This minimal prep
“escape room” is full of logic puzzles and opportunities for collaborative fun for your students as they learn about Black History Month or anytime you may be teaching about the U.S. Civil War. This escape room contains five exciting puzzles that students need to solve in order to help Robert Smalls find his family, sail past five Confederate forts and help Robert Smalls Escape to the North
! This product is new for 2018.
What is the prep?
Prep involves printing. One page has 4 squares (“clocks”) to cut out but you can have students do this as part of the activity. There are also optional hint cards you can print and cut out. Three clues need to be hidden together in the classroom. No other prep is necessary!
Will I have to buy anything extra?
No, you do NOT need any fancy locks or to use any Google forms.
What supplies are needed?
Paper (8.5in x 11in)
A color printer
What will my students do?
Working in small groups of 3-6, your students will cooperate to solve 5 puzzles and helps Robert Smalls along his journey in Charleston Harbor early in the morning of May 13, 1862. First, students need to find where Robert Small's family hiding to pick them up. Then, the students need to determine the correct signal to get past the confederate forts undetected. Several puzzles have alternative, simpler versions so that you can tailor this activity to your own students’ abilities. If you are a homeschooler a single child can complete this, but it may take longer and/or require more hints. The puzzles are:
Students will read a short fictional newspaper article that sets the scene in which Robert Smalls makes his daring escape. Then they will decipher a flag code with a cipher key.
Students will work together to cut out four clock shapes that, when placed in the right orientation, reveals the first coordinates to Robert Smalls’ family’s hiding place. A hint is included in the introductory puzzle if students read closely.
Captain’s Cabin Cipher:
Students will look at an overview of the Captain’s Cabin. They will identify and solve a cipher hidden within the Captain’s Cabin that will help to understand the coded poem.
Students will use the hint from the Captain's cabin to find the hidden information in the poem that reveals the second coordinate necessary to find Robert Smalls’ family.
Students will work together to solve three logic puzzles to discover the correct whistle signals Roberts Smalls needs to safely pass five Confederate forts. The whistle signals are the ones Robert Smalls really used according to an article I read in the Smithsonian Magazine.
The logic puzzles are like the pre-algebra memes that have been popular on Facebook in the past year. They involve addition and multiplication (or only addition in the alternative version included) and numbers 13 and under.
After the activity, there is a short essay you can share about what really happened to Robert Smalls and how he eventually became a member of congress.
What reading level do my students need?
There is one small news article, a small poem, and a couple directions for children in your class to read. The Flesh-Kincaid reading level is 4th grade. You can assign students to groups to ensure a mix of reading ability.
How long does this take?
About 40-50 minutes.
What is included in this digital download?
This is a zip folder that includes the following pages as PDFs:
• Easy-to-follow printing and set-up instructions.
• A complete walkthrough with solutions to all puzzles.
• A short history detailing the fascinating life of Robert Smalls paying particular attention to his daring escape.
• A fictional newspaper article with a flag cipher.
• A poem.
• A map of Charleston Harbor.
• An overhead view of a captain’s cabin with a hidden cipher.
• A logic puzzle
• A cipher decoder/key
• Hint cards for students
• A poster for your door (8.5 x 11in)
• A “Congratulations! Robert Smalls Escaped to the North!” poster (8.5 x 11in)
• Alternative versions of the logic puzzle and flag cipher for younger or less-able students.
• Low ink versions of the map and poem puzzle.
The fictional newspaper article mentions the CSS Planter "picking up cannons and ammunition" but there is no other mention of violence in this activity. None of the clipart include guns or cannons.
I appreciate that slavery is a challenging topic to teach to children. However, slavery needs to be taught in order to understand both the African American experience and the origins of the Civil War. I see this activity as an engaging way to introduce students to one of the most fascinating individuals in all of American history. It is also an exciting way to show a more intimate story about the Civil War: a war fought among individuals and not just between Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee or Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis.
Despite majoring in history, I didn’t know who Robert Smalls was until this year. His story is so compelling that I wish I knew about his accomplishments much earlier. Not only did he escape slavery in dramatic fashion, but he was partly responsible for convincing Lincoln to allow African American soldiers to fight for the Union. He was also a war hero having served in 17 major engagements. After the Civil War he served in the South Carolina legislature where he co-wrote legislation to create the first free compulsory education in the US. Later he represented South Carolina in the U.S. Congress. Even if you do not purchase this escape room, I hope you will be inspired to learn more about Robert Smalls and his many accomplishments.
Other escape rooms in my store include:
Save the Coral Reef: An Earth Day, Ocean Escape Room (NO PREP)
Escape the Chocolate Factory: A Valentine's Day Escape Room Activity (NO PREP)
Escape the Mayflower: Thanksgiving Escape Room Activity
Holiday Escape Room BUNDLE
Scrooge's Escape: A Christmas Escape Room Activity (NO PREP)