a challenge allows the participants to “escape” to the next challenge that progresses through the room. Molnar said she came up with the idea and wanted to put it together to give residents an experience where they could work on life skills as well as team building and problem solving.
“The kids we serve have such a wide range of interests; I really wanted to include a little something for everyone,” Molnar said. “There is an area where they have to be very observant and use critical thinking skills, an area where they go ‘fishing,’ an activity where they must use their hands and dig for a clue, and several opportunities to decode cheesy puns!”
MCH’s 10 Life Skills are: Use good words to communicate; be gentle and kind; show respect; listen and learn; understand who is in charge; accept decisions of authority; make good choices; focus and finish your work; negotiate and compromise; and build trusting relationships. Molnar said teams end up using these life skills during the challenge without even realizing it.
“The kids bounce ideas off of each other, root each other on, take turns reading clues aloud, build off each other’s notions, and essentially teach each other things,” Molnar said. “The kids are also inadvertently having a calming sensory experience so that they are not overstimulated while trying to solve puzzles. In each room there is ambient lighting, a cool fan, low background noise, and many opportunities to touch different textures through the clues and tasks they must complete.”
Participants are timed as they work to complete the escape room and discover the treasure. Molnar said it is open to Boys Ranch residents as well as MCH youth from the Waco campus. The teams from each campus with the fastest time are awarded a gift card to Sonic.
“We have set up a backdrop with props at the end of the game where participants can take their photo and add their time to the leaderboard,” she said. “We also invite any staff members from every team to participate! So far the adults have had just as much fun as the kids.”
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