OMG: The Workshop School's first major fundraiser features student-made escape rooms - Generocity Philly

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Oct. 20, 2017 11:13 am

OMG: The Workshop School’s first major fundraiser features student-made escape rooms

The Oct. 26 event exemplifies the school's mission of teaching via project-based work.

The Workshop School's students at the Escape the 1980s escape room.

(Photo via Facebook/@workshopschool)

Fundraisers are important opportunities for nonprofits to raise some much-needed cash, but they don’t need to be your typical formal dinners or galas to be effective.

Some organizations use the power of video games to meet kids and parents where they are, while others even make it about raising some money for yourself. And another nonprofit like Philadelphia Outward Bound School makes it about rappelling down a skyscraper to give people a taste of its high-thrill mission.

The Workshop School, the West Philly nonprofit that doubles as a school dedicated to teaching students through project-based work, is hosting its first major fundraiser next Thursday, Oct. 26, and it’s taking a similar think-outside-the-box approach.

In this case, it’ll involve attendees needing to use their noggins to escape from five different escape rooms made by teams of 11th and 12th grade students, designed around the theme of escaping high school.

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The Workshop School’s students have raised money for the school with their projects before, and so Matt Riggan, cofounder of the Workshop School, knew that their first major fundraising event also needed to take the nontraditional approach the org is known for, while also showing people the kind of work they’re capable of.

Riggan said the idea for the escape room fundraiser came to him through a conference event where he and other educators talked about escape rooms and the kind of learning that goes into making one. He took the idea back to the Workshop School staff, all of whom were on board almost immediately.

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“That’s how it kind of works in our school — someone gets an idea or gets excited about a project and we all get behind that,” Riggan said.

Work began last summer thinking about the themes students would need to design their escape rooms on and then guiding students through three elements that would help them through the process of designing their own escape rooms: taking part in South Philly’s Escape the 1980s escape room (nominated for 2017 Philly Geek Award), learning the ins and outs of puzzle making and thinking about the kinds of skills they would need after graduating high school.

That last point is important: While these escape rooms are about escaping high school (because who didn’t want to bust out of their own?), the puzzles students made involve “post-secondary survival skills” these very students will need soon, Riggan said.

In Riggan’s experience, the set of skills needed to do an escape room well sync up nicely with ones people need out of high school:

  • Collaboration and communication
  • Problem-solving and critical thinking skills
  • Hustle

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Full disclosure: Technically Media cofounder and CEO Christopher Wink is on the board of the Workshop School. He was not involved in this report.

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