Gutter Ball

Type of Activity: Problem-Solving

Props Needed: 30 one-foot long gutters, one marble, one bucket

Set Up: This is a group problem solving & communication exercise. This activity involves moving marbles or different sized balls or even water down lengths of half pipe or 1"/2"gutters. The trick? Each participant has only one short length of pipe each, and the start and finish points can be separated by an obstacle course. Can be done with children of upper primary age, teenagers and adults in a variety of settings both indoors and outdoors.  Choose this activity when you need to energize the group into a team, or to emphasize the importance of each member's actions in a team.

Process: Each participant gets one short length of half pipe, and the group must work together to deliver a marble down the pipes from start point to finish. Requires a high level of communication and teamwork.

As facilitator, you can control how hard or easy to make this task. You can take them over obstacles, down stairs, around trees, etc. If, for example, the group is in the forming stage, put only one minor obstacle in the path and create opportunity for fairly instant experiential success of teamwork. If the team is functioning cohesively, make the obstacle course longer and harder and more physically challenging in order to deepen their experience of what they can achieve together.

Brief the participants on the start line and the finish point (a distinctive container is helpful), and give them any extra rules you may wish to add to the task, such as: every person must carry the marble at least once; participants need to take turns in a certain order; or both feet must remain on the floor at all times-get creative if you want to add challenge.

Give the group the pipes and the marble and 5 minutes planning time.

Allow the group several attempts if you have the time and they have the motivation, or keep it to one attempt and draw out the key points in the debrief.

Variations: Challenge the group to see how fast they can get the marble through the obstacle course.  Time the group, and ask them to "tender" for how fast they think they can really do it. Then give them another go. Requires debriefing.

For added problem solving under pressure, do not give the pipes and marble to the group during planning time.

Can be done indoors with a height factor involved. Explain that the marble is stuck to a point on the wall with blue tack and their job is to 'rescue' it and bring it down safely to a container on the floor. Use the gutters more like a ramp, and perhaps give one less gutter than the distance. Once they are set up, allow the marble to be released from the blue tack.

Frame the activity in terms of a new project which the team needs to respond to both efficiently and effectively, for example: a new client with specific needs; a tender to be put together by a deadline; or a marketing strategy idea that needs to be put into action.

Debriefing Topics:

  • How was your team efficiency? Did it increase or decrease?
  • What effects did individual team members have on your groups success?
  • What strategies did you use?

For original write up purchase "Affordable Portables.”  

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.