FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (WDVM) — A mystery has come to Luther Jackson Middle School, and it’s up to the students to save their mascot, Jackson the Tiger, from the Evil Twin by completing a complex escape room.

Students navigate codes, locks and solve clues to save their beloved mascot in a new escape room tucked away in a vacant computer lab.

The concept is the brainchild of After School Program Specialist, Matt Hoffert. The idea came to him during the pandemic.

“I thought it’d be a cool way to utilize the space and make a special experience for our students, something for them to look forward to, something for them to do,” said Hoffert.

Hoffert designed the experience to foster team-building skills while incorporating a seventh-grade curriculum that forces the eighth graders to recall previously learned skills in math, English, science, and social studies.

“You have to find the five curriculum stones, one for each core subject area,” said Hoffert. “Once you find all five of those, then you can activate the multitude boot and go to the other dimension and rescue the tiger.”

Hoffert enlisted the help of Andrew Nicholson, a designer at Bond’s Escape Room. He says helping design the space was a puzzle, even for him.

“This was a pretty different experience than anything we have done before,” said Nicholson. “It’s a difficult line to walk between too easy and too hard. I think kids are smarter than you give them credit for, so we wanted to make sure it would feel challenging and not too easy.”

Hoffert says most of the students aren’t able to successfully complete the escape room the first time around within the 30-40 minute time slot.

“We’ve had some groups come back a second time and we’re able to finish. We get really excited when they have that final victory music play at the end. It’s a fun experience for them,” said Hoffert.

The escape room was funded through donations from the engineering firm Dewberry. As an FCPS Ignite Partner, Dewberry helps fund new experiences in STEM for students.