How We Contribute to Education, Part 1

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” -Nelson Mandela

Education is also the factor which links genealogy and our escape room. When it comes to genealogy, education is part and parcel of its nature.

On a basic level, you learn a little about the people in your family history. However, genealogy truly exposes you to so much more! You can go deeper than just names, to the stories of your ancestors, their upbringing, their language, their culture. There are the historic events they witnessed, perhaps even experienced, the land in which they lived, and the route of migration that they traveled.

As we have previously discussed, Dr. Jeffrey Mark Paull discovered that he is descended from the Holy Tzaddik, The Shpoler Zeide. Reaching into the life of just this one ancestor brought him across the globe to Ukraine, into a town steeped in Chassidic culture. This expanded his knowledge of geography and ethnology, learning about the fascinating ways of Chassidic life in a country that has been such a hot topic just recently.

Right along with that comes the language of Yiddish, the shared spoken language of the Jews of Eastern Europe. A language which could connect two Jews living in entirely different countries. When you are being educated in a way that connects to your own life, it makes it exceedingly more appealing. It can catch the curiosity of children and adults alike!

Teachers of a variety of subjects (history?) can truly take advantage of the versatility of genealogy to make their class relevant to each student, because everyone has a past that crosses borders, languages, cultures, and more.

The power of arousing curiosity through making information applicable to the learner is brought out by the recent headline story of a twelve year-old boy, Ari Ehrlich, whose gifted subscription to a genealogy site manifested from what began as a mild interest, into a “full blown obsession.”

Genealogical Obsession The site's tools led him into a world of marriage and death certificates, immigration papers, evolving surnames, mixed ethnicities, and even religious wars! He discovered familial connections to many famous historical figures, learning more about them in the meantime, such as King Henry VIII, Dolly Madison, Quaker William Penn, and Neil Armstrong.

He also learned of ancestors from medieval Spain who survived the Spanish Inquisition, which opened up a channel to that infamous time period. He even commemorated what would have been the 128th birthday of his great-great-grandmother, Rose Stein Wyman, who escaped persecution in the Soviet Union.

Ari’s relationship to his ancestors is palpable, as he beautifully describes it: “I want to know them, know their lives, their families, what they believed in, what wars they fought in, and how they survived. It's almost like I am there with them.”

These words articulate the potential that lies in everyone, waiting to be tapped. Genealogy can be used as a key in education, unlocking the doors of history, geography, social sciences, languages, and every other subject that falls under this umbrella.

Escape Rooms as Education?

Games have a history of promoting engagement in a learning environment. Over the last year there has been a worldwide growth in educational escape rooms, and many educators are adapting the concept to fit their students. Scott Nicholson, an expert on escape rooms, wrote in his seminal paper: “The concept of meaningful gamification is not to provide external rewards, but rather to help participants find a deeper connection to the underlying topic.” Brian Mayer, a gaming and library-technologies specialist at Genesee Valley School Library System in New York received a request from a local teacher for a literature-themed escape room that she can use in her class. Mayer and his colleague Liesel Toates got to work. The eighth grade class was studying steampunk literature, so they created a corresponding narrative of an eccentric professor trying to travel back in time to save his daughters life in Victorian England.

They structured it so that the students began online, then transitioned to the physical classroom using set up props, to help solve clues they had encountered online. So far Mayer has built three escape rooms, covering history, English, and science. Mayer remarked that they received feedback from educators saying that students who don't respond to traditional classes started to shine (here). Shauna Pollock, author of ‘Creating Classroom Magic’, believes educational escape rooms have enormous potential to be effective in schools, since they can be adapted to any subject.

At One Before Escape we are genuinely devoted to the synthesis of fun and learning by implementing these to elements in the structure of our escape rooms. We hope to inspire a passion in our players, both through the stories and people that our rooms are based on, as well as the Rabbinic genealogy story, to use this as a stepping stone in the students' growth.

Please email with your ideas of lesson plans incorporating our rooms!

#JewishHistory #FamilyHistory #JewishFamilyEntertainment #BrooklynEscapeRoom #FamilyTree #Education