NORFOLK, Neb. – It’s not uncommon for high school students to be enrolled in college classes known as early college or dual credit. But for a group of seniors from one area high school, they had the opportunity to literally go to college for a day to better understand what they will experience next year.
The brainchild for the day came after Angela Gray, an English teacher at Battle Creek High School, learned about the college’s Harry Potter-themed Escape Room. Escape Rooms feature eight-to-ten participants who work as a team to solve riddles, puzzles and clues to find their way out before time runs out.
Gray knew the experience would be perfect for students enrolled in her Workplace Communications class.
"I thought it would be a good exercise in problem solving and working together," she said.
But after Gray spoke with Cathy Thompson, guidance counselor at Battle Creek High School, about the Escape Room experience, it was suggested that she should also schedule a tour for her dual credit students in one building in particular on the Northeast campus.
“There are a couple of them who are scheduled to attend Northeast beginning this fall who had not walked through the Applied Technology building yet,” Gray said. “We’re going to be out there on campus anyway, so, I thought let’s do the library and speak with career services, too. It just evolved into a whole day.”
Workplace Communications, for students who will be going into a skilled trade, is one of three college preparation options Battle Creek High School offers its seniors. The others are English Composition for students who plan to attend a four-year college or university and English IV which offers high school credit.
When developing the day at Northeast, Gray incorporated two other stops which tied to modules that students have been working on in Battle Creek. The first was with Northeast Library staff as an upcoming module in the Workplace Communications class involved a research unit.
“It was fabulous. It really was,” Gray said. “One of the things I noticed when we were in Union 73 printing articles in the library and using the computers was the surroundings the students experienced. When we walked in, I heard comments like, ‘This is so cool. This is impressive.’ I think they know they are going to get a good education by staying right here, close to home. Northeast has a lot to offer them here. The facilities are just really impressive.”
Another module the class had been working on was a resume unit in preparation for mock interviews that Gray has set up for the students with local business and industry.
“It is a mock situation, but the students still have to report there on time, dress appropriately and go through that whole interview process. We were working on resumes anyway, as well as cover letters and reference lists.”
Gray contacted Terri Heggemeyer, director of career services at Northeast, to be another set of eyes on the students’ resumes. She believed having an outside audience would offer a little bit more motivation for them.
“And it did,” she said. “They really worked hard knowing that Terri was going to look at their resumes.”
After lunch in the college’s Hawk Point, the students headed back to Union 73 for the Escape Room experience. It was an ideal setting for the class.
“I think people think of an Escape Room as just an entertainment thing on a Friday or Saturday night with a group of friends. I know I did. While it can be, you still have to work as a team - ask for help, depend on each other, and work together - to solve problems to get out of there,” Gray said.
Teamwork is often seen in activities and athletics, but Gray said it’s also nice to experience it in the classroom.
“To be able to bring them out here for a day and have it be more of working together in an academic sense instead of sports or activities is great. I just like that they had to work and talk to one another to solve this problem to get out of the room. It was excellent.”
Gray said the day was a good experience for all the students especially for one of them who is unsure of his future collegiate path.
“He saw a lot of support out here. The library staff was wonderful, the career services staff was wonderful. Everybody who worked with us today was here to help.”
Gray recommends other high school teachers consider offering their students an opportunity to work with Northeast in a similar capacity. Her biggest takeaway from the day was that her high school students recognized themselves as college students.
“I could just see the look on their faces. It was like, ‘I could see myself here,’ she said.
Students in a Workplace Communications class at Battle Creek High School completed the tasks to get out of Northeast Community College’s Harry Potter-themed Escape Room on the college campus in Norfolk. The students and their instructor, Angela Gray, spent the day on campus incorporating modules from the class during the visit. Pictured (from left) are Kolton Wiehn, Garrett Finke, Cameron Blain, Roger Mieure, Carter King, and Hunter Kreikemeier.