Instruct one person to position their arms by the side of their body, arms bent at 90 degrees at the elbow pointing forward and palms facing up.
Invite their partner to stand similarly but with their palms facing down.
Instruct this second person to stand facing their partner, placing their forearms and hands directly onto and gripping their partner’s forearm.
When ready, the person whose palms are facing down will jump up as they push downwards onto the arms of their partner, at the same time the latter pushes up.
Repeat this task several times to develop the skill, coordination and rhythm to perform higher and higher vertical jumps.
Continue for several minutes and/or swap partners.
How To Play Narrative
Divide your group into pairs. Their composition does not matter too much, but if you’re trying this exercise for the first time, invite people of similar size to partner one another.
By means of demonstration, invite one person in the pair to position their arms by the side of their body, arms bent at 90 degrees at the elbow pointing forward, rotating their wrists palms facing up.
Similarly, invite their partner to place their arms by the side of their body, arms bent at 90 degrees at the elbow pointing forward, rotating their wrists palm facing down.
Instruct this second person to stand facing their partner and place their forearms and hands directly on to and gripping their partner’s forearms. The palm-facing up partner may choose to reciprocate but this is not critical to the success of what happens next.
When ready, the person with their palms facing down will jump up applying pressure downward, as if getting out of a pool, on their partner’s arms. At the same time, the person with palms facing up will act as a spring, pressuring and supporting the upward movement of their partner as they jump up (vertically.)
This action typically results in immediate joy and happiness for the person jumping as they experience a bit more ‘hang time’ than they typically would if they were to jump on their own.
Invite these two people to repeat this jumping action a few times to develop the requisite skill, coordination and rhythm in an effort to help the jumping partner gain as much air time as possible. Then swap roles.
Expect over time that the jumps are very likely to progress a bit higher and more coordinated with each attempt.
Continue for a couple of minutes, then swap partners to enjoy a similar, yet different experience.
Practical Leadership Tips
In case it’s not clear, only one person is jumping into the air. Their partner acts as a powerful, yet stationary spring to propel their jumping colleague as high into the air as possible.
Partners must be in physical contact at all times. In other words, no one should throw their partner. It’s for this reason alone we instruct people to hold a firm grip of their partner’s arms. This will prevent really small/light people being thrown by much larger/stronger people.
Health & Wellness Programming
Owing to the physical (and sometimes, emotional) nature of this exercise, there are abundant opportunities to explore the development of social and interpersonal skills. In advance and/or at the conclusion of Big Ups invite your group to reflect on the following:
What were your initial thoughts when you were first paired up with a partner?
In what ways did you communicate your needs at any time, if any?
Did you observe any social cues from your partner that modified your behaviour?
How many of these social signals did you explicitly acknowledge? Why?
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Fingertip Big Ups: To permit even greater highs, invite partners to connect their hands (rather than forearms) together firmly. This will suit those who have good upper body strength.
Trio Big Ups: Involve a third person, whereby two people support one arm each of the jumper to provide even more thrust.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Gravity is such a drag, we all find it very difficult to jump very high no matter how strong or tall we are. Happily, I’m very excited to share new technology with you that will push this naturally-occurring limit…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this exhilarating stunt game:
Describe what your experience was like? How did you feel?
How much higher did you think you were able to jump?
What did you notice when you looked around at all of the jumps in the group?
How might this exercise teach us something about teamwork?
The inspiration for Big Ups was sourced from Nate Folan, a passionate and frequent contributor to this activity database.