Instruct each partnership to lay these four blocks in one straight line on the ground/floor.
Challenge each pair to lift this ‘bridge’ above their heads, using one fingertip each on the end of the blocks, and return it to the ground/floor without breaking the bridge.
With each successful attempt, invite each pair to add two more blocks to their bridge and repeat the challenge.
Allow ample time for planning and continuous improvement.
Continue this challenge for at least 15 to 20 minutes.
If possible, invite your group to reflect on what was learned during this exercise.
Video Transcript for Block Bridge
presented by Nate Folan
So what we’re doing here is the last person that you were just connected with, you’re going to be working with them, and your goal… so Tara, would you mind if we demonstrate something real quick?
If Tara and I were just partners, we’re going to be working with our blocks and we’re actually going to start on the ground, and we’re grabbing more than maybe we did before.
And our blocks… we’re going to start by creating a single line, horizontal in this case.
And our goal is to be able to lift this Block Bridge above our heads. That’s the ultimate goal. Now up to around our collective chin height is good, better around eye height, and sheer awesomeness over our head, and that’s starting here and then standing up.
So you’re up for trying this? Okay. So we’re going to connect. We might straighten our blocks a little bit, whatever you find is an effective strategy, and we’re going to lift. There might be some communication that happens, like I feel like you can provide a little bit more pressure in towards my end. Does that work for you?
And we’re trying to go above our heads if we’re able to… lifting…
(I can’t get the other…)
Yeah, that’s good. Nice. And notice they’re changing. Sheer awesomeness achieved. Nice. You want to jump maybe? I don’t know…
So as you attempt this as blocks fall, you and your partner you’re trying to maximise as many blocks as you can. So you might start with say eight or ten and okay, achieve that, but the goal is to find out what’s possible and maybe what’s not, based on your belief.
So play with that for a few minutes and then we’ll throw something else at you.
(people playing Block Bridge)
You had twelve over here? Who was that? Twelve? Great. Anyone else? Nine over here.
(We had ten but we started from seated.)
From seated? Like literally like cross-legged or bottoms to the ground and standing. Wow. Great. Another additional challenge to that. That’s wonderful.
Some people will ask… Eleven over here. Great.
Some people will ask the question of so what’s possible, right given that question or what do other groups do, and maybe this happens with other activities.
This one at least in my presence I’ve seen people do twenty one, and that’s of the later teen variety and it was just awesome. Like imagine this extension of blocks between two people and the communication and the sensing that needs to occur as two people are lifting from the ground and literally going over their head, and for this group it was actually back down to the ground. So really wonderful to watch that.
And there was even a little banter on the way of you know, we got ten, okay we got eleven, and they kept building on the successes of others. They kept building on… how did you get twelve and what are you doing now.
So a lot of them started talking about with these in particular, with the ABC 123 blocks… you know it works better if the wood is on wood versus the paint on paint and they really started to analyse the blocks as well as how much pressure and noticing when something was going to fold, it was just outstanding.
Best part for me is that they were in a diversion program. It was as if they were first time non-violent offenders trying to clear their record through a six-week program with myself and some other colleagues in that experience, and I just loved how they just took this opportunity and ran with it…
How To Play Narrative
I enjoyed this exercise as the participant of one of a series of group exercises lead by Nate Folan, a masterful facilitator and creator of many activities featured in playmeo’s database.
Dump a large number of wooden toy blocks on the floor and instruct each person to grab two blocks each.
Invite the formation of random pairs, perhaps using one of the many fun techniques described in Getting into Pairs.
Instruct each partnership to lay their wooden blocks end to end to create a small (straight) line of four blocks on the floor/ground.
Then, using the fingertips of just one of their fingers, instruct them to place said fingertips on one of the two ends of the wooden bridge of blocks, so to speak.
Uttering such instructions will be enough for most groups to work out what happens next. You now challenge each pair to place enough pressure on each end to elevate their wooden bridge off the ground.
Initially, challenge each pair to elevate the block bridge to the level of their heads, and then back down to the ground whence they started. Ultimately, their aim is to accomplish this task without the bridge falling apart.
Give your group ample time to plan and apply a lot of trial and error to the task. Generally, most pairs will quickly work out how to successfully ascend and descend their four-block bridge intact.
Next, invite each successful pair to add another two blocks to lengthen their bridge, ie 6 then 8 then 10, etc. Naturally, with the addition of more blocks, the task gets harder and harder to achieve. Each pair aims to support a block bridge containing as many blocks as possible.
Continue this process for up to 15 to 20 minutes, and then gauge the level of interest to continue or not. Or try something new from the Variations tab.
Where possible, invite your group to reflect on what they experienced and learned from the exercise (see Reflection Tips tab for more ideas.)
Practical Leadership Tips
If necessary and useful, distinguish between finger ‘tips’ and finger ‘pads.’ The latter provides a great deal more real-estate to work with, ie makes the challenge slightly easier. There’s no right or wrong, but in my opinion, the more able a group, the more I encourage the use of tips over pads.
If you can, try to source a set of classic children’s toy wooden blocks (as seen in Video Tutorial.) They are the perfect prop in terms of size, weight and functionality for this problem-solving exercise.
You can never have too many blocks. My advice is to always have many more blocks than you think you’ll need. Some groups or pairs will surprise with what is possible (which is the whole point, right?)
For the record, I’ve seen up to 23 blocks successfully held – up and down – between the fingertips of two people. What’s your record? Please share in the Comments below.
You could integrate Block Bridge 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:
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 interactions. 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 invite your group to reflect on the process they choose to plan, 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? What’s an example when we were not?
Were we able to resolve conflicts in a healthy, respectful way?
Building a long bridge of blocks can be really frustrating problem to solve when consecutive attempts fail. Some members of your group may want to give up. This is the time to invite your group to reflect on strategies that can help them to persevere and be patient. Or better still, frame the introduction to this group initiative as an opportunity to consider helpful strategies that will scaffold persistence and a willingness to fail.
Heightened Challenges: Challenge each partnership to achieve one of three levels of success – (a) Nice, raising the bridge to the same level as their heads, (b) Fabulous, raising the bridge somewhat above their heads, and (c) Wicked Awesome, raising the bridge to the full extension of their arms.
Dextrous Pairs: Invite each pair to move and interact with other pairs to explore what is possible. This is an ideal small group initiative to explore Comfort Zones and risk aversion, ie most pairs will only explore those options for movement in which they can expect to be successful. I like to say that if the bridge is not breaking, you’re not exploring the boundaries of what is possible, yet.
Three Dimensions: Allow pairs to lift as many blocks as possible without the requirement of having to be in a single horizontal/straight line, ie blocks may be configured in 3D (on top of each other.)
Take a look at Block Party whereby three or more people are involved in the lifting and supporting of an elongated bridge of blocks. In this case, each person is entitled to use one fingertip to support the bridge. To be successful, the bridge will start on the ground, be lifted above the shoulders of the smallest person in the group, and return to the ground – all in one piece.
Simple get-to-know-you game that builds connections.
Useful Framing Ideas
What are some building blocks for reaching a goal? [allow time for your group to contribute ideas…] Great. You are now going to have the opportunity to explore these ideas with a partner…
Exploration of our limits helps to identify a goal that truly stretches us. Communication is essential when exploring our limits. Be aware of how and what you communicate as you bridge the gap between you and your partner…
Bridges connect people, communities, even countries. As you know, connections can be strengthened when working towards a common goal. A common goal is essential for bridging the gap among people – individuals, communities, nations…
A bridge reduces the distance between two places, people, or things. While this next activity aims to build relationships between two people, this activity also aims to progressively create an increasingly greater distance between you and your partner…
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 engaging group initiative:
What was required to bridge the gap between you and your partner?
What did you notice about your communication?
Did you and your partner discover a common goal? Were you committed to that goal? How did you work toward that goal?
What are some building blocks for reaching a goal? Did these ideas apply to the goals you set with your partner?
What is a ‘bridge’ that brings people or communities closer?
What are you willing to do to strengthen the bridges, or connections, in your community?
What common goal would you be willing to work toward that might connect our community?
The inspiration for Block Bridge, and many more fun, toy block activities, was sourced from the following publication: