This activity was created when I took a group of urban students from our school to the ropes course this fall. The boys were part of conflicting neighborhood factions. This was the activity we started the day with...No Ropes Course Needed! You can read the full story about this experience on my BLOG.
In working with urban youth who are polarized due to arbitrary reasons such as what street they live on or who they hang out with, I am often surprised at how they get along so well with me (and other staff members from our school) when we have so little in common. Sometimes, getting them to realize that they have more in common with each other than they do with me helps pave the way for improved relationships.
Create a list of statements, many of which you believe the students have in common with each other and less so with you. Here is a sampling from the list we used last week:
1. You are not Caucasian
2. You have been arrested
3. You grew up with two parents at home
4. If you have ever been confronted by someone with a weapon
5. If you ever felt that people were watching you in a store
6. If you ever stole something
7. If you have been in a fight in the past year
8. If you feel you have been the target of racism.
9. If your anger problems have gotten you in trouble.
10. If you use the “N” word on a daily basis.
Arrange a grid of gym spots (or paper plates if you don’t have spots) so that you have 1 column for every two people and about 8 rows. So, if you have 8 kids, you have 8 rows and 4 columns (32 spots or plates).
Have participants stand so that there is one person standing past the last spot on each end of each column. So, you will have pairs of group members standing at opposite ends of the columns facing each other. Try to arrange it so that those with conflicts are facing each other.
Once everyone is ready, indicate that you will be reading off statements. If the statement is true of you, step onto the first spot in front of you. For any other subsequent statements that are true, step to the next spot. Once you and the person across from you have no spots left between you, shake hands and return to where you started. Continue playing as above.
Who had the most in common?
Why is it easier for you to get along with someone like me who has little in common with you than someone who has a lot more in common with you?
How can you resolve your differences by focusing on your commonalities?