A Tool to Teach Integrity

My first job out of graduate school was with an organization that lead 10-day intervention programs with at-risk kids.  I was a co-counselor with two other fabulous facilitators, and we had a fantastic lodge out in the woods on a hundred acres to lead this program.  We had a low-ropes course, a high-ropes course in the trees, and a fantastic playing field for games.  The kids that came through our program were classified as ‘at-risk’ and many of them were just starting to make some poor decisions at home and at school.  Our program was designed to help them learn strategies to make better decisions and learn about consequences in a positive manner.  They each had a variety of goals to work on that were set with the therapist, the family and the child.  The first six days of the program we focused on team building and our low-ropes course.  The last few days we moved onto the high course.  Our goal with this was to help them build trust among the team first before moving onto the more individual challenges that the high-ropes course.  It was one of my favorite jobs I had before starting Training Wheels.  Partly because of my fabulous team.  Brian Brolin and Larry McPherson were my two co-counselors during my tenure there, and we had one of those trios that just worked.  I learned so much from these two early on in my career, and they will always be my lifelong friends.
Group doing the Islands Activity

Larry, Brian and I often challenged ourselves to come up with new things to do on our low-ropes course.  We basically had the same schedule for each 10-day program, but we liked to change out some of the games based on the needs of the kids and the group that we were working with.  One of the low-elements we had was the Islands platforms.  Three different sized platforms placed 10-15 feet apart from one another.  The group was given two boards that were not long enough to span the distance between the platforms, and the group had to work together to get from the first platform to the last program without touching the ground in between.  One particular group we were working with had some trouble telling the truth.  The trust level in the group was very low, and moving onto the high course was not going to be an option unless we saw significant changes in their behavior.  They wanted to be trusted, yet their behaviors were showing us the exact opposite.  We brainstormed what we could do to help surface the behavior/topic of integrity in an activity so we could tackle this topic in a debrief with the kids.

Paper Beach Balls!

Brian had found an interesting prop at Oriental Trading Company called a Paper Beach Ball.  It’s made of tissue paper-like material and it holds air without a plug.  It literally folded up and fit in your pocket, and he happened to have one on him this particular day.  He got it out, blew it up and handed it to the kids right as they were about to do the Islands activity.  He told them that the ball was a priceless Gooney Egg, very valuable and could not be damaged as they crossed the crevasses in between the mountain tops (island platforms).  Any mis-handle would damage the value of the Gooney Egg.  Now because the Paper Beach Ball is made of tissue paper, anytime someone would squeeze the ball it would lose it’s shape a little bit.  He also told the kids they could not blow the ball back up during the activity.  After they completed the mission, he put the Gooney Egg in the center of the circle as we debriefed.  We first went through the Debriefing Sequence of What, So What, Now What, and then we focused on the Gooney Egg.  For the most part, the kids handled the egg with great care.  There were a few dents in it, but not as many as they anticipated.  Brian then told them that the Gooney Egg represented the group’s integrity, and how each time someone told a lie or demonstrated a behavior that took trust away, it was like a mis-handle of the Gooney Egg.  It was a fantastic visual for the kids to see the impact a small squeeze had on the ball, and relate it to how one lie could impact the group’s integrity.

Paper Beach Balls have long been discontinued on Oriental Trading Company.  I have searched high and low for these for 25 years and I’m happy to report that I just found a new supplier for them!  I’m so excited!  We just added them to the Training Wheels store, so you, too can play with the priceless Gooney Eggs in your programs.  Click here to purchase on our Online Store.
Watch the video to hear Michelle Cummings explain the Paper Beach Ball.

by Michelle Cummings
Training Wheels