Batten Down the Hatches

Batten Down the Hatches 

Type of Initiative: Conflict resolution, reaching win-win solutions, consensus 

Sources: This activity is from the book, Journey Towards the Caring Classroom, by Laurie Frank.  This is an adaptation of a classic Values Clarification exercise.  See also “Stranded!” in Cowstails and Cobras by Rohnke.  It is also published in Setting the Conflict Compass, Cummings, Anderson 

Props Needed: A list of household items like the one shown here

Level: Grades 6 and higher 

List of Supplies

MatchesFive gallons of gasoline

Tent with stakes and poles

Case of dog food

Rain coat for each person

10-pound bag of oranges

Charcoal grill


Package of toilet paper 

Car keysFlashlight with new batteries

Suitcase with a change of clothes for each person

Winter coat for each person

Five boxes of Pop Tarts®

Gallon of milk

Weather radio

Three pounds of cheeseFamily photo album

Video game

Road atlas of the United States

Five gallons of water

Jack knife

Box of 10 candles

Cell phone

Emergency flares


  1. Tell the group that they are living in southern Florida, and there has just been news of a large hurricane heading their way. The evacuation notice has just gone out. They have 15 minutes to gather up everything they need before leaving. Due to limited space, they can only take 15 items with them, not including people and pets. The family consists of two kids, parents, and the family dog, Juno.
  2. Give each person a list of supplies. Have participants rank their top 15 items.
  3. Divide them into groups of 4–6.
  4. Review the idea of win-win solutions and reaching consensus.
  5. Ask each group to reach consensus and list at least their top 5 items. If they get that far, then have them continue to rank the other 10.
  6. Have each group report their top 5 to 15 items to the group.

Variations: • For older students: Instead of giving them a list, have them each come up with their own top 10 to 15 items. Then come to consensus on which 10 to 15 items to take.

Extensions: • Discuss issues and instances where the students might be unwilling to be flexible. These can be issues of principle or values that are near and dear to them.

Debriefing Topics:

  • Which items were easy to agree on? What were some of your disagreements about?
  • How did you reach a consensus on the items? What strategies did you use?
  • Did you feel that you arrived at win-win solutions? Why or why not?

Facilitator Notes:

Consensus activities like this can really be a struggle for some people. Many times it is relatively easy to choose the 15 items to keep; the interesting part is attempting to rank those items. Here are a few hints that might make the reaching of consensus a little easier:

1. Avoid arguing. Try to present ideas logically.

2. Listen to others. They may just convince you to change your mind.

3. It isn’t necessary to win or lose. If agreement stalls, look for the next best alternative.

4. Don’t agree just to avoid conflict. Yield only if other sides make sense.

5. Avoid conflict-reducing tactics. Don’t flip a coin to decide. Look for the win-win through compromise.

6. Disagreements are healthy. Everyone has a different opinion. Work through disagreements and, possibly, you’ll find a great solution.

Adaptations for Students with Disabilities: Batten Down the Hatches

Cognitive Disabilities
  • Have fewer items to consider.
  • Do not insist on consensus for all things. Have students agree on a few and talk about why they picked these items.
Orthopedic Impairment
  • No major modifications necessary.
Hearing Impairment
  • No major modifications necessary.
  • Have interpreters available to facilitate communication if necessary.
Visual Impairment
  • Have the list of supplies written in Braille.
  • Have 3-D representations of each item.


Material in this Online Games Database is copyrighted.  Copyright ©  Training Wheels or by the author who submitted the activity.  Permission needed to copy or reproduce.