The Great Escape

Gabrielle G. doesn’t stop moving as she’s talking. Peering around the room, bending to check on the progress of classmates, she watches every member of her team at once.

Gabrielle is a sophomore at ChiTech and project manager for the Escape Room. It’s a do-it-yourself version of the popularized live-action game, where players are trapped in a room and must use logic to solve puzzles and find their way out.

The project will be featured at Spring Exhibition 2017 on June 1 at Chicago Tech Academy High School in Chicago’s University Village neighborhood.

John Bull, left, listens to Gabrielle direct fellow classmates.

As project manager, Gabrielle oversees the building crew, paint crew, and puzzle development crews, all composed of members of her 10th grade tech class. It’s not her first time as a project leader.

“I like telling people what to do,” Gabrielle said with a laugh.

Gabrielle and her team’s project is just one of many on display at Spring Exhibition 2017. Exhibition is a bi-annual event hosted by ChiTech. Students, parents, and community partners gather to see what the students have been working on and celebrate innovation and deeper learning.

The event is a part of the school’s Project Based Learning (PBL) curriculum. Instead of final exams, students and teachers collaborate on cumulative projects that showcase what the students have learned.

“Every Exhibition is an incredible experience. It’s inspiring to see how the students confidently show off what they’ve learned,” Jon Bull, entrepreneurship teacher and one of Gabrielle’s supervisors on Escape Room, said.

Projects may also be cross-discipline. Winter Exhibition 2017 featured collaborations between psychology and art, and biology and community service. The Escape Room is a collaboration between Bull’s students, and technology teachers Kevin Musiorski and Nick Gutierrez and their students.

Through PBL, students combine academic knowledge with 21st century skills, providing a purpose for learning and preparing students for the future.

Gabrielle sometimes struggles to keep her team on track. Behind her, an unfinished wooden wall stretches from floor to ceiling. Drills whir under her directions to classmates. Exhibition is only a week away.

A young girl in a grey hoodie and a man bend to look at a piece of paper on a table.

John Bull and Gabrielle conference on project details. 

“I don’t feel like anyone’s not listening, just with the materials and the budget, everyone’s having a hard time doing it and with the building crew still finishing the wall, it’s hard to get everything painted and done,” Gabrielle said.

But in the spirit of PBL, it’s a learning opportunity. Gabrielle admits she’s grown in her leadership role.

“[I’ve learned] Patience. It’s a mess, and I have to have patience in not knowing everything is going to get finished, and having to change my plans all the time. I have to be calm and really flexible,” she said, quickly darting to Bull to catch him up on the progress of the day.

Check out this video of Real World Learning Manager explaining the benefits of Exhibition at Winter Exhibition 2017.

Spring Exhibition 2017 is open to all, but attendees must RSVP by clicking here. For more information about Exhibition and Project Based Learning, please visit or contact Kelly Jones, Executive Director of Community Engagement at

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