Students will practice and reflect on the importance of communication skills when interacting with each other.
- 10–15 assorted items (paper plates and cups of different sizes and colors, popsicle sticks, small toys or trinkets, cones, etc.) You will need TWO of each item.
- Two blindfolds
- Two chairs
- A 10-foot length of rope or tape
15 per setup
- Create a “sculpture” with the random objects and cover it with a box so no one can see it.
- Divide your chapter or council into three different groups:
- Two builders will sit blindfolded on the floor. These students can talk, but obviously won’t be able to see.
- Two instructors will sit in chairs with their backs to the builders, facing the gallery. They can see the gallery and can speak.
- The gallery consists of the remaining students seated or standing in front of the instructors. They can see, but must stay silent.
- When everyone is in place, uncover the sculpture.
- The objective of the silent opera is to work together to recreate an exact replica of the sculpture. The gallery must silently communicate with the instructors. The instructors then must tell the builders what to do without directly seeing the construction of the sculpture. The builders must create the sculpture without the ability to see. Each group is limited by proximity, blindfolds, or by rule.
It is great to watch the students work through this activity with the limitations placed on them. I always try to remind them of the rules as they work. It is great to see how they eventually figure out ways to communicate and complete the task. I always try to connect these activities to everyday situations we run into in student council by asking questions such as:
- What made you successful in completing this task?
- What was difficult?
- How did you feel as the builder/instructor/gallery?
- Who was the leader of the gallery? Why did they become the leader?
- What situations does this remind you of in student council? Always ask for specific examples like the following:
- Miscommunication between members, teachers, administrators; expressing an idea you believe is perfectly clear, but people don’t understand; learning new ways to communicate a message; and understanding each other’s limitations (for example, don’t say “the red cup” to someone who is blindfolded).
- If you did this activity again, how would you complete it differently?
Chad Rizner is an assistant activities director and student council adviser at Jefferson City High School in Missouri. He is also the Northeast District representative on the board of the Missouri Association of Student Councils. Rizner is the 2017 Warren E. Shull High School Adviser of the Year.