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“The Evidence Room” – a Substance-Themed Escape Room

Supporting the Profession
June 30, 2020 Danielle Reu Katherine Simpson

Excellence Awards recognize the contributions of members who are transforming higher education through outstanding programs, innovative services, and effective administration. NASPA's Excellence Awards cover eleven categories crucial to the success of students. Sharing our successes benefit students, improves institutions, and promotes our profession. 

2020 Athletics Recreation Counseling Health Wellness and related Excellence Award Winner: 

Danielle Reu, Katherine Simpson and SUNY Cobleskill

Substance education, we all have to do it, but how often are we met with groans and disinterest from students? They’ve “heard it before,” “did it in high school,” “don’t drink, so don’t need it,” and so forth. So how do we get them interested? How do we use our campus data and create a sustainable adaptable, informative, and engaging program that can be delivered multiple times at no added cost?

And so, “The Evidence Room” was created. This interactive escape room integrates puzzles and activities to provide education on standard drink size, binge drinking, alcohol poisoning, tobacco policy, social norming for tobacco and marijuana use, fire alarm tampering, understanding of violation types, amnesty, and resources. Working together in small groups, students must demonstrate an understanding of these definitions and policies to advance in the room. Students need no prior knowledge to advance in the escape room as there are posters and clues that they can utilize.  

“The Evidence Room” was developed from identified campus needs by members of the Substance Education Committee (Wellness Center, Residential Life, University Police Faculty/Staff, Students, and community agencies). An outside escape room company took the information and created puzzles and supplies to meet the identified needs. As a one-time purchase, all the written materials were given in digital copies so that adjustments could be made based on utilization feedback. The program facilitators then made adjustments to the puzzles and materials as needed to enhance student understanding. One of the best parts? The game materials all pack up in a large tote allowing this program to be offered in residence halls and other areas of the campus.   

Implementation of this program generally involves students signing up for time slots, but it has been used with specially identified population groups by request as well. Students express excitement for the room and having an opportunity to do a free escape room with friends. Pre-test and post-test data are collected from the escape room to demonstrate learning outcomes for the escape room objectives:

Tobacco: designated smoking areas and types of tobacco products

Alcohol: standard drink size, binge drinking, and alcohol poisoning 

Amnesty: knowledge of and understanding of policy

Thinking about creating your own escape room? We would be happy to provide consultion to discuss the data we looked at, how we identified objectives, what stakeholders were involved in the process, how we worked with others to create custom puzzles to meet our needs, and how we gather and assess the data we collect.