Posted: September 7th, 2012 by Michele Borba
A fun activity that helps staff, parents students see all it takes is just one cutting remark to bring someone down!
Over the years I’ve delivered literally hundreds of keynote addresses to schools and organizations around the world, but the “warm-up” activity to my speech in Corona Norco Unified School District this week has to be the most memorable.
Corona Norco is a large district, 45 miles southeast of Los Angles in Riverside County. The district has 31 elementary schools,eight middle school, five high schools, a middle college high school and three alternative schools. The district is also responsible for the education and welfare of over 53,000 students.
Dr. David Hansen, Assistant Superintendent in Educational Services, invited all counselors, psychologists, district office and support services to hear my address on bullying, and what educators can do to reduce peer cruelty and create safe, caring school environments. He set the tone that day with an amazing ten-minute mingler called the “Spider Web Rope Activity.” Not only did everyone enjoy it, but it clearly sent a message as to the destructiveness of bullying. You may want to try it with your staff, parents, or even older kids–just make sure they’re strong enough to hold that twine! I’ve included the directions as well as photographs that show each step.
Thank you, Dr. Hansen. This was amazing!
Directions for Spider Web Rope Activity
Required Materials: 20 tweens, teens or adults, 1-2 rolls of light twine, a large space to hold 20 teens or adults ideally on a carpet. Hint: It also helps if women are wearing pants or long skirts and everyone can remove their shoes easily.
Step 1. Find 20 eager volunteers!
Gather 20 volunteers from the audience and have them stand in a large circle, and then go down to the ground on one knee.
The organizer then passes around a roll of light twine around the circle.
The organizer instructs each participant to hold the twine tightly from opposite points forming a “Spider Web.”
The twine continues to be passed around the circle twice so each participant holds two sides of the rope (this will provide more support).
Step 2. Participant lies face up on the middle of web on floor
When the “spider web” is done, participants lay the twine on the floor while still holding it tightly.
Another volunteer now lies down in the middle of the “spider web” on the top of the twine.
The volunteers in the circle now tighten the twine ,and then carefully pull it thus elevating the person that lies in the middle.
Step 3. Cut the twine in two spots!
The coordinator then cuts one side of the twine. Beware: the person in the middle will come down a few inches. Tell volunteers to not let go of the rope and hold on tightly. It will support the person laying in the middle
The coordinator will then cuts another side of the twine…the person in the middle will come down a few more inches. Once the group sees what is happening with the person lying in the middle, carefully let the person back down to the floor.
Step 4. Reflect on experience
Now ask participants and viewers what they observed. Also ask what they assume the purpose of the activity was and what they learned. Ideally, participants will understand that the purpose of the activity was to demonstrate that it takes only one cutting comment to bring the person down.
Here are just a few comments from the educators that day about the experience:
“All it takes is one bully to ruin a group.”
“The person lost her grip – she had no strength.”
“The second “cut” was so much more severe. She no longer had an balance or security.”
“I felt helpless watching her fall with each cut.”
“I wanted to do something and step in but didn’t know what to do.”“I trusted everyone to pick me up (said the target) but lost that trust when the twine was cut.”
You can then begin to discuss what everyone can do to help make the school year more safe and caring.
Also brainstorm what can be done to reduce bullying and taunts throughout the school year which is the whole secret to good bullying prevention.Prevention starts with a shared knowledge base with all stakeholders as to what bullying is and how destructive it can be to not only the target but to the group who experiences it.
The activity can be so powerful you may want to consider using it with your students and parents. Even better: try the activity with students and parents together!
Have a wonderful and safe school year! Stop the bullying!