Instruct each pair to stack the blocks on top of each other to build a tall tower.
Challenge each group to successfully flip the tower end to end (upside-down.)
Allow several minutes of practice.
Challenge each group to complete this task with the most number of blocks.
Allow 10 to 15 minutes to experiment.
Video Transcript for Skyscraper Tower
presented by Nate Folan
So the invitation here is just for the next few minutes is to literally build a skyscraper, and that would be again a single stack working towards that with a partner, working with the rug as you go, single stack building, and between you and your partner is to simply find a way to flip that skyscraper or that building end to end and settling it back down.
So that for example this block here that has the number 1 on top of it, that would be on the bottom of the stack, and this block here with an acorn on it would become the top. Everyone following that?
(Is there any restrictions around using hands?)
Right now, no. I’d rather you just play and experiment with it, and maybe over time there’ll be more restrictions that come with it. But right now it’s do what you need to do.
I would say with your body. Don’t go grab resources like books and things like that. Sandwiching if you were there. Sorry if I took that away, but this is using what’s on you, your hands, your body, and so on to make that turn. Give this a go for a few minutes.
(people playing Skyscraper Tower)
Thirteen. Eleven. Eleven. Ten over here. Anything over here?
(Just using just one finger.)
You were just using one finger.
Each, and that’s all.
Great. Was anyone else using just one finger each? Great. Anyone using like the pinch method?
(Pinch method over here.)
Pinch, I’m allowing that. So let’s say in my experience anyway this activity is new enough that there aren’t a lot of parameters to it, and part of the joy of this is going in and simply saying create a stack, flip it on its end, go. Very simple, basic instructions.
Twenty. Boom. And with that maybe there’s opportunities to start looking through the lens of what parameters would make this more challenging and even having groups create their own.
(people thinking about how to adapt Skyscraper Tower)
So in this room we had still single finger only, building off of the bridges that we’re making, building on that though of allowing for the pinch, two fingers or… so allowing that to grow. Whole hands. Some people were actually using two hands per person in that regard.
And I don’t know if this would ever show up or if it would be allowed, but maybe two of you are lifting and someone else might say “Excuse me, can you help support our blocks” from another partner pair. It didn’t happen here but it could be that moment that says let’s reach beyond our factions and our groupings and allow for help from others.
(conversation continues about Skyscraper Tower)
How To Play Narrative
Ask your group to form into teams of two or three people. Take a look at Getting into Pairs for some fun ideas.
Spill a large bag of wooden toy blocks (you know, the type with brightly coloured letters and numbers on them) onto the floor and ask each pair to grab 8 to 10 blocks.
By way of demonstration, grab a handful of blocks yourself and stack them vertically on the floor (or a table) to create a tall block tower. Instruct all of your pairs to do the same.
Next, challenge each pair to discover the most successful method of flipping this tower upside-down, ie the block which starts on the top is on the bottom after the flip, without spilling the blocks. Encourage them to use as few touch-points as possible to ramp up the challenge.
Allow a few minutes for each pair to practice this highly refined skill, and then instruct each group to perform this task with as many blocks as possible.
There are many parameters which you can vary to govern the challenge (take a look at the Variations tab below for ideas.) In essence, this exercise aims to inspire a collaborative spirit within each team.
Continue for 10 to 15 minutes allowing ample time for your groups to experiment.
Finally, celebrate the most ingenious flipping methods and/or the tallest tower to be flipped successfully.
Practical Leadership Tips
Any solid cube-like form will suffice for this exercise. Dice, home-made wooden blocks and toy cubes will work just as well.
If you don’t have enough blocks to equip every pair, you could invite some groups to observe the action of the other teams first. Once the allotted time has expired, the groups swap roles. In an ideal world, the observing teams will learn from the mistakes and lessons of the active teams, but this does not always occur.
If you’re going to split hairs, there can be some conjecture about how much of a finger constitutes a fingertip. Is it the actual very end of one’s finger (closest to the nail) or can it include the whole pad of the end of one’s finger? You decide, just be consistent.
You could integrate Skyscraper Tower as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to manage their emotions, thoughts and behaviours effectively 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 invite partners to interact and engage with each other in a manner that would 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 pairs to reflect on the following questions to explore a variety of full value behaviours such as:
How did the partners demonstrate an ability to care for self and others?
Generally speaking, how did the pair make decisions? Were both partners involved?
Describe the pair’s goal-setting process?
What types of leadership were demonstrated during the exercise? Were they effective?
Was adaptability a key component of the pair’s success? How?
Were there moments of accountability that concerned you? Why?
Single Fingers: Permit each person involved in the flipping of the tower to use only one finger to touch the blocks.
Two Fingers: No matter how many people are a part of the team, permit only two people to use a single fingertip to touch the blocks and control the flipping.