Approximate Running Time: 20-30 minutes
Minimum Group Size: 6 participants
Maximum Group Size: Varying, depending on space and facilitators available. Participants will be divided into groups of 6-8 participants.
Age/ Level: Participants must be able to safely, calmly, and responsibly carry each other for a distance of approximately 12 feet. Recommended for grades 3 and up.
Space Required: An open space approximately 15 feet wide, and long enough for all participants to stand in their groups of 6-8 participants. at one end of the space (leaving the middle clear).
- At least four cones/ pilons to mark the “river of lava”
- One pair of “magic boots” per team. These may be overbooties (like hospital overboots that surgeons wear), or two pieces of foam or paper that participants can slide on and move accross the floor on the “river of lava”
Set-up: A “river of lava”, approximately 10 feet wide, should be set up across the middle of the room. This can be defined by two ropes, or a series of cones/ pilons. At the beginning of the activity all participants will stand in lines with their groups of 6-8 people at one end of the river.
The objective of this activity is for the groups to collaborate, strategize, and communicate effectively to move all team members to the opposite side of the “river of lava”, with only one person wearing the magic boots at a time.
Inform the participants that, within their teams of 6-8 people, each person may only make one trip across the river using the magic boots, and the boots may not be thrown across the river. If anyone touches the lava the entire group must start over again.
In order to transfer the boots to the next person, the wearer must tap their feet together (or clap) and say “Boop! Boop!”
The facilitator may wish to provide a list of roles for each team (such as team leader, mediator, speaker, etc). If the facilitator notices that one or more people per team are taking over, they may cause a “lava accident” and inform those people that they have lost their voices in the “accident”.
General Debrief Questions:
- Did you make lots of plans before trying to cross the river, or did you start trying right away? Was that helpful?
- Did one person take the lead? Why do you think that happened?
- How did your group make use of your different strengths to complete the challenge?
Notes , Safety Concerns:
- Participants will have to carry each other across the river–two at a time. Do not tell them this, as they will need to determine a strategy on their own. Watch them carefully to make sure they are being safe
Approximate Time: 20- 45 minutes
Minimum Group Size: 3 people
Maximum Group Size: 200 people
Participants must be able to consider their values and viewpoints, and empathize with others, in order to take part in this activity. Recommended for Grade 4 and up.
A room large enough for all participants to gather in the centre of the room, and then spread out into four corners of the room with enough space for private discussions.
- 1 pen or pencil per participant
- 1-2 index cards per participant (can be cut in half – can also use recycled paper instead of index cards)
- 1 large paper, or powerpoint slide, with a numbered list of statements (see Resources for a sample list)
The participants will each be given 1-2 index cards, and a pen or pencil, and asked to sit in a circle.
The four corners of the room should each be labeled with big signs, one in each corner with: “Agree”, “Disagree”, “Strongly Agree”, and “Strongly Disagree”.
The objective of this activity is for participants to reflect on their personal beliefs and values, and consider their peers’ beliefs, values, and perspectives.
1. Show participants the list of numbered prompts (on a PowerPoint slide or flipchart paper)
2. Ask participants to write their responses to each statement next to the statement numbers on their index cards. Their responses should list whether they strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree. They can use the abbreviations SA/ A/ D/ DS
3. After they have written their responses to each statement, participants should fold their index cards into paper airplanes, and launch them into the middle of the circle.
4. Invite participants to pick up a paper airplane and read the first statement in silence.
5. Ask participants to walk to the corner of the room with the sign that correlates to the answer to the first statement, as shown on the paper airplane they picked up.
6. When the participants are in the four corners of the room, the facilitator will ask them to discuss why someone may have responded with SA/ A/ D/ DS for that statement. Each corner group should choose a speaker to share their group’s response with the larger group.
7. After each corner has shared their responses, invite all participants to re-fold their airplanes and throw them across the room, and then pick up a different airplane and repeat the entire process for the second prompt (and then the third and fourth prompts and so on)
SA/ A/ D/ DS may be changed to simply “Agree” or “Disagree” for smaller groups, or if the facilitator would like to
Each group should select a speaker to represent that group’s opinions and responses to group debrief questions.
Sample list of prompts:
Cheese is bad for you
Computer games should be limited to 1 hour of game time everyday
Everyone should do 60 mins of physical activity every day
Individual work is easier than group work
Talking about myself is easy
I feel accepted in our Community
Student voices are integrated into decision-making at our school
It’s better to hear everyone’s idea than to make an executive decision
You must go to a top-tier university in order to be successful
If you study hard and work hard you would be financially successful
Wealth is a privilege that only a few deserve
Homeless people are lazy
I have a responsibility for the wellbeing of others
Teachers should be allowed friends with their students
We should only focus our fundraising and awareness on terminal illnesses that affect large populations of people.
Service Learning Prompts:
I have a responsibility for the wellbeing of others
The service we did is sustainable
Homeless people are lazy
The government plan to fight poverty is enough
General Debrief Questions
- How did you feel when you had to justify and defend your point of view?
- How did it feel when you had to justify a point of view that you didn’t agree with?
- Why is important to share your opinions?
- How does awareness of others help your understanding of others and develop empathy?
- How do personal experiences shape opinions?
- Why is it important to respect others’ opinions?
- What is empathy? Why is empathy a good skill to have?
- Usefulness/effectiveness of being able to think in someone else’s shoes
- Spectrum vs. black and white divisions (SA/A/D/SD vs. A/D)
Notes – Safety, planning for groups, etc
This activity is very similar to Diversity Circle, however it is unique in that it requires participants to justify differing viewpoints and empathize with their peers’ viewpoints.
Approximate Time: 30 – 40 minutes
Minimum Group Size: 4 people per group
Maximum Group Size: 12 people per group
Space Required: Ideally, each group should have a table/chairs to work at and be separated from hearing other groups
Materials: colourblind pieces (5 colours, 6 shapes, total 30 pieces), enough blindfold for each person
Set-up: one facilitator per group, each group around a table or in a space where they can work without too much/any distraction from other groups
Purpose and Intention:
- Acts as an ice breaker and leads to greater understanding between group members
- Focuses upon individuals’ understanding of their communication style and listening skills, and in particular develops the use of appropriate language
- Creates a territory in which the group must devise a strategy for progress
- Highlights the need for both effective team and individual skills
- Provides a fast route to powerful and transferable learning
- Versatile enough to meet a wide range of learning objectives
- Appropriate to any group with a shared language
- Enhances listening and questioning skills
- Develops participants feedback giving and receiving skills
Objective: The participants must collaborate and communicate to determine which pieces are missing from the colourblind activity set. (a set of foam or plastic pieces in a variety of designated shapes)
Methods of Support/ Guidelines:
Participants are blindfolded and the trainer then removes two of the coloured shapes from the bag and the remainder are given out to the blindfolded participants (1 – 3 per person depending on number in group). The objective of the exercise is for the group to establish the shape and colour of the missing pieces. Participants may not exchange or pass the pieces between group members. The question, “What color is this?” will be answered by the facilitator, correctly, as many times as it is asked. No other questions will be answered. Give the group 15 minutes to complete the activity and keep note of the time. If they complete the activity within 15 minutes, take note of their time so that they can attempt to better it next round.
After 15 minutes is up, give the group time (5 minutes) to strategise – what worked? what didn’t work? what will they do next time? The group then has another attempt with the facilitator removing two different pieces from the set. Can they complete the task this time or better their time from the first round?
We would love to hear your creative variations! Please send them to: email@example.com
General Debrief Questions:
What worked well?
What didn’t work well?
What strategies did you use to help make your team more successful/efficient?
How did you deal with any conflict that may have arisen?
Colourblind is a packaged game created and sold by RSVP Design. It can be purchased here: http://rsvpdesign.co.uk/shop/colourblind%C2%AE-p-13.html
Approximate Time: 1/2 hour to 2 hours
Minimum Group Size: 3
Maximum Group Size: 50 (per group)
Age/ Level of Difficulty:
The group must be mature enough to wear blindfolds, follow instructions, and listen to each other while collaborating to accomplish tasks. Recommended for grade 4 and up.
One open space, indoors or outdoors, with minimal physical barriers or furniture. (approximately 2 square meters per person)
1 blindfold per participant, assorted materials for participants to retrieve and move in the room. Ex:
– 10 balls
– 2 baskets or buckets large enough to store balls
– 2 long ropes, long enough to have every participant hold the rope and make a
– 10 hoopla hoops
– 10 cones/ pylons
Have the above materials ready to place throughout the space once participants have their blindfolds on.
The objective of this activity is for the group to work together to achieve a specific list of challenges. The facilitator will determine the challenges and level of difficulty according to the number of participants, the materials available, and the space and time available.
Ask the participants to sit in the middle of an area without dangerous obstructions, on the floor or ground while you provide instructions. Show the group the list of challenges, inform them that they will need to complete the challenges blindfolded, and give them a few minutes to discuss their strategy. Once they have determined a strategy, ask the participants to put on their blindfolds and wait while you set up the materials in the room/ area. They may begin the challenge when you declare that the space is set up.
1. Before you provide any instructions, ask the participants to select several group members to act as the Sherpas to guide and communicate with the rest of the group. The group will blindfold themselves while the Sherpas go outside the room with the facilitator. The facilitator will invite the Sherpas to look at a list of challenges, posted outside the room. They will re-enter the room, and engage the rest of the participants without using words or touching the participants, with the goal of having the blindfolded participants complete the challenges on the list. See the reference section for a sample list of challenges.
2. Split the group up into teams, and provide a list of objectives for each If you are going to facilitate this activity with several Sherpas without blindfolds, have each team send their Sherpas out to the hallway. When you provide instructions to the participants, do not mention any sort of competition or race, simply state that the objective is for the participants to accomplish a set of goals. Participants may immediately assume that this is a competition, or perhaps the two (or more) teams will work together. Debrief accordingly.
Participants may all be blindfolded, or they can be divided into those who are blind, and those who are Sherpas (guides without blindfolds)
Sample list of challenges (to be determined by material available, amount of time, number of participants, space available, etc)
If there will not be any Sherpas the challenge list should be shorter, because it must be memorized. If there will be Sherpas involved, the list can be longer with challenges increasing in difficulty, as the Sherpas can determine which challenges they would like to have their participants complete.
- Retrieve 10 balls from around the room/ space and place them in the two baskets provided.
- Find the two ropes in the room, tie them together, and then make a circle with the entire group holding onto the rope.
- Sing a song with the entire group.
- Find the hoola hoops, and have every group member do a “hoola” with a hoop.
- Gather all of the cones/ pilons together, and put the hoops over the stack of cones/ pilons.
This activity is not appropriate for groups who demonstrate challenging behavior, or poor safety judgment. They must be able to listen to each other and follow instructions from the facilitator, so that they do not get hurt.
This activity requires adequate open space for the participants, so that no one runs into walls or other dangerous objects.
There should not be any stairs, cliffs, steep hills or other challenging terrain in the activity space.
Waldo’s Leadership Sherpa
Thanks and Kudos to Karl Rohnke and the UVM Soccer Team for inspiring this theme with variations.
This is an initiative designed to bring out the issues of leadership roles and behaviors. I have used it with groups as small as 7 and as large as 150, indoors and out, using almost any range of props. I have played it with high school and older groups, especially when leadership is a focus. It also has many management/supervision, as well as, workforce possibilities. It can be used for both examining performance and relationships. The activity and debrief has been consistently rich.
Warning: This activity can be very frustrating for people – use it with care and conscience!
- Find out the individual and group intentions to be “leaders”
- From the group select a group of “closed-eye” people (aka workers) and a group of “open-eye” people (aka leaders).
- When separated from the two groups, give the “open-eye” people the initial list of tasks to be done, time frame, and rules.
- Give the “closed-eye” people the general goal, time limit, safety instructions, and rules. (“open-eye” people may listen in)
- Let them play, and adjust the tasks as you see fit.
- Call the end by time or task.
- Leadership intention
Ask the whole group to form a circle, slightly larger than shoulder to shoulder and close their eyes. Ask them if to consider if they want to play a leadership role for the next activity. Pause. Ask them to indicate their willing intent to lead by raising one hand in the air and keeping it their eyes still closed. After this time you will not refer to anyone a leader’s for the rest of the activity. Note the total number of arms raised and who.
- ‘Closed-eye’ people/’Open-eye’ people selection
Ask the group to keep their eyes closed, and the willing to lead people to continue to indicate their intent by holding their hands up, as you tell them you are going to select some of the people for a separate role by squeezing their shoulder. Tell them that if their shoulder is squeezed they can clasp their hands behind their back.
Squeeze the shoulder of 10-33 % of the people, making sure that some of the people who had their hands up are chosen (“open-eye” people”) and some are left as “closed-eye” people. When selecting the two groups also put people in the “open-eye” group if:
- you have a safety concern about their being unsighted and /or not touching/being touched by others; or
- you think they might “check out” with their eyes closed
Keeping in mind to engage individuals in the activity and have a sense of ownership; you want them to experience the role of listening and supporting and responding. Put people in “closed-eye” people group that will take initiative and ask questions, if you want to wire it for success, and put people in this group to experience frustration with the amount of direction and communication and clarity of tasks.
- Give “open-eye” people the initial task and rules
Ask the people who did not have their shoulder squeezed to stay where they are with their eyes closed. Tell them they may talk to each other and stay within a few steps of where they are while you take the rest of the group off to give them the next instructions. Tell them you will be back in about 5 minutes. Ask the people who had their shoulders squeezed to open their eyes and silently leave the space to a designated area away from the “closed-eye” people.
Once there, let them know that the goal is to get a bunch of what may seem like ridiculous tasks completed, and that only the people with their eyes closed will be able to perform the actual physical tasks for the group. Tell them you will only give them the list of tasks once and the rules once. If people have questions about information you have already given them, tell them to ask the group to see if someone remembers the answer. If anyone says yes, continue without answering.
Give them the list of tasks. Depending on the group, they can be tasks that everyone must do together as one (sing a song), or everyone must do at some point (sit down), or end up doing collectively (hold a soft toy), or individually (transfer water from one container to another), or both (uncoil a rope and have everyone hold onto it at some point, usually at the end to “tie them together”). You can also have “sub-group” work like having half of them holding onto a hula hoop, one each. The more tasks and the more conflicts between individual and group tasks, the tougher it will be. Remember, you can change the list of tasks while the activity is in progress to make it easier or more difficult, AND to get them to adapt to change.
Three Big Rules:
- You cannot touch the people with their eyes closed;
- You cannot talk to them;
- You cannot touch any of the material or equipment that the people performing the tasks are working with. Note facial expressions at this time and ask them about it later in the debrief.
Tell the people with their eyes open that they can whisper among themselves, but not so as to let the “closed-eye” people gain any information. Tell them also that unless they have any questions that you haven’t already answered, they are allowed to listen to the instructions you are about to give to the “closed-eye” people. Watch to see if they take you up on this invitation or not.
- Instructions to the “closed-eye” people
Walk back to the group with their eyes closed and announce your presence. Tell them that the goal is to get as many tasks as possible done within a timeframe (if you have one). Tell them that they must continue to keep their eyes closed throughout the activity and while they perform the tasks, however, they can talk to and, if needed, touch the people in their group as they are performing the tasks.
Tell them that the people who were pulled aside have their eyes open and know the list of tasks to be performed. Tell them those “open-eye” people cannot touch them, cannot talk to them, and cannot touch any of the materials that are involved in performing the tasks.
Any questions? Answer only if no one knows!
- Let them play, and adjust
Take notes, there’s a lot to observe and remember for the debrief. Note individual leadership behaviors for later, even as they differ in nature. Watch to see who initiates communication systems, most commonly it will be the “closed-eye” people asking yes or no questions with a response from the “open-eye” group. Often one clap means yes, two claps no.
If you want to adjust the activity or make it easier, tell one or more of the “open-eye” people that you no longer care about certain tasks, or that what they’ve done on certain tasks is enough. Note: This can occasionally backfire as the change in direction can throw them off! It’s simpler to have a time limit and call time and declare a partial victory on what they did accomplish.
To make it harder, add tasks and tell only one of the “open-eye” people any given addition. Also charge the “open-eye” people with telling you when they’ve accomplished the goal.
Your affect as a facilitator can strongly affect the “open-eye” people so choose with intention whether you wish to be neutral, flat, encouraging or confrontational, etc.
- Stop the game.
Stop the game at the time limit or when the “open-eye” people tell you to call it. Ask everyone to stop what they are doing keeping eyes still closed. Tell them the list of tasks and ask them to open their eyes and check it out. Be prepared for a lot of chattering before they’re ready to talk about it in the full group.
There are usually many directions you can take this. On the simple first level, I’ve found it useful to hear from the “open-eye” people, and then “closed-eye” people, or vice versa on “what was it like for you” basis. Continue to refer to these groups as ‘eyes open’ or ‘eyes closed’ groups because leadership has to happen in both for the activity to go forward… but I usually wait to see if someone in the group will make that point!
A lot of communication issues will often come up; including that usually the suggested communication system of ‘yes/no’ is suggested (or at least articulated) by the ‘eyes closed’ folks.
At some point, I ask “what was leadership behavior and who provided it?”, to try to draw out the point that leadership looks different, depending on your role, i.e., if you have your eyes open you may listen or respond or just pay attention with clearer communication.
People usually ask about the fact that I chose some people with their hands up to be “leaders” and left others behind. The belief is to make sure that both groups have the element/willingness for leadership in them.
You must get as many of the tasks done as possible. Be aware of opportunities for tasks in the environment. Some may be completely provided; some can be partially implemented by the surroundings.
- Get them to sing a song or do a cheer of their choice; if it has meaning for the organization bonus points
- Empty the water from three bottles into a bucket
- By the end of the time limit, everyone is holding onto a rope
- Because it is a journey, make moving everyone from one place to another part of the process
- Some hold hula hoops; some hold rubber stars; some hold balloons that they have blown up
- Stand in a hula hoops
- One person holding a rubber chicken
- Standing on a mat
Instructions to the “Open Eye” Participants
Your goal is to get a bunch of what may seem like ridiculous tasks completed, and only the people with their eyes closed will be able to perform the actual physical tasks for the group. I will only give you the list of tasks once, and the rules once. If you have questions about information that I have already given you, I will not answer them, and ask you check it with each other to see if the answer is on the team.
The tasks are:
- Empty the water from three bottles into a bucket
- Some people hold hula hoops; some hold rubber stars; some hold balloons that they have blown up and tied; one person will hold a rubber chicken
- By the end, everyone must be holding on to the large white rope
Three Big Rules:
- You cannot touch the people with their eyes closed;
- You cannot talk to them;
- You cannot touch any of the stuff that the people performing the tasks are working with.
You can whisper among yourselves, but not so the people with their eyes closed can hear you and gain information about anything. If you have any questions that I haven’t already answered, you are allowed to listen to the instructions I am about to give to the “Closed-eye” People.
Instructions to the ‘Closed Eye’ Participants
Your goal is to get a bunch of tasks done in (insert time limit). You must continue to keep your eyes closed throughout this activity and while you perform the tasks. You can talk to and touch each other while you are performing tasks.
The people who were pulled aside have their eyes open and know the list of tasks to be performed. Those with their eyes open cannot touch you; they cannot talk to you and cannot touch any of the stuff that is involved in performing the tasks……
Any questions? (Answer only if no one knows) GO!
- PVC Model (Flipchart or Power point)
PVC stands for Prisoner, Vacationer, and Change-Maker’
- These are mindsets you can have in any given experience
In this mindset you may feel trapped in a situation and completely unhappy. You are stuck in a situation and your not really trying to find a way out.
In this mindset things are great, you feel fine, and you can just kick back and go for the ride. There are many things going on around you but your not really focused on what’s happening, your in your own world.
Change-Makers are able to assess their position in any situation, and work to change things so that they are making the most out of their
PVC Activity Suggestions
1. Create a list of scenarios that your participants may encounter in life and/ or on the program (i.e. “Going on family vacation”, “Completing a group project”, “Participating in this program”)
2. Make three big signs, one each for Prisoner, Vacationer, Leader. Place the signs on three different walls of your program space (or on the floor or ground, depending on space available)
3. Begin the activity by reviewing the PVC model with the participants (using the model displayed on a flipchart or PowerPoint slide). Ask participants to tell you what a mindset is, discuss the meaning of mindset and some common mindsets. Review the PVC model after they understand the meaning of ‘mindset’.
4. One at a time, read out your list of prompts and have participants move to the sign that depicts their mindset in each scenario.
5. Once the participants have moved to a sign, you may choose to have them discuss their mindset with the others at that station, or explain their mindset to a group at a different station.
6. You may wish to ask participants what it would take for them to change their mindset in particular situations. Is it possible to change ones mindset in challenging situations? Why or why not?