Form two straight lines of people, facing each other and standing about 1.5 to 2 metres apart.
Instruct these people to swing their arms full stretch in front of them up and down in a chopping motion.
Ask a volunteer to stand at least 2 metres from one of the ends of the two lines, looking straight down the middle.
Upon issuing a series of agreed ‘Are-you-ready?’ commands, ask the volunteer to walk down the corridor between the two lines.
The two lines of people aim to slice the air with their swinging arms and hands directly in front of the walker as he or she passes by.
The walker aims to maintain an even pace down the corridor until they exit the two lines, keeping their eyes open at all times.
Group aims to create an exciting thrill for the walker, while not hitting him or her in the process.
Repeat with several volunteers.
How To Play Narrative
First up, ask one brave person to be the initial ‘walker,’ and position them a few metres back from the entrance of two straight lines of people, each line facing and standing about 1.5 to 2 metres (5 – 7′) apart from the other.
Upon issuing the agreed safety ‘Are you ready?’ commands, the ‘choppers’ start to swing their arms full stretch in front of them – karate-kid style – up and down in a chopping motion. For good effect, invite the choppers to make appropriate “SHHHTTT” and “PHHHTTTT” sounds as they slice and dice their way through the air.
Where possible, each chopper should swing their arms either side of another person’s arm, so that no two adjacent arms belong to the same person.
Now, imagine the view held by the walker as they stand anxiously at the top of the lines – just awesome. Starting from about 2 metres back, the walker is then invited to walk calmly yet steadily through this veritable human ‘slice and dice’ machine.
The ‘walker’ should attempt to maintain an even pace and keep their eyes open at all times. The choppers aim to create as much slicing action as possible within the immediate vicinity of the walker.
To be clear, the slicers are encouraged to slice right in front of the nose and eyes of the walker as they mosey through, but of course, never actually make contact. Like all good adventures, it’s the perceived risk (and not the actual risk) that counts.
In case it’s not obvious, the whole point of the exercise is to create an exhilarating thrill for the walker while not hitting him or her in the process.
Again, like most trust exercises, take the time with your group – perhaps between walkers – to reflect back on what it was like to be the ‘choppers’ and the ‘walker,’ why some walkers slowed down, how it felt to trust the group with a physical responsibility, etc.
Practical Leadership Tips
The potential for harm is very real in this exercise if your group is not adequately prepared – mentally, physically and emotionally – for the challenge. To this end, consider your sequence carefully.
The pace of the ‘walker’ is critical to the safety of this activity, so it’s a good idea to start the walker a few metres back from the entrance so the choppers can gauge their initial speed.
While you can get away with just a handful of people, this exercise really does benefit from the maxim ‘the more the merrier.’
A safety note, it’s a good idea to remove all watches and bulky jewellery from the ‘chopping’ arms and hands, lest the walker meets with a gold-plated injury. Asking the walker to remove a peaked cap is a good idea too.
If you observe a walker moving quicker than a casual walk, call “STOP” immediately, and ask them to re-start at a slower pace.
Honouring Challenge by Choice, I would recommend that you simply invite only those who volunteer to be walkers. It may be nice, but certainly not necessary, to ask everyone to complete this task.
Even though it may get tedious, always, always, always insist that your group commit to the series of ‘Are-you-ready?’ commands BEFORE someone starts walking. This routine not only sharpens people’s attention, but it will pay dividends later in your program, especially if you plan on embarking on higher-level adventures.
Expect to observe these and many other typical reactions from the walker – putting their hands in front of their face, slowing down or stopping, shutting their eyes, leaning back a little as they walk, etc.
You could integrate Slice & Dice 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 thrilling trust-building exercise will invite your group 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, there would be value in connecting the trusting environment within which this exercise is conducted with the typical environment in which your group operates. Is it safe for people to speak up? Do people feel trusted by the group to disagree with one another, etc?
Oh wow, there are just so many ways in which this exercise could be led to explore a variety of emotional competencies. You can expect to see, hear and feel a wide range of emotional signals and cues which could be explored to navigate emotional intelligence. For example, the purposeful slowing down of the participant passing through the chopping arms, and the grimace on people’s faces, etc. Help your group to explore what all of these signals could mean. And be sure to connect what is seen, heard and felt in this very explicit activity to more nuanced social cues in real life to help your group build their emotional muscles.
The physical safety elements of this activity are explicit to most people, but the emotional and mental safety dimensions are often overlooked. As mentioned in the Leadership Tips tab, it is critical that you consider your sequence of activities carefully to help set your group up for success. That is to say, if you bring your group too early to Slice & Dice it is highly likely that many more people who are naturally concerned for their safety (from a physical, emotional and mental perspective) would choose not to participate in the run for fear of harm in some way. That said, a decision to walk should not always be interpreted as a sign of success either. A decision not to walk that is clearly communicated with and supported by one’s group is actually a remarkable sign of strength and safety.
Slice & Dice Gap: Move the two lines of people further away from each other, so that their hands/arms do not overlap. Indeed, you could add a gap between the fingertips of each line, all in an effort to reduce the perceived risk for the walker.
Advanced Pace: For truly advanced and switched-on groups, invite the volunteer to jog through the lines at the recommended three-quarter pace.
Slow-Motion: For those faint of heart, try a slow-motion version with accentuated facial expressions and sounds just for the fun of it.
Trust Prep: Take a look at Trust Wave as a wonderful, trust-building lead-in to this exercise.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Images of a hero or heroine escaping some death-defying circumstance are very common in the movies. Often, they must escape the clutches of some evil person who is intent on chopping them up into little pieces. Gruesome, right? Well, today, it’s your turn to test your nerves of steel as you enter a massive human slice and dice machine…
As human-beings, we are all born with critical survival instincts which are rarely called upon, but when necessary, are activated in the name of self-preservation. We can’t control these instincts. For example, we all experience a surge of adrenalin when we are suddenly frightened, which in primitive times, would have been used to feed our muscles the extra juice they required to react quickly or flee a predator. This next exercise will explore the fascinating impact of what happens when we think we are going to be hit, even though we don’t really expect this to happen…
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 exciting and innovative trust-building exercise:
What did you observe as the walker passed through the slice and dice machine? What did you make this mean?
Did the walker maintain a consistent pace? Why or why not?
How did it feel to be the walker?
Did you trust the group would attend to your safety? How and why?
The inspiration for Slice & Dice, and many more exciting, trust-building activity ideas, was sourced from the following publication: