A very powerful activity that needs to be carefully facilitated.
Concept: To see ourselves as others see us, outwardly, so that we may begin to understand our uniqueness.
Published in: A Teachable Moment, Cain, Cummings, Stanchfield and What to Do With a Few, Cummings
First aid gauze, often used in wrapping broken arms, cut into 2-3-” strips, with approximately 40 pieces per person. Also cut some small ½” triangular pieces to fit around the nose and other contours. Carapace “Original Formula” plaster bandages, extra fast setting, are recommended. Size: 3” wide by 3 yards long. Available at medical supply stores. You will also need some large bowls filled with warm water; towels/sheets, paper towels, plenty of Vaseline, and some reflective, instrumental music to play in the background.
Time Needed: 1-1½ hours
Preparation: Set several mask stations by laying towels or sheets out on the floor. Leave plenty of space between each station. The towels and sheets are essential for keeping the plaster drippings from the floor. Pre-cut the plaster gauze and put these pieces into plastic bags for easy distribution. Set out the bowls of warm water as each pair starts the vaseline process.
To mentally prepare the group for the seriousness of this activity, talk to them about trust and how to care for others. This activity will require someone to ‘give up control’ of their sight and in doing so, will force them to trust their partner. Talk to them about caring for others and how they would like to be cared for. Tell them to use a soft calm voice and tell their partner what they are doing when they are doing it, i.e. “I’m going to apply a piece to your left cheek.” Tell them to position themselves to where a part of their knee or arm is in contact with the receiver at all times. This will help alleviate any abandonment feelings during the application and drying process.
- Talk to the group about personal reflections. How do people see them on the outside and how is that different from what’s on the inside? What is unique about you? etc.
- Tell the group that this is a quiet activity to allow for personal reflection. Play reflective instrumental music in the background.
- Have the group choose partners (or assign them). Have them decide which person will apply the mask first and which will go second.
- Have the mask receiver lie down on the towel/sheet and close their eyes. Instruct them to put a VERY generous portion of Vaseline on their partner’s face, covering at hairline and around to front of ears and down the neckline. Make sure that the eyelashes and eyebrows are well covered. The Vaseline is what keeps the plaster from permanently adhering to the face and hair, so definitely apply enough to cover the face completely, but still allow the plaster to define the face. If the receiver has a beard, apply an extra generous portion of Vaseline.
- The person doing the mask (the giver) then proceeds to dip each strip into water, smear the plaster together, and place on the face of the partner. Start with the outline of the face and work inward.
- Apply two to three layers of pieces and cover all of the face, including the eyes. Make sure verbal warnings are given before the pieces go over the eyes (talking allowed).
- The only place left exposed should be the nostrils for breathing. Even the mouth should be covered. This works best when the giver shapes the gauze on the face of the partner so that the facial features are well-defined.
- Few people are allergic to these products, but be cautious.
Very Important: It is recommended that the giver do not remove their hands/knee from their partner at any time. Especially when waiting for the gauze to dry and the application process is finished. While this is happening, play soft music and allow no talking, other than placement statements. When all gauze has been put on the face, allow five minutes for it to dry. It will get warm as it dries and hardens. You can do a small squeeze test to see if it gives a little or if it has hardened. After the mask has hardened you can help them remove their mask. Facilitators may need to help with this and assure the participants that there is nothing to fear. Ask the mask receiver to scrunch up their face underneath the mask several times so it starts to release from their face. The mask giver and/or facilitator can start to work the edges of the mask to find a spot where the mask is starting to come off of the face. Gently work the mask off of the face. After the mask is off have the mask giver walk their partner to a sink so they can use paper towels and water to remove the Vaseline from their eyes and face. This will require a lot of paper towels. To allow the mask to finish drying, wad up several paper towels and put them in the face of the mask. Place the mask with the other completed masks on a tabletop until everyone has finished.
When this is done, have them switch and the receiver then becomes the giver.
When this is done, have them do reflection.
- What happened?
- What were some of your feelings?
- Were you afraid?
- Did you trust your partner?
- What did you learn?
A great way to start the debrief for this activity is to have each mask maker present the mask they made to their partner and share something unique they see in them.
An added exercise would be to have them decorate the masks in whatever way they feel is appropriate. This exercise should be done early in the program and the masks saved so that they can have them at the end. A lot of reflection and insight can be gained from this exercise, too. You could have them share how they feel about themselves while holding their masks, both at the beginning and end of the program.
Be sure to have them tag their mask on the backside with their name so they can find it easily at the end of the program.
Where to find it/How to make it:
You can get the plaster from:
Carapace, A LOHMANN Company, Tulsa, OK 74147-0040
To purchase online: www.superiormedical.com 800-268-7944
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