In advance, cut as many strips of paper (approx 4cm x 1cm) out of a sheet of paper, each representing a snowflake.
Gather your group in a wide, open space.
Challenge your group to catch as many of these ‘snowflakes’ as they can in one round.
In the first round, your group will be given just one snowflake to catch.
For each successful attempt, they will get one more flake, eg two flakes for second round, three flakes for third round, etc.
For each round, every person who is holding a snowflake will toss it high into the air simultaneously on your signal.
If all snowflakes are caught, the group progresses to the next round.
If one or more snowflakes hit the ground, invite your group to try again (with the same number of flakes.)
Continue for a specified length of time or invite your group to nominate a target to work towards.
At the conclusion of the task, invite your group to reflect on their process and results.
How To Play Narrative
One of my favourite memories of the first time I encountered snow was watching a solitary snowflake land on my hand and melt after a few seconds. Watching the melt was the easy part, catching it was altogether a different thing.
This exercise is all about catching as many (artificial) snowflakes as if stuck in a blizzard.
In advance, take a couple of sheets of paper and use the scissors to cut out as many rectangle strips about 4cm x 1cm (1.5” x 0.5”.) in size. Each strip represents a snowflake.
You probably need no more than one per person in your group, but feel free apply an optimistic outlook and prepare for many more flakes.
Gather your group in a wide-open space and explain that over the course of multiple rounds, their task will be to catch as many snowflakes (little strips of paper) before they hit the ground.
At first, their task is to catch one snowflake and then for the second round, two snowflakes, three snowflakes for the third round, etc. For each successful round, your group will be entitled to catch one extra snowflake.
Challenge your group to catch as many snowflakes (in one round) as they can within a specified period of time, or nominate a particular target to work towards, eg 25 snowflakes.
To create the blizzard-like conditions, simply equip your group with the requisite snowflakes for each round and instruct all those who are holding a snowflake to toss them high into the air simultaneously on your signal “ONE, TWO, THREE, TOSS.”
You may wish to start your group standing in a circle, or you may prefer to see what occurs organically when your group is given free license to structure their own affairs.
Naturally, as more snowflakes enter the blizzard, the likelihood of one or more hitting the ground increases. When this happens, simply repeat the round (with the same number of flakes) to invite your group to make another attempt.
If this sounds easy, you may never have witnessed a thin strip of paper floating to the ground, ie they rarely travel in a straight line. Catching strips of paper is hard, so this is a fitting problem for a group to solve.
At the conclusion of the task, invite your group to reflect on topics such as planning, contingencies, creativity and collaboration. See the Reflection tab for more ideas.
Practical Leadership Tips
There’s no scientific basis for suggesting your paper snowflakes are sized 4cm x 1cm. You could even tear them out of paper if you prefer.
Yes, you can perform this group initiative outside but beware windy conditions.
Experiment with different types of paper. Try crepe paper and even cellophane as alternative lightweight options.
You could integrate Blizzard as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to establish and maintain healthy & relationships and to achieve goals.
Specifically, this activity offers ample opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Recognising Strengths, Prejudices & Biases
Having A Growth Mindset
Identifying & Managing Stress
Demonstrating Self-Discipline & Self-Motivation
Setting Personal & Group Goals
Use Planning & Organisational Skills
Taking Other’s Perspectives
Recognising Strengths In Others
Communicate & Listen Effectively
Seeking and/or Offering Support
Build Positive Relationships
Resolving Conflict Constructively
Demonstrating Curiosity & Open-Mindedness
Making Reasoned Judgements
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
This can be a difficult task for a group to tackle, so there will be many opportunities to invite your group to cooperate with one another, resolve conflicts, and observe and navigate a plethora of social cues. As with any group activity, you could present this group initiative as an opportunity to exercise newly formed full value competencies, or to frame a conversation in advance to explore and define healthy behaviours, eg goal-setting, leadership and adaptability.
For example, you could explore the process your group chooses to solve problems and make decisions. In addition to those described in the Reflection Tips tab, the following questions could be useful:
Were your interactions always expressed with empathy?
Did everyone feel safe/heard/acknowledged during the exercise?
Were we always being honest with one another?
Were we able to resolve conflicts in a healthy, respectful way?
Elevated Blizzard: Stand on a table or other sturdy surface and, with all of the flakes couched in your two hands, flick them high above the heads of your group. Aim to employ consistent flicking actions with every round.
Start Over: Whenever one or more snowflakes hit the ground, reset the counter to zero and start with one flake again. Tough, I know!
Blizzard Shapes: Experiment with using different shapes, eg circles, triangles and squares. Some will be more or less difficult to catch.
Team Event 1: Divide into smaller teams of 3 to 8 people. Equip each team with exactly the same number of flakes for each round. Only when each team successfully catches every snowflake in any particular round are all teams permitted to advance to the next round. A terrific option to focus your group on a collaborative effort.
Team Event 2: Divide into smaller teams of 3 to 10 people. From a specified height, rain one hundred or more flakes down on your group and challenge each team to catch as many flakes as possible. Make it clear this is a non-contact sport, so no one is permitted to touch others. The team with the most flakes wins.
Values: In advance, compile a list of values and write all of them onto little strips of coloured paper. If you have a large group, you may wish to write each value on several strips. Mix these coloured strips with a set of white strips. For each round, offer an equal number of each set of strips, eg the first round consists of 2 x strips (one white, one coloured,) the second round consists 4 x strips (two white, two coloured,) etc. Challenge your group to catch as many of the coloured strips as possible. Proceed as above, and then at the conclusion of the exercise, invite your group to reflect on the impact of focusing on values, why they are important and what happens when we let them ‘drop,’ etc.
Take a look at All Catch for a more substantive variation.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Have you ever stepped outside in the snow and tried to catch a snowflake on your tongue. So much fun. This next exercise is a little bit like this experience…
I love being part of a ticker-tape parade because I am mesmerised by the sight of thousands of little bits of paper falling to the ground softly in every direction. There seems to be no pattern to their flight which makes the task of catching them so very difficult. Let’s see what this might look like…
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 fun group initiative:
Did this task seem like an easy problem to solve in the beginning? What did you notice?
What was the most difficult part of the problem to solve? Why?
Was it possible to activate a solid plan? What got in the way of success?
How did your group make decisions?
Raise your hand if you thought of at least one idea during the exercise? Keep it raised if you believe it was heard? What does this mean?
How did you build trust in this exercise?
How did your team achieve its goal?
How might the task of catching snowflakes represent real life?
What lessons might this exercise teach us?
The inspiration for Blizzard was sourced from the Play-Work-Balance resources of Playworks, with thanks.