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Crossroads students collaborate on "top-secret" mission


Crossroads students collaborate on 'top-secret' mission

May 10, 2023

High school students in the OCM BOCES Crossroads program had a “top secret” mission Monday at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo. Working in teams, they searched for large manilla envelopes stamped with the word “CLUE” in bright red letters and tucked in corners around the zoo’s winding loop of exhibits. It was a journey that took them to the monkeys, pink flamingos, elephants, penguins and other popular animals.

Once they found the clues, students had to use the information inside to solve puzzles, calculate codes, record their findings on a graphic organizer, and ultimately head back to the zoo’s cafeteria, where they could claim their reward: a small black briefcase, or “breakout box,” with a secret prize inside. The catch: Students had to use their codes — the ones they had calculated during their trip around the zoo — to open half a dozen locks attached to the shiny metal handle of the briefcase.

Crossroads Principal Maggie Daniels said the field trip was a milestone event within a multi-week Project Based Learning experience for students in the program. The project focused on building community, promoting acceptance, and celebrating diversity.

Collaborating on a clue at the pink flamingo exhibit

“We got it! We got! Winner, winner chicken dinner!” shouted a student in Team 3, the first group of students to break open a box.

Their prize was a large note that promised a free lunch of pizza or subs during a celebration event at the school. The box was also stuffed with bite-sized candy, which the students gladly stuffed in their pockets.

“It was challenging,” said sophomore Nevaeh Tourot, who led her team with her cousin, junior Micah Smalt.

Nevaeh had patiently opened each lock, updating her teammates with each successful click.

Later, Neveah and Micah emphasized their general love of puzzles and how much they enjoy working with their friends and teammates at Crossroads.

“I would really love to do this again,” Nevaeh said. 

Daniels gave a shout-out to the Rosamond Gifford Zoo for partnering with OCM BOCES and offered a special thank you to OCM BOCES instructional coaches Randi Downs, Denise Pawlewicz and Heather Marino for creating, organizing and setting up the activity.

“Project Based Learning is so much more than learning content,” Downs said. “Collaboration is a huge part of the learning experience, and these breakout boxes offered a terrific challenge for the teams!”

Daniels agreed.

“It was amazing to see students working together as a community,” she said. “It was a great day for everyone.”

Below: Students in Team 3 find clues, collaborate, break the codes, and finally open the box!

Students receive their "mission."

Clues set students on a journey to find more clues and crack codes as they travel around the zoo.

In the tiger exhibit, a clue sits on a back wall.

Wait! No one can ignore the baby elephants.

Students on Team 3 collaborate to decipher a clue and record it on a graphic organizer.

Huh? This clue says it may be a "snarl" or a "snore."

This mission will resume after a fun photo-op outside the penguin exhibit.

The final clue directs students to take a bottle of Coke and have a toast.

Will their codes work? Students find out as they start unlocking locks to break into their briefcase.

There are lots and lots of locks on this box.

What's inside? Well, it's a coupon for a free lunch ...

... and lots of candy for all.