Virtual Juggle

Chris Cavert has offered one of his favorite group building activities for this week’s post:

VIRTUAL JUGGLE
Thanks to the experiential education community and Sam Sikes.

NEEDS and NUMBERS: No special equipment is needed for this one. Plays well with (no less than) 12 to 20 people.

TIME: 20 to 30 minutes

PROCEDURE: In my recollection, Virtual Juggle was a serendipitous event. Each part of this activity was floating around through the activity circles until one day they were brought together into one critical mass. (You can find additional write-ups in the books, Raptor by Sam Sikes and, The EMPTY Bag by Hammond and Cavert.)

Circle up your group and ask each player to hold up one hand. Establish a pattern by taking turns pointing at and saying, “YOU!” to someone across the circle (similar to how you would start Group Juggle if you know the activity). Once a player points and “Yous” someone in the group, the pointer should put his or her hand down. The first person to point and “you” will be the last person to receive a point (each player points and is pointed at just once). Practice this same pattern – point and “you” the same person – a few times. This will be considered the “YOU” pattern.

Now ask the group to establish a NEW pattern (we’re going to call this one the “FRUIT” pattern). Choose a starting player who will point to someone across the circle (not their YOU pattern person) and speak out the name of a fruit or vegetable. Each player will need to choose a different fruit or vegetable – no food repeats. Each player in the pattern passes and receives a fruit or vegetable just once. Practice this pattern a few times. For some fun (and an experiential moment) try the pattern once or twice after having all the players close their eyes.

At this point you can add some movement. (Ask the group to keep that FRUIT pattern tucked away in their brains for a minute – remembering the player to which they passed a fruit or veggie.) Let’s go back the YOU pattern – let the group practice this one again just to get the YOUs to the front of their minds. For the MOVEMENT pattern, each player is going to physically move to the spot where his or her YOU person is standing. For example, Tom says YOU! to Jen. As soon as Jen sees Tom moving towards her she looks at John (her YOU) and moves towards John’s spot – Tom in the mean time is now standing in Jen’s old spot and Jen eventually stands in John’s old spot and so on – John’s on his way to his new spot….. Move through this MOVEMENT pattern a couple times for practice.

The ULTIMATE challenge is to put all the patterns together. Before starting this challenge I will say to one of the players, “Tom, when you think the group is ready please start the FRUIT pattern.” (The group may want a practice of the FRUIT pattern once or twice before the ULTIMATE challenge. Also, keep in mind you can start the FRUIT pattern with anyone, right?). When Tom understands his role, I ask the group to start the YOU and MOVEMENT patterns. As the flow gets going, Tom starts the FRUIT pattern (I might have to remind Tom after a bit of time goes by……).

This is not the easiest task to pull off. It is perfectly okay to stop the action and go back to review the parts or clarify any questions. This activity uses all three major learning styles: The “YOU” pattern is a visual method because players have to see the person point at them to know that it is their turn; The “FRUIT” (and veggie) pattern is auditory because the group could do it even with their eyes closed; The “MOVEMENT” pattern is the kinesthetic or action part of the juggle. So, some players will have difficulty with some portions of the activity due to their learning preferences (I have found that the FRUIT pattern seems to be the most difficult for most groups – what does this tell us about auditory awareness?).

In most cases I challenge the group to get through the FRUIT pattern twice without any major breaks in the flow – this seems to qualify, for most, a success. Find out what your group will accept as successful.

OBSERVATIONS/QUESTIONS:
• If you were to give this activity a “theme” what would it be?
• What are some of the qualities of the activity that you noticed? If you were to rank those qualities in order of importance, what would be at the top of your list and why?
• What feelings do you remember experiencing during the activity? What did you do with those feelings?
• Did your group reach a “flow” state? (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) What did it take from the group to reach this state?
• How can this information be helpful to you in the future?
• Sam asks, “What would need to happen if we added another person to this group?”

VARIATIONS:
• For some groups you might not reach the FRUIT pattern. Assess the group’s “aura” to see if they might be ready for all three patterns. In other words, I might start with the YOU pattern, then move to the MOVEMENT pattern, and then determine from there if the group is ready for the FRUIT pattern and ULTIMATE challenge. (You could also ask them.) Note: This “determining” is part of what makes facilitation an “art.”
• Here’s a great variation from Sam. Instead of a FRUIT pattern you could establish a “meaningful theme” like team qualities, or specific leadership qualities, or qualities of friendship, or words of encouragement and so on.
• You could also try not-so-meaningful themes like animals, colors, movie stars, cartoon characters and so on.

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