Freshmen Bond Through Virtual Escape Room

By Connor Faust, Staff Writer

// During a normal year, freshmen would begin their Acalanes High School experience in-person. However, with COVID-19 preventing students from meeting at school, Leadership hosted an online bonding event for the incoming freshmen. 

   New Crew, a Leadership board dedicated to helping freshmen learn their way around Acalanes, organized a virtual escape room on Thursday, Aug. 20, at 7 p.m. on Zoom to create new connections within the class of 2024. 

   Watson’s Adventures, a business dedicated to creating virtual challenges, assisted New Crew in creating the murder mystery event, which was a combination of a virtual escape room and a virtual scavenger hunt.

   The New Crew Board reached out to nearby schools to collect ideas for the first freshman experience and started the planning process for the event in July.

   “We were thinking of how we could connect the freshman this year virtually because we knew it would be a lot harder, and we heard from [Campolindo High School] that they did the same [virtual escape room idea]. I think they did it for all their grades, which is a little different, and we thought that would be a really good opening to Acalanes,” New Crew Board Co-Head and junior Elise Flagg said.

   Knowing the freshman missed out on their first high school experience, the Board aimed to provide a social event that worked in place of regular start-of-school activities.

   “Our freshmen missed out on the typical orientation experience and so we wanted to provide them with a social type of activity. We are used to doing a frosh dance after orientation so that they can meet, mingle and feel like Acalanes is their campus,” Leadership teacher Katherine Walton said. “We obviously couldn’t do that this year so we wanted to offer a team-building and bonding type of experience.”

   The Board primarily focused on creating an activity that allowed freshmen to get out of their comfort zone.

   “It’s not like [the freshmen] work with [their] friends. [They] got to work with completely random people in [their] grade. It also shows the spirit at the same time, showing how involved we are with freshmen. [It’s about] showing them what it is to be a Don, to go to these events, and having these events for them. But I think [it’s] more [about] connecting with other freshmen,” Flagg said.

   Due to COVID-19, New Crew members had to find new ways of advertising the event. 

   “There were no issues the actual evening, just in coordinating getting freshmen signed up when communication via Canvas is quite limited right now. But through social media, I was able to get the word out to the class of 2024” Walton said. “It was a relatively easy yet different virtual activity to plan and I hope that the students will remember who was in their break out group and at least know some more names than they did when they logged on.”

   Some freshmen thought that the event lacked a connection to Acalanes culture and history.

   “It didn’t feel as much as it was a part of Acalanes. It kind of just felt like a fun virtual game or virtual escape room,” freshman Stephanie Boustani said.

   Most freshmen responded well to the experience; many of them found the event to be engaging and entertaining and saw it as a viable choice in the future.

    “I thought that this was a really fun activity to do on Zoom but if we were out of quarantine if it was possible I’d do an actual room escape at Acalanes. Something like that could be really fun to do,” freshman Dongjoo Ahn said.

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