Junk to Jewels

Source:  Adapted from Quick Team Building Activities for Busy Managers, Brian Cole Miller, Amacom, 2004 

Group size:  Any size

Purpose:  This is a great activity  where participants pick from common office supplies to create an individual and a collective story of their recovery or wellness

Props Needed:  Various (and multiple similar) office or art supplies: paper clips different sizes, eraser, cups, coffee mugs, pens, pencils, color pencils, sticky-notes, Kleenex, highlighters of various colors, staple remover, scissors, stapler, pins, tacks, glue, glitter, stickers, calculator, bandana, blindfold, construction paper, etc. Any office or art supply will work.

Activity Preparation: Gather your own office supplies before you buy more. Collect them into a container or bag to keep them together. Display items on a table – spread out on a flat surface large enough for all participants to gather around. You can complete both parts of the activity – individual and collective. Complete the first part and have participants share their story. Then move on to the next part, the collective story, and have participants share their collective story.

Prep time needed:  10 minutes – set items out on table or flat surface.

Time needed

  • Directions: 5 minutes
  • Activity: 5 – 10 minutes
  • Debrief: 15 - 25 minutes

Set Up:  This activity can be used at any point in sequencing. 

Safety: Instruct participants to use care so they do not get hurt using or picking up any supplies.

Activity Directions:

  • Gather the attention of participants. Explain that everyone is look over the table with the office supplies.
  • Thinking about your recovery or wellness process, select supplies that give a meaning to your personal path of recovery and/or wellness.
  • Each person will pick something from the table that symbolizes their recovery or wellness path
  • Share with the group what the meaning of their symbol is.


Facilitator script: “Let’s gather around and take a look at the table. Notice there are various items that we would usually see in an office. Some of them are used to keep things together, some to erase, some to highlight, some to stick, some to remove something, some are containers to keep liquid or other things in. You can use your imagination for the use of each item.

For this first part of Junk to Jewels, I want you to think about your recovery or your wellness journey. What item before you represents your journey? What item speaks to you; symbolizes something important in your journey? Pick an item from the table and tell the group why you selected this item then have a seat. (Facilitator give participants an opportunity to share what they picked and what it represents. Also remove any remaining items from the table or flat surface.)

Now that we have shared, lets return all the items you have chosen to the table. The next part of this activity is to create a group story. All the items on the table are those that you selected. They represent your individual story. Now you will create a collective story, one that includes everyone. Using all the items you picked, your task is to create a story using all items. (Give participants time to come up with a collective story using all their items).


  • What story does your item represent?
  • What is the meaning of your collective story?
  • What did you notice about yourself in picking your item? What did you notice about others’ selection?
  • If you picked something similar as another person, was your representation similar or different?
  • Were you hesitant to pick something someone else chose? Why or why not?
  • Why do you think similar items have different meanings?
  • Why do you think different items that have similar meanings?
  • Did you learn something about yourself in someone else’s item or story?


Recovery / Wellness Metaphor: It is an interesting activity in exploring the similarities and differences among participants in the group. There are many ways through and to recovery and wellness. Participants may become open in their thinking about their item or another’s as each one shares their story.

Role of Facilitator: Introduce and guide the activity.


  • Participants can pick something that is representative to their family or the region where they grew up.
  • They may pick something that represents a strength they see in themselves, or in one another.
  • Participants may clip pictures from magazines and make a collage of their own story and their collective in the form of a vision board.

Where to Find It/How to Make it: Gather supplies and unused items from your cupboard, home, supply cabinet. Any items will do, and a variety will lots of options for participants.