Heartbeat Ball invites students to work collaboratively to maintain the steady beat of a ball–the heartbeat–as it is passed around a circle in a single direction, while also passing of multiple objects in different ways and different directions. This activity requires students to strategize and multi-task while remaining focused on a single collective goal (maintaining the heartbeat).
Gather a number of objects including a playground ball, which is easy to catch. Additional objects can include a second ball made of soft material, a very long necklace, an empty gallon sized can, a cane or tall stick, a hat, a bag with a stiff circular handle, glasses, etc. Invite players to stand in a circle. Hold up the playground ball and explains that this is the heartbeat ball. The group’s goal is to pass the ball in a steady, consistent rhythm around the circle in a single direction. The sound of the ball being caught should resemble a heartbeat. There should be no talking. The group passes the ball in one direction until a solid rhythm is established. Next, introduce a new object into the game, which is passed from person-to-person in the opposite direction of the circle to the ball (see Possible Variations/Applications). Let the group explore passing the new object. Explain that although the new object is important the MOST important aspect of the game is the heartbeat ball; other objects can stop and start. Then, start the ball and the new object together at the same time until the group can pass both with success. Proceed to add new objects into the game one at a time. It is useful to change directions for each new object (e.g., if the heartbeat ball goes clockwise than the next object to be added goes counter-clockwise). The number one priority is always the heartbeat ball. If the heartbeat ball drops to the ground, the game stops, the group strategies how to play more effectively, and starts again from the beginning adding each additional object back in at a time.
- On a scale of 1 – 10, with 10 being very successful and 1 being we need some work, how successful were we?
- What was easy? What was difficult? Why?
- What strategies did you use to make sure the group was successful?
- How is the heartbeat in this game a metaphor for our work together?
Make the Transfer! Use this strategy as a metaphor to explore how and why we multitask, prioritize, and focus.
- Remember, your number one goal is to maintain the heartbeat.
- Each new item is another problem to solve. How will you still make the heartbeat your priority?
- Explore and vary the kinds of objects added and how they are passed. For example, a tin can might be passed with the left foot to the left by sliding it on the ground; a necklace might get put over the neck of the person to the right, a large broom handle might be hit against the ground two times before passing it the person on the left, etc. If you play this game over a long period of time, encourage students to bring in new objects to add to the mix.