Islands is a strategic ensemble-building activity that invites students to negotiate fitting their bodies into a diminishing number of spaces in a limited amount of time. This activity is often used as an icebreaker to establish guidelines for appropriate physical contact and can serve as a metaphor for numerous social, science, and cultural topics.
Prior to activity place sheets of newspaper around the floor of a larger area with one fewer sheets than the number of players. To begin, establish an outside perimeter for the activity that includes all the newspaper sheets and space to move. Introduce the activity: In a moment I will ask you to “go for a swim,” (which means that you walk or swim silently) making sure you don’t tread on the paper or “islands.” At some point I will call out, “Sharks!” Then, each player needs to put his or her entire body on a sheet of paper to remain in the game. Once everyone is safe, I will remove an island or two and we will begin again. The goal is for the group to keep everyone safe from sharks for as long as possible. Begin the game. The group is safe if no part of anyone’s body is touching the surrounding floor; multiple people will end up sharing one sheet of paper. End the activity when the whole group has successfully negotiated staying “safe” on a few remaining pieces of newspaper or when the students have collapsed in an amicable pile trying.
- What did you notice about yourself in this activity? What did you notice about the group?
- Were we successful in this game? Why or why not?
- What strategies did you use to solve the challenge? Where else might we need to apply these strategies?
- (Optional content connection) What other situations do we see in our world in which many people have to share a small amount of land or resource?
- Keep moving around the space.
- Watch the other bodies on your island when you join up. Take your time to play safely and strategically.
- No one is safe until everyone is safe.
- Use music to cue the swimming off the “islands” or the theme from Jaws can be used to cue the “sharks.”