In advance, lay a boundary rope on the floor and place three buckets in a line perpendicular to the rope spaced 3 metres, 5 metres and 7 metres from the rope.
Ask your group to stand on the empty of the rope, and give them a bag of soft tossables.
Challenge your group to record the highest score possible by tossing as many of the items into the buckets.
Explain that each bucket is worth a different number of points:
– 1 point for closest bucket;
– 5 points for middle bucket; and
– 10 points for furthest bucket.
Your group will be given a total of three one-minute rounds, with several minutes of planning time before each round commences.
Ask your group to nominate a target score before they commence the first round.
Before the start of each round, your group can decide how many, and which group members to position on both sides of the boundary rope, but as soon as a round starts, no one is permitted to swap sides.
The people who are on the bucket-side of the boundary can retrieve the balls which miss the buckets, but cannot actively assist any item into a bucket.
At the conclusion of the third round, survey the results and debrief as necessary/desired.
How To Play Narrative
Lay a boundary rope on the ground/floor and ask your group to gather on one side of it.
On the other side, place three buckets in a line perpendicular to the rope spaced 3 metres (10′,) 5 metres (16′) and 7 metres (23′) from the rope.
Handing over a bag of soft tossables (fleece-balls, beanie babies, etc,) announce to your group that their goal is to toss as many of these items into the buckets to record the highest score possible.
Announce that each bucket is worth a different number of points:
1 point for closest bucket;
5 points for middle bucket; and
10 points for furthest bucket.
Explain that your group will be given a total of three one-minute rounds to record their highest score. However, the group must nominate a target score before they commence the first round.
Before the start of each round, ask the group to decide how many, and which group members shall be permitted to be on the bucket-side of the boundary rope. The group may pick & choose to have as many or as few as they want on either side, but as soon as a round starts, no one is permitted to swap sides.
The people who are on the bucket-side of the boundary can retrieve the balls which miss the buckets and return them to the other side of the rope. Note, they are not permitted to actively assist any tossables into a bucket.
Allow your group two minutes to organise themselves before you announce that you are ready to time the first round. At the end of the round, calculate and announce the total score.
Between each round, ask (or require) the group to spend several minutes (not more than 5 minutes) planning their next attempt. They can also pick & choose to change the composition and role of the teams which exist on the two sides of the boundary rope.
At the conclusion of the third round, survey the results, and consider debriefing your group’s experience (see Reflection Tips tab) to explore if there are any lessons to be learned from this challenge.
Practical Leadership Tips
Beware lightweight buckets or receptacles. It is not uncommon for the tossables to knock over the buckets and scurry the contained items. Placing something heavy (brick, rock, etc) inside each bucket is a good idea.
Depending on the type of tossable item you use, it may be possible for an item to bounce out of the bucket. Too bad, try again, I say.
Mark the floor or ground to indicate the exact position of each bucket, to ensure consistency between rounds. This also prevents a little skullduggery on behalf of the group as well, as they have a tendency to edge the buckets a little closer to the tossing line when you are not looking.
It’s useful to mark the score for each round on paper/whiteboard to allow your group to track its progress.
It is not unusual for groups to (a) set a target which is much larger than they can initially achieve, and (b) spend a lot of time in the beginning shooting for the higher-score buckets.
You may also notice the strategy of using a person’s body to act as a backboard, aka a basketball ring backboard, to help items land in a bucket. It’s up to you if you think this is sailing too close to the wind as ‘actively’ assisting an item to drop into a bucket, or not. If I’m wanting to inspire creativity, then I normally applaud this ingenuity, otherwise, I acknowledge the idea and challenge the group to keep thinking of other strategies.
You could integrate Pick & Choose as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to manage their emotions, thoughts and behaviours in different situations 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
The complexities of this fun group initiative will invite your group to interact and engage with each other in a manner that will necessarily speak to the benefits of having developed a set of supportive and healthy behavioural norms in advance. Or, if not, you could focus on any less-than-desired interactions or outcomes to explore what sorts of behaviours your group would prefer to see and commit to in the future.
For example, in addition to those described in the Reflection Tips tab, you could invite your group to reflect on the following questions to explore a variety of full value behaviours such as:
How did the group demonstrate its ability to care for self and others?
Generally speaking, how did the group make decisions? How were all members involved?
Describe your group’s goal-setting process? (see next section)
Did everyone feel that their role was valuable?
What types of leadership were demonstrated during the exercise? Were they effective?
Were there moments of accountability that concerned you? Why?
Describe the resilience of your group to tackle difficult tasks? Could we improve our coping mechanisms?
Setting a realistic but challenging goal is critical to allowing a group to learn, grow and develop into a high-performance team. To this end, Pick & Choose demands your group to set a goal that achieves an acceptable balance between:
Risk and reward – does the group choose an easy goal by focusing only on the closest bucket, or does it direct all of its efforts on tossing items into the furthest bucket with the highest points?
Equity and playing to strengths – does the group assign specific roles to each person based on their strengths (eg more accurate tossing) or would it prefer to allow an equal contribution from every person regardless of skill level?
No Bouncing: Only score those items which are tossed ‘on the full,’ ie no bounces before dropping into a bucket.
One Bucket: Use one bucket only to score points. This option reduces the challenge primarily to the manner in which the group works together to score the most number of points.
Tough Tossables: Use a variety of ‘tossable’ items, and score them differently. For example, assign significant bonus points if a balloon – or any other difficult-to-toss item – is tossed into any of the buckets.
Cost/Benefit Analysis: Do not permit the group to retrieve any of the items which miss the buckets, ie if there are 30 tossables, the group has only 30 shots at the buckets. This variation heightens the cost/benefit analysis of shooting for the highest scoring buckets.
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Useful Framing Ideas
One of my favourite things to do as a kid as I was walking along a dirt track was to pick up a stone and toss it at a fence post, telephone pole or, even better, into a rubbish bin. If this sounds like you, then you’ll love this next exercise…
Are you the sort of group that prefers to focus on easy, but small rewards, or more challenging and bigger rewards? While there is no right answer, this next initiative will invite your group to consider what it values more along this continuum…
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 active, problem-solving exercise:
Describe the process your group took for each round. What did you notice?
How did your group decide to allocate roles? Was this effective?
What areas did your group have control over to pick & choose?
What ideas did you implement that helped you achieve the highest score?
Did you successfully achieve your goal? If not, why not?
What would you do differently if you were to do it again?
What lesson might you take away from this experience?
The inspiration for Pick & Choose, and many more dynamic problem-solving activities, was sourced from the following publication: