Sunday, March 10, 2019

Finding Balance - A Team Building Challenge

Getting to Know New Students:

On the first day of a new class, I do this simple but powerful activity with my kids not only as an ice-breaker, but as a way for me to informally assess the students. This 30 minute activity reveals the risk-takers, the leaders, the followers, the collaborators, and the loners.  In addition, it gives students a tangible representation of how life can sometimes be hard to balance.


Balancing Rod
1 pipe cleaner
1 craft stick
2 washers


Each object has a “special” point, it is called center of gravity, where the object’s weight is evenly distributed around it. You can balance things in a way that do not seem to make sense, if you place the center of gravity properly.

All objects behave as though their mass (the stuff they're made from) is concentrated at a point called their center of gravity. A simple object like a ball has its center of gravity in a very obvious place: right at its center. But in a more complex object, like your body, the center of gravity is not located at the center of your body. In fact, men’s center of balance is located closer to their chest while women’s center of gravity is closer to their hips.  

Driving Question:

How can I balance a craft stick on the balancing rod using 2 washers and a pipe cleaner?


  • Students may work alone or with a partner
  • All objects must be used
  • All objects must be balanced on top of the rod
  • Pipe cleaners may not be wrapped around the rod

The Progression:

At students will all start by balancing the craft stick and the washers evenly, but then I remind them that all materials must be used. Eventually one of them will figure out a different way, and others will try as well.  Along the way, I encourage the students to balance the craft stick on its side or on one of the ends.  At first it will seem impossible, but eventually they figure it out!


The Wrap Up:

Ask:  How are we like the objects we balanced on the rods today?
Ask:  Do you sometimes feel like you have a lot to balance?
Ask:  What are some things in your life that causes imbalance?
Ask:  Do you sometimes feel like you're just barely hanging on?
Ask:  How can we use this activity to help us find balance in our lives?

The discussion usually takes on a life of its own when the students understand the connection between this activity and their lives. Students will give examples of friend drama, family responsibilities, homework, grades, sports, and other extra-curricular activities. This will open up the discussion on how we sometimes have to prioritize and re-balance from time to time. Sometimes we fall, but we pick ourselves back up and start over!

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