Lay a large sheet of paper (approx 1m x 1m) on a tabletop or floor.
Gather your group around the outside edges of the paper.
Instruct each person to draw the outline of one of their hands with a marker on the paper.
If required, demonstrate first by drawing the outline of your hand on the paper.
Request that as each person marks the outline of their hand that it overlaps (intersects) slightly with the outline of another handprint.
Challenge your group to ensure that every handprint is visually connected to the handprints of the entire group, ie no islands.
When ready, ask each person to write on the inside of their handprint a goal that they would like to achieve and then add their name.
Invite several volunteers to share what they wrote and why in the context of your framing.
Display this sheet of handprints in a prominent position so that your group can view it and refer to it easily.
Reflect on the collection of individual goals and your group’s discussion throughout your program.
How To Play Narrative
This goal-setting exercise is very similar to The Being, but requires a lot less space.
In advance, grab a large sheet of paper, sufficient to allow for the handprints of every person in your group plus a little more (just in case.) Generally, a sheet about 1m x 1m is sufficient for a group of up to 25 people (age-dependent.)
Place this paper on a table or the floor and ask your group to stand around it.
By way of demonstration, take a marker and trace the outline of one of your hands on the paper. It doesn’t matter where on the paper you do this, but to the side is fine.
Your group can probably guess what needs to happen next. That’s right, they will soon be invited to do the same thing, but… before they launch into it, announce that you have an extra challenge for them to meet.
Each person should aim to marks the outline of their own hand so that it touches or overlaps (intersects) slightly with the outline of another handprint on the paper. Go to the Resources tab to view and/or download an example.
That is, challenge your group to ensure that every handprint is visually connected to the handprints of the entire group, ie no islands or sub-groups disconnected from the rest of the group. In case you missed it, this already speaks to the metaphor of building a connected group.
Dispense with any questions, and then invite a few people to get started, ie there’s not enough room for everyone to draw at the same time.
Within a few minutes, you should be left with a wonderfully creative (and possibly, colourful) montage of interconnected (empty) handprints belonging to your group.
From here, you may launch in one of many directions (see the Variations tab for ideas.) Most often, I ask each person to return to the handprint they created and – after some useful framing – write a goal inside the outline of their hand, as well as their name.
For example, if I am using this exercise to frame the success of a large group project, I will ask them to think of an attribute or characteristic that would contribute towards their success, ie cooperation, respect, etc.
Once your group understands what you are asking them to do, invite a few people to grab a marker and get writing.
This may take a few minutes, so I always find it useful to invite those who started early to share what they wrote and why in the context of your framing, ie to soak up some of their idle time. For example, I may ask why did they write “cooperate” and how does this achieve our project’s goal?
Continue until everyone has written inside their handprint.
Once again, your options from here are endless. I would frequently invite my group to reflect on what they have just created and when ready, display this artwork in a prominent position so that we can view and refer to it frequently.
Practical Leadership Tips
If possible, use a bunch of coloured markers to create a wonderfully vibrant artwork to display when finished.
And when it comes to markers, I recommend that you use the non-toxic, non-permanent type. Nothing worse than having to scrub off permanent ink from your skin as a result of poor penmanship.
Posting your artwork of handprints in a prominent position is really useful if you want to keep this topic and the various things discussed in existence. Physically seeing it at the front of the room or on a door is a great way to keep these goals or aspirations front of mind.
You could integrate Palm Tree as part of a well-designed SEL program to help your group establish and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse individuals.
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
Palm Tree is a very explicit tool you can use to invite your group to explore and create their own full value agreement or any goal for that matter. The task of discussing and then writing the various attributes of the agreement on paper will keep these ideas in existence for your group to refer to long after the activity is complete.
Also, depending on how you frame this exercise, you could also invite your group to focus on the development of their emotional literacy skills. For example, the tactile outline of one’s hand has been associated with what is called the Five Finger Contract (coming soon) whereby you invite your group to reflect on each of these five fingers as representing five important elements to create a safe and respectful place.
Individual Palm Gardens: Invite each person to mark their handprint on their own (smaller) sheet of paper, or if you prefer download a sample handprint from the Resources tab to print/distribute one to each person. On the inside of the palm, ask each person to write their goals and, on the outside (space) of the palm, list one or more obstacles that could get in the way of them achieving their goal. When ready, invite sharing in small groups or as a large plenary.
Palm Tree Illustration: In advance, draw the trunk and various branches of a naked tree, ie no foliage. When ready, invite each person to draw their handprint so that it represents the leaves on the tree. Visually, this idea is really attractive and just begs to be posted somewhere prominent.
Palm Tree Circle: Instruct your group to create a large circle of handprints that leaves a large empty space in the middle. Use this space to discuss and write a list of attributes or characteristics of what it would take for your group to support all of the individual goals.
Alternate Symbols: There is no shortage of objects or symbols you could use to metaphorically represent the development of your group and/or their goals. For example, the outline of one’s footprint, or tree leaves, your home or favourite car, etc.
Take a look at The Being as another wonderfully creative variation of the full value agreement.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
In advance, prepare a slide that features one empty handprint for every person in your group. Share this slide during your virtual session and invite each person, one at a time to use the annotate function to complete the task of this activity. When every person has contributed their input, be sure to save a screenshot of the final Palm Tree.
You Might Also Like...
Creative process to help Individuals & groups set goals.
Powerful tool to make decisions based on collective wisdom.
Comfort Zone Circles
Powerful front-loading exercise to explore skill development.
Useful Framing Ideas
Our hands, much like our fingerprints, are unique to each of us. It is understood that not one other person in the whole world has a hand or fingerprint just like our own. This is not unlike our own ideals and aspirations. In an effort to connect these two ideas together, I’m going to ask you to use your handprint as part of a goal-setting exercise…
In a moment, we are going to have a discussion about the sort of group we’d like to be, in the true sense of the word. That is, we are human ‘beings’ not human ‘doings.’ So, I’d like you to start thinking about the sorts of behaviours and characteristics that would be acceptable to you, and not so acceptable. Think in terms of what would make this group super-effective and successful…
In this next exercise, we’re going to create a tool that will connect all of the members of this group together, both figuratively and literally speaking…
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 leading this creative goal-setting exercise:
How does the finished artwork of our interconnected handprints remind you of our group?
Did you observe any themes to the goals or attributes that were added inside our handprints?
Metaphorically speaking, what does it mean when one of our group’s handprints is not connected to the others?
How might this conversation relate to our group’s performance?
In real life, how are we connected to one another?
Does being connected to others make a difference? How?
The inspiration for Palm Tree was sourced from my friend and colleague Mary Henton during her delivery of an Adventure in the Classroom workshop I was attending in the early 1990s.