muse: n. a source of inspiration


Breakout or escape rooms provide an engaging way to integrate problem solving into your classroom. Basically, it’s a game where players use hints and clues to solve puzzles, which lead them to more hints to solve more puzzles. The payoff is “escaping” the room or breaking into a locked box.

There are commercial escape rooms popping up all over, and this has not gone unnoticed by educators who seek to leverage the craze and use it as an engaging activity for their students.

If you’re interested in purchasing a breakout box to use in your classroom, check out BreakoutEDU. You can buy their ready-to-go lock box with programmable locks, a lockout hasp, and  hundreds of ready-to-use puzzles and downloadables. It will also share with you cool ways that other educators are using the product.
BreakoutEDU’s product comes at a steep price, though. If you’re interested in creating your own Breakout box, this post has some great tips and list of the supplies you’ll need to purchase (hint: if you search for “breakout game” on Amazon, you’ll get a bunch of results that include locks, a lockout hasp, and locking storage boxes). You may even have some of these products already.

Any breakout game has the same premise: start with a story of some kind that poses a challenge. A typical breakout narrative includes a dilemma (someone or something is missing, or has been captured) and the directive that the students will need to solve clues to open the box and save the day. BreakoutEDU has resources for organizing your story on their site, including an organizer template.

Technology can be easily integrated in a breakout game, including QR codes (solve a clue, get a QR code to scan and get another clue) and Google forms.

For more information about creating your own breakout, you can view these videos:
Introducing Breakout EDU, Elementary Breakout; and read this  article.

In Your Classroom

  • Hanukkah is coming, and an Escape room can fit the Hanukkah story perfectly. Create a room where students have to find the pure oil, so that they can light the menorah!
  • This is a sure-fire way to engage your students in an end-of-unit activity that is going to be way more fun than anything else.
  • Breakout games can be a terrific ice breaker– and not just for kids! How about a breakout faculty meeting? Or a way to introduce new families to one another?
  • Ask older students to creating a breakout game for younger students. It can be a terrific way for everyone involved to review content that they’ve already mastered.

This is a “Technology Tuesday” post via Behrman House, edited by Ann D. Koffsky . You can find more Behrman House Technology Tuesdays here.


November 21, 2017 Posted by | Behrman House Technology Tuesday, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Links You’ll Love

Here’s a terrific article about a young woman who came up with an app to address social isolation. Check out her TED Talk!

This is so fun – now you can play 20 questions with Google! This would be a great class activity.

November 18, 2017 Posted by | Links You'll Love, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Links You’ll Love

Hour of Code is coming! Okay, it’s not coming until the week of December 4th, but we need to get ready! How awesome would it be if every student spend some time learning about coding that week? Check out these resources about Hour of Code.

If you use your phone or iPad as a scanner – the app CamScanner is invaluable. Try it out!
If you want to step up your presentations or classroom graphics, check out Piktochart. You can start with a snazzy template or create your own.

October 27, 2017 Posted by | Links You'll Love, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment


GooseChase is a free app and website that makes electronic scavenger hunts easy to create and even easier to play.

To create your own game, or “GooseChase”, first give your game a fun, catchy name. Then, create a list of missions that players need to complete as they go through your chase. For each mission, you can ask your players to submit:

  • A  photo of something they find
  • A video of their team completing a silly task
  • A reply to a question via text, or
  • A pin of their location via GPS.

To play, each team only needs one person with the GooseChase iPhone or Android app on their device.

If you’d prefer to run a GooseChase without prepping a whole new game, you can also choose to use one of the many existing games that have already been created by other teachers in GooseChaseEDU’s game library.

To use GooseChase, signup for a free account on their website. A premium subscription is available if you think you’ll be creating more games for more teams, but I would suggest starting with the free account to see if this is a good platform for you.

In Your Classroom

  • Break out of the boring staff professional development rut and create a GooseChase for your faculty.
  • Going on a field trip? Create your own GooseChase to help your students explore and enjoy your destination on a deeper lever.
  • After your GooseChase is complete, create a slide show of the photos the players submitted to complete their missions, and present it to the school for a fun recap.

This is a “Technology Tuesday” post via Behrman House, edited by Ann D. Koffsky . You can find more Behrman House Technology Tuesdays here.

October 24, 2017 Posted by | Behrman House Technology Tuesday, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Cam Scanner

CamScanner is an app that I turn to frequently. As you might guess, it’s an app for, well, scanning documents. It’s turned my phone into a scanner and almost completely eliminated any need to use anything else.

CamScanner is very intuitive to use. Just hold your device over the document you want to scan and proceed. Once you have an initial scan, the app will crop, brighten and straighten out the image. Scans can be exported in a variety of formats including pdf and jpg and can be easily emailed or uploaded to social media. Best of all, the quality of the images made using CamScanner is significantly superior to anything photographed with the iPhone camera.

In Your Classroom

Cam Scanner makes it incredibly easy to take high-quality photos on the fly. Use it to:

  • Document students’ work
  • Save documents to your phone that you’d like to be able to quickly reference
  • Share documents with others or with your own cloud-sharing

To get CamScanner, download the iPhone app or iPad app. You can create an account to access cloud storage space (limited to 200 MB for the free account or 10G if you spring for a premium subscription) or just save your scans to your device.

This is a “Technology Tuesday” post via Behrman House, edited by Ann D. Koffsky . You can find more Behrman House Technology Tuesdays here.


September 26, 2017 Posted by | Behrman House Technology Tuesday, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

littleBits storage

IMG_3152Our innovation studio boasts several littleBits kits for building and coding. We’re even featuring the code kit in our innovation special this year. For right now, we’re sticking with the boxes for storage and my partner-in-crime came up with this great idea to take a photo of the box before we used it and taping it to the inside of the box lid so kids know where to put everything at the end of class. Genius!!

August 30, 2017 Posted by | LittleBits, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

How can you use Cricut in the classroom?

We’re going into our second year of having a Cricut Explore 2 in our innovation studio and I love how our faculty members are finding creative ways to integrate it into their classrooms. Some of the ways we’ve used it so far include:

  1. Cutting stencils out of laminated cardstock
  2. Creative bulletin boards
  3. Vinyl locker and laptop case artwork
  5. Labels (teachers LOVE labeling!)
  6. Puzzles
  7. Window artwork
  8. Removable wall artwork that keeps the maintenance staff happy
  9. Namecards
  10. Fun “trinkets” to go with student genius hour projects (for instance – a student did a genius hour project on USB drives so we cut a bunch out that he could give away)
  11. Theme confetti

How do you use your #Cricut in the classroom?

August 28, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cricut in the Classroom


A student-drawn image

We are fortunate enough to have several electronic cutters in our innovation studio. It’s been really fun to help teachers – and students – figure out how to use our #Silhouette Cameo and @Cricut Explore 2 in an educational setting.

One of the best activities was our To Kill a Mockingbird locker gallery that we created with the 8th grade last year. It was creative, a cool app smash, and showed deep thinking – all at the same time.

IMG_2573The students began in the innovation studio by using SketchClub on iPad Pros to sketch images that the novel evoked for them. We saw a lot of gavels, birds and

justice scales! Students used a variety of apps for this. We showed them how to import a graphic and use layering to trace over it. This is where having iPad Pros and Apple Pencils is a real advantage, but it’s doable with other tech as well.

Once the students had their images, we exported them as .jpgs and then imported them into Cricut Design Space. We made sure the students didn’t use color (since we were ultimately cutting these out of vinyl), so it was super simple to import the images and then prepare them for cutting.

IMG_2574When the images were cut, the students applied these to their lockers and added their artist statements. What deep thinking these showed!

This was a profoundly moving activity on a number of levels. It’s not easy to create a tangible symbol of a novel, but the tools we had enabled the students to do so. By 8th grade, kids are quick to say that they’re not artists, but the combination of the iPad Pros and the Cricut made everybody feel good about their artwork.

August 27, 2017 Posted by | Cricut in the Classroom, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Links You’ll Love

Google has made lots of changes to Google Sites, and the redo is amazing! Google Sites feels way more like Google Forms now, and it couldn’t be easier to create a site.  You can embed forms, docs and more!

If digital puzzles are your thing, check out Deck.Toys. It’s an incredibly cool digital platform where you can create puzzles that your students solve digitally. This is great for teachers who are 1:1 Chromebooks! Lots of teachers are creating digital puzzles for Google docs – check out some resources here.

If you haven’t checked out Google Keep, you must! You can jot down notes there or send websites directly to it. You can add checkboxes to your notes and share them with collaborators.

August 24, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On the 9th day, they blessed the Torah

I consider myself to be incredibly fortunate that every summer I get to volunteer at URJ Camp Newman in Santa Rosa, California for two weeks as an artist for the teen camp’s Hagigah program.

This year, I worked with eighteen teenagers who wanted to paint their own tallit. I’ve done this before in religious school, so I was pretty confident that I could shepherd my teens from blank piece of fabric to a painted tallit complete with tzitzit. I had 8 days with my teens, with just under 3 hours per day total. We purchased pre-sewn products from TorahAura which included tzitzit, corner reinforcements and sewn-in buttonholes. The camp has a robust tie-dye program already, and we purchased a plethora of fabric paints from DharmaTrading. Campers also had kippot to paint and tallit bags to decorate (courtesy of a repurposed drop cloth, cut apart and stitched into open pouches).

Day one was prep day, with the teens sketching their ideas. They scoured through the Mishkan Tefillah for phrases to use on the atarah (most eschewed using the traditional bracha) and checked out the Jewish Catalog and the Shireinu for additional inspiration. Then it was time to begin putting paint and/or dye to fabric. Those who wanted to start with tie-dye headed to the art center and the painters, well, started painting.

Three hours a day is a lot of time to paint for some kids and not nearly enough for others. There were those who had a hard time getting started and those who jumped right in. There were those who missed a day or two while recuperating in the infirmary, and those who seemed to be taking a nap every time I peeked outside to check on their progress. There are those who were the first in and the last to leave, begging to skip cabin clean-up time (nope), pool time (really? In the 105 degree Sonoma sun?) and free time (well, okay). There were the kids who needed validation on lots of details, those who seemed to spend as much time cheering their friends on as they did painting their own, and those who were always willing to drop everything to help a friend hang up a wet tallit or strategize over a splotch or drip.

We cleaned a lot of brushes, kvetched over having to remove wet tallitot from tables so the tables could be repurposed for an evening activity (okay, I kvetched about that), and schvitzed in the sun.

It was awesome.

The finale of the Hagigah program is the Hagigah festival (which, well, would translate to festival festival) where the campers display their artwork, perform and generally celebrate having spent four weeks together learning and creating. In preparation, my campers wrote amazing artist statements and we hung the eighteen tallitot in our room. The statements took my breath away with their insights and deep thoughts about Judaism and camp. The tallitot were as beautiful as my campers, and every bit as unique. My campers’ pride in their work as they negotiated where and how to hang their tallitot was palpable.

The next day, Friday, we celebrated and took photos.

For most of the Hagigah campers, Friday represents the end of their arts experience. The performances are over, the artwork is put away, and all that’s left is one last Shabbat and the big goodbye. For my campers, though, there was one last celebration of their art – the opportunity to gather as a chevra to bless the Torah. Proudly, they all wore their beautifully crafted tallitot to tefillah Saturday morning and were called up for an aliyah in front of all of teen camp.

What a moment. What a process – nine days from blank tallit to aliyah. What a success!

As a career educator, I’m used to playing the long game most of the time. I don’t always know the result of my teaching efforts. Sometimes I’m lucky and a student will express an “oh, cool” moment in my class, or a returning alum will tell me how they used all they learned from me in high school. But those moments are pretty rare. This was a unique opportunity – the chance to work with a devoted, inspired and creative group of kids and to help them take their ideas and bring them to reality and to craft something they’ll treasure forever.

I will always be grateful for the opportunity.


July 24, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: