Spread your group throughout a wide, open area, requesting that partners position themselves a long distance away from one another.
By demonstration with a volunteer, act out a slow-motion scene involving the two of you greeting each other from a distance.
You approach one another slowly until approximately 2 metres (7′) apart.
Then suddenly, you realise that you have mistaken the identity of this person.
Swiftly, you look away and spy another person to repeat the whole greeting-from-afar process again.
Continue play for 1 to 2 minutes.
Video Transcript for Train Station Greetings
presented by Mark Collard
I’m going to invite you now to practice a skill that I know is going to happen frequently during the course of this weekend. If you’ve ever had that reunion experience, there’s often a lot of people that you haven’t seen for a long time.
I’d like you to imagine though that rather than the car or however you managed to get yourself here, you all arrived by train. We’re talking very nostalgic times. And you’re just waiting at the station. There’s steam and soot coming out of the air and the train pulls in, and someone on the last carriage, the person you have come to meet has just arrived and is stepping off the carriage.
And you can see them. For example, let’s say it was Bob. Bob is the person I’m waiting to see and he’s waiting for me. I’d like you to imagine in slow motion, as you actually see each other through the melee of the crowd of everyone else meeting and greeting as they’re coming off the train, that you actually see each other.
So, Bob, you’ll be looking at me and you’ll actually recognise me. And you’ll put your hand up in a wave. Do whatever else you normally do in slow motion.
So as we now come closer and closer to each other, we get so excited at the fact that we’re about to meet someone we haven’t seen in a long time.
Just about this point, you realise you picked the wrong person. It’s not the one you thought it was and you look away and you pick somebody new and go through all the same stuff all over again.
Do that for at least twelve different people. Go!
(people waving and greeting as part of Train Station Greetings)
Now connect in real life with someone. You actually go all the way through with the introduction. You actually meet with them. So just find one person now that you can be a partner with, no matter who it is.
(people waving and greeting as part of Train Station Greetings..)
How To Play Narrative
First up, find a fun method to break your group into pairs (such as hop on one leg, and find another person doing the same as you).
Then spread your group randomly throughout a designated area, explaining that partners should end up at opposite ends of the space to each other, ie you don’t need a circle, just a semblance of distance between pairs.
Now, invite your group to reminisce for a moment of nostalgic times imagining that you are standing at one end of an old train station platform, waiting to meet your long-lost friend to arrive.
This person is your best friend in the whole-wide world, and they have just gotten off the train. Suddenly, you’ve spied them through the hustle and bustle of the crowd, and you are very excited…
Also, by way of demonstration, invite your group to imagine that your long-lost friend (any person you spy on the other side of the space) and you are each waving madly to get the other’s attention.
But note, all of this occurs in slow-motion. Everything, the waves, the hello’s, the kisses you blow, the excitement is in slow-motion.
The greetings continue, the distance shortens as you walk closer to one another. An embrace is imminent as you and your volunteer get closer and closer… until you are about two metres (7′) away from your ‘friend,’ when you each realise – you’ve picked the wrong person!
You are naturally mortified, and needless to say, very embarrassed, so you immediately drop gears into damage control, and pretend that you were waving to the person behind your hapless volunteer all along.
Continuing your demonstration, you spy another person at a distance in the same predicament, attract their attention, and start to move slowly towards them as if they are now your bestest friend in the whole-wide world, and …. the same process repeats itself over and over.
Continue this slo-mo action for a minute or two. When ready, move on or try something new in the Variations tab.
This never-ending charade is clearly as ridiculous as it is fun. It will take a certain ‘chutzpah’ to pull it off, and hence, the enthusiasm and the delight you express in your demonstration will be critical to the willingness of your group to get into it.
Consider this demonstration of full-on self-conscious movements as a brilliant opportunity to invite your group to step outside their comfort zones. We tend to think of risk only in terms of the physical, but of course, there are many emotional and mental challenges in this ice-breaker game too.
You could integrate Train Station Greetings as part of a well-designed SEL program to promote and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse people.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of enjoying a short burst of social interaction and a good laugh.
In some respects, you could argue that the focus required to interact and engage with others may speak to the benefits of having developed a set of supportive and healthy behavioural norms in advance. Or, if not, you could use these less-than-desired interactions or outcomes to explore what sorts of behaviours your group would prefer to see. For example, you could invite your group to reflect on the level of emotional safety that was experienced during the activity and relate this to your group’s ability to enjoy a short burst of unselfconscious fun and interaction.
Or, as another example, explore the variety of social and emotional cues (ie emotional intelligence) that were observed during the activity to help your group understand what they mean.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Train Station Greetings could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Silent Movie: As above, but completely silent, as if it was a silent movie.
Random Partners: As above, but no need to begin with a starting partner. Simple invite people to make eye contact with anyone on the other side of the space, and begin.
As If: Alter the states in which people greet each other – fast-motion, sleepy-motion, drunken-motion, short-sighted (regular speed,) etc.
Moving Targets: Take a look at Stop & Go and Walk & Stop to enjoy two more fluid-motion group games.
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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 zany icebreaker game:
Did you feel silly playing this game? Why?
Is it okay to behave in a silly manner sometimes?
What sort of atmosphere do you or a group need to behave this way?
Can you recount a time when you mistook a stranger for someone you knew? How did you feel?
The inspiration for Train Station Greetings, and many more successful large group energisers, was sourced from the following publication: