Our favorite opening activity for building connection in groups of any age.


Ask participants to begin walking around the room, filling the empty spaces. “Don’t look at anyone, don’t bump into anyone or touch anyone. Simply walk into the empty spaces.” Invite participants to reflect on how they are feeling: “How do you feel in this new group. Do you feel tense? Excited? Nervous? As you walk take some deep breaths and feel yourself relax…Now, notice people as you pass them. Just peek at each other…Now get a little bolder and let yourself greet people, just through a glance or a smile.”

“Now let yourself be drawn to one other person–someone you don’t know very well. Stand with that person, back to back. If you feel comfortable, intertwine your elbows.

“In a minute I’m going to ask you to turn. Tell your partner your name, where you live, and answer this (or these) question(s).” (First questions are very light like: your favorite food and something you had to give up to be at this program). Once you are done, turn back to back again. Once most people have turned back to back, warn the group that the time is almost up. Then ask them to begin walking again.

As participants mill around the room, ask them to imagine they are walking through deep mud…or use some other image like skating on ice, or walking on a beach in the warm sun. Give them time the experience of moving to this image. “Now find a new partner and stand back to back. When I say ‘go’, turn to your new partner, tell them your name and where you live and answer a new question.”  (the 2nd set of questions should be a little deeper: for example, something you like about where you live and something you’d like to change.)

Continue the activity asking increasingly penetrating questions. Possibilities include:

  • What’s a time you took a risk? And what risk would you want to take if you dared?
  • If you could meet anyone in the world, who would it be? And what would you say to that person?
  • If you could affect a big issue in the world, what would it be and why?
  • Who is someone you love and why?
  • What is something people might be surprised to know about you?
  • What is a big dream you have for your life?
  • If you were standing in front of a microphone and the whole world was listening, what would you say?

Vary the way you ask the group to move between questions. Have fun with it:

  • imagine you are tiptoeing through a quiet house at night
  • imagine you are walking through deep mud, tall grass, slippery ice, etc.

Gradually increase the size of groups: Begin with partners, then after a few questions ask people to get into groups of 4 and then 6 to answer the deeper questions.

Facilitation tipsExperiment with using your energy, tone of voice, and instructions to bring the group to a more playful mood or a deeper quieter mood. Each time you pose new questions, remind people to tell each other their name and where they live.

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