Demonstrate the Lumberjack greeting with a willing volunteer, eg build a tower of hands grasping the extended thumbs of one another.
Invite your group to greet many different partners using the Lumberjack greeting.
When ready, challenge your group to perform this greeting with as many people as possible simultaneously, eg creating a stack of connected hands.
Encourage your group to include the two hands of every person.
Video Transcript for Lumberjack Stack
presented by Nate Folan
This is the woodcutters handshake, and what you’re going to do is put one thumb out. I’m going to grab your thumb if that’s okay. Or do you want to grab mine?
Okay. You can now grab mine and put your thumb up. So we made a thumb stack just like this, right? From here we’re going to get into a good, solid stance because we’re going to get ready to move this saw, a double-person saw. So we’re going to move back and forth and there’s a sound. It goes hey, hey, hey, hey… just like that.
So I invite you to try this woodcutters handshake. Ready? Set? Go. We’re going to try that.
(people playing Lumberjack Stack
So it’s once with a group of fifth graders and the fifth graders were doing this handshake, and there was a little bit of an issue. It’s clearly a partner activity, right? It’s one person to one person stacking thumbs, back and forth, hey hey hey, just like that, you move on to someone else.
With this group there was an odd number of people, so at one point they were like hey, can three people do this handshake? So they quickly found the solution to that. Could you see that happening, that three people possible, inviting more?
Well that inspired the next level of this, and it’s a light problem-solving activity, a nice team challenge and that these fifth graders said well hold on, is it possible for all of us to do this woodcutters handshake or this lumberjack stack?
So the challenge that I would put out to you directly from a group of fifth graders is can you all be connected grabbing thumbs in some way, able to move in some manner as if you are cutting wood, in this woodcutters handshake or the lumberjack stack?
So an invitation for you to work through as many solutions as possible. And you might hear some ideas in this group, and what I invite you to try is to when someone says something to try it. So say it, do it, say it, do it.
Does that make sense? So everyone needs to be connected, thumbs need to be stacked or held in some manner in this way, but beyond that it’s open to your interpretation about how you connect everyone and get everyone involved as well as the movement with the hey hey hey hey. Got it? Go.
(people playing Lumberjack Stack)
Nice. Next one.
(people playing Lumberjack Stack)
So you put out a couple of solutions. Does anyone have a solution that you haven’t seen yet that you’d love to try just because you thought about it or you were inspired by either the side-to-side one around the circle or the actual stack that you just created, did someone say ah, we haven’t done this yet, I’d like to try it. Anyone have one?
(We could have one on the side, like a T)
So work out from each other ideas. So like this.
(people playing Lumberjack Stack)
How To Play Narrative
Lumberjack Stack was inspired by a group of inquisitive fifth graders wondering ‘what is possible?’ It’s a great introduction to problem-solving for younger groups.
Ask for a willing volunteer to join you in demonstrating the traditional greeting of a lumberjack.
For the uninitiated, it looks like this. One person begins by clenching their fist and pointing their thumb up in the air in front of their partner (aka thumbs up.) Their partner then wraps their hand around this thumb and then points their thumb in the air. First person repeats, and the set-up concludes with their partner placing their other hand on top of this hand-clenched tower of sorts.
Then, the pair gently at first and then building a little pace, rock the tower of hands back and forth between them as if it was a hand-saw and they were cutting through a log. Encourage sound effects for fun “HEY, HEY, HEY, HEY” OR “CH, CH, CH, CH” as the pair move their arms faster and faster, back and forth.
Next, invite your group to engage in a series of Lumberjack greetings with as many people as possible in, say, 30 seconds. This will trigger a burst of energy and interaction that prepares your group for a progression of quick challenges.
Allow your group to experience the joy of this fun greeting, then regain their attention. Begin to layer the activity by challenging to attempt a ‘lumberjack stack’ with four to six people.
Watch as a variety of approaches and solutions emerge. This was the moment the inquisitive fifth graders asked, “Is this possible to do with everyone?”
If your group hasn’t already gone there, invite them to try the lumberjack stack with as many people as possible. Again, watch as your group demonstrates a variety of collaborative styles, integration of ideas, solutions, energy, inclusivity (or not), etc.
Finally, if your group hasn’t progressed on their own, encourage them to find a solution that includes every hand of every person.
Often, especially for larger groups, this final challenge shifts their thinking from a vertical stack of thumbs to something more horizontal or circular. One group once connected Lumberjack-style while standing in a circle, then began running in a circle making the buzzing sound of a circular saw – ZING, ZING, ZZZZIIINNNNGGGG!
Practical Leadership Tips
Encourage participants to be aware of self, others, and the collective group as the challenge progresses to include more people.
Attend to safety as your group progresses and solutions to the challenge become more innovative and potentially risk, eg stacking people lower or higher to connect more people.
Groups tend to explore and experiment with a variety of creative possibilities and solutions. Encourage this, it’s one reason for using this activity.
If you feel the need or see the value in communicating particular parameters or guidelines, consider the following. Note, most groups discover solutions associated with these parameters through their own processes whether they are communicated or not:
All hands of all individuals must be included in a ‘stack;’
Hands must wrap around the thumb of another person’s hand;
Define what a ‘stack’ means, eg vertical, horizontal or even a series of mini-stacks. Consider your objectives, and the abilities of your group to determine what is most appropriate.
You could integrate Lumberjack Stack 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 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
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of working with others to solve a simple problem.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to interact, be creative and solve problems 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 embrace.
For example, you could invite your group to reflect on the effectiveness of its leadership and flexibility/adaptability to leverage its creative process. In addition to those described in the Reflection Tips tab, you could ask your group to reflect on the following questions to help them identify productive behaviours:
In what ways did the group adapt to overcome a problem?
Describe a time when leadership was exhibited to move the group forward.
Did everyone’s voice get heard?
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Longest Shadow could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Monkey Grip Lumberjacks: Using the same hand, instruct each person to hold their partner’s hand as if in the typical monkey-grip position, ie fingers curled into the matching palm of the other. Now tell each person to grip their own thumb with their other hand. Once in this position and stable stance, each person performs the back and forth motion, not only inspired by lumberjacks, but by those who use the two-person crosscut saw.