Get to Know: Pauline Lynch Shostack


Pauline Lynch Shostack is a librarian and professor at Onondaga Community College. She has been a librarian for almost 20 years and has worked in a variety of libraries throughout the country. In her current position she is responsible for organizing and developing Coulter Library’s web presence, social media, cataloging and managing library’s new maker space. Her current areas of research focus on community-building and life-long learning through play and making.

What Pauline is sharing:

I was asked at the 2018 NASAGA Conference if I could write a blog post to provide more details about my poster session  “The Supply Box Challenge: A Collaboratively Designed Escape Room Event”. The presentation was about the collaboratively designed escape room I created with my fellow faculty members, library staff and students in support of our annual campus Common Read event. The idea to create an escape room event came from attending another conference in Rochester, NY in the fall of 2016 titled “Gaming as Meaningful Education”. At that conference, I attended Brian Mayer’s amazing presentation about creating large scale educational escape rooms. When I returned form the conference I shared the idea of creating an escape room event with our Common Read committee chair. She was interested in exploring the idea further. At that point, I sent a message out to my fellow faculty members and library staff asking if anyone would be interested in attending a brainstorming session and possibly help with creating puzzles for the event. I also shared the idea with the Honors Committee. From these outreach efforts we ended up with several faculty members, library staff, and a few classes involved with the planning of the event.

The campus common read for the 2016-17 academic year was “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed. The core planning committee came up with the narrative for the escape room that included some of the book themes and elements of Cheryl’s story (e.g. having several books that Cheryl read during her hike in the escape room setting). The escape room setting the committee decided on was a camp site that our participants needed to setup before an approaching thunderstorm arrived. To successfully setup up their campsite they needed to get in to their supply box. To open the supply box they had to solve several puzzles that provided answers to unlock the locks on the supply box and other locks at the camp site. Participants had 20 minutes to open their supply box. A library staff member created a program that would play for 20 minutes with rumbling thunder and every 5 minutes the group would hear a loud clasp of thunder and a flash of lightening. At 20 minutes “TIMES UP” appeared and the storm would arrive with loud thunder and several flashes of lightning.  Assistance was always available to participants via the “Park Ranger”. A librarian dressed in park ranger clothing stood outside the campsite visible to the participants during the entire experience. Based on the pilot runs, we simplified some puzzles and adjusted various event components. 

Along with creating the narrative for the escape room, the core planning committee also created some of the puzzles and led the play testing with library staff and student work study employees. In addition, classes participated in the following ways:  

* Two Honors classes created puzzles for the event. An Honors American History class divided in to two groups and created two puzzles. Both puzzles were geographic puzzles with some historical context related to the Pacific Crest Trail (the trail Cheryl hiked in the book). An Honors Math class created a puzzle that involved nature and fibonaci. 

* An Architecture class created life-size trailhead structures out of card board. There were five structures created for the class project. Students in the class, ARH faculty members, and members of the Escape Room planning committee cast votes for their favorite trailhead. The top two structures were used for the beginning of our trail and event registration.  

* The Electronic Media Communication students did a news story about the event for their class.  

The event was held over a two-day period. Students could sign up in advance or register at the event. We had close to 100 event participants, 30 students involved in planning or documenting the event for class projects, and just over 10 faculty and staff involved in some way.  

Event participants received prizes upon completing the challenge. All groups had the opportunity to debrief with the park ranger. Several participants asked for clarification about some of the puzzles and shared feedback about what they liked and didn’t like about the event.   

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