Help me think of an interesting group activity that I can do with a group of kids aged 12-15.
April 5, 2007 11:47 PM   Subscribe

Help me think of an interesting group activity that I can do with a group of kids aged 12-15. The more abstract, the better.

Myself and a group of friends (college aged) have been getting together with about a dozen kids aged 12-15 for the past few months. We meet every Friday evening, have some pizza, joke around, and try to do activities or have discussions on anything meaningful. Since we're in class all week and they're in class all week, we really try to keep everything lively without making it cheesy, and for the most part we chill with them, trying our best not have have an authoritative role but rather more of a friendship based one.

With all that said, help me come up with an engaging activity for this upcoming meeting.

For example: Last week I did an activity where the the kids brainstormed problems in the world (homelessness, global warming, war, etc - we went pretty in depth) and they had to choose one and focus into it. Once they had a focus, the goal was to design a product that would help fix the problem. The product didn't actually have to work but it was all about getting a group discussion going and it worked out really well.

Thanks MeFi!
posted by 913 to Human Relations (15 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
you want abstract? you could go on a derive.
posted by juv3nal at 12:13 AM on April 6, 2007

Games. Which will work depends on the crowd, but here are a few that work for biggish groups like yours:
- Mafia aka werewolf; big light-role-playing party game.
- Fictionary, a do-it-yourself version of Balderdash. (you may need a time limit to make it go fast enough) There are lots of other word games.
- the couch game
- lateral thinking puzzles; for tons of these find the game Mindtrap.
- eat poop you cat or similar exquisite corpse style games
- psychiatrist (this can be agonizing because it puts one person on the spot; be careful if some of your kids are sensitive about being singled out. Another nice induction game is Zendo, and you could do a simpler version of this kind of game by making your own set of uniform pieces for everyone to play with, maybe out of card-stock.
- 1000 Blank White Cards or an ongoing game of Nomic where you play for a short time every time the group gathers

Or you could buy commercial board games; check out Boardgame Geek for reviews and info about tons of games. Offhand, I'd say look at Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, Munchkin, Bang!, Hive, Blokus, Bohnanza.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:36 AM on April 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Well, you've done the theoretical, howzabout the practical? Get 'em working in a soup kitchen or women's shelter or something if it's workable. Now that they know that serious problems do exist (the fist and larger half of the problem) show 'em some serious problems in action. Volunteering is always a good habit to instill in the damn kids on my lawn.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 12:42 AM on April 6, 2007

FIRST! not fist. Christ, teach 'em not to drink and post at the same time.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 12:43 AM on April 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Something we did in some high school class many years ago was divide into groups of 4-6 and pretend we were in a nuclear bomb shelter after an attack. We then had to decide as a group whether we would let someone from the outside in with us. There was a lot of lively discussion and good debate. (that 'someone from the outside' could be your mother, a criminal, a pregnant woman, a crack addict, etc.)
posted by LadyBonita at 1:45 AM on April 6, 2007

How about painting or drawing? Ask the kids to paint "peace" or "conflict" or "happiness" or "stress" etc.
posted by LoriFLA at 5:04 AM on April 6, 2007

Instead of having pizza, why not make pizza. Then you can talk about all kinds of food-related topics- maybe you could lead with that huge cache of food found in the desert, abandoned by a food bank. They could work on figuring out ways to make sure no one goes hungry, or a way to grow and distribute food that's easier on the environment, or a way to make healthful foods more affordable than snack foods.
posted by headspace at 5:15 AM on April 6, 2007

Best answer: Make a short film or music video with them & they can learn some techy stuff while you do the desktop editing after.

Divide them into teams of 3 or 4 and do a scavenger hunt.

I remember being in youth groups around that age and playing capture the flag (either at someone's place with a lot of land, or a big park).

Learn how to form a band without being trained musicians (or if you are already trained musicians, even better).

Do some dessert making - if it's something like cookies, you can give them to their parents/neighbors.

Find somewhere to do sports - maybe some rec league places have all ages leagues.?. I was on an indoor soccer rec league team once that played friday nights.
posted by p3t3 at 5:22 AM on April 6, 2007

- Photo scavenger hunt (we used disposable polaroid cameras from the drugstore when I was a teen, but these days they'll probably be able to use their cell phones or digital cameras)

- Have them discuss their least favorite class, and then figure out things they could do to make it more enjoyable (or at least a better learning experience). I feel like it was somebody around here who said recently that any subject can be interesting, if you find the right question to ask about it - have them figure out the question. Or if they don't like the teacher/professor, have them talk about what they'd do differently if they were teaching. Or have them try to see things from the teacher's perspective, and really get why the teacher does things the way they do.

- Split into groups of 4-6. Each group has X minutes to come up with a one-act play. The play must involve these things (make a list) and be in the style of Y. (An example from my past: the play must involve a hammer, an artichoke, a cowboy, love, and <charismatic group leader>'s hair. In the style of a spaghetti western.)
posted by vytae at 8:13 AM on April 6, 2007

Oh, and of course at the end of X minutes, everybody performs their plays for everyone else.
posted by vytae at 8:14 AM on April 6, 2007

You may not talk about the rules of Mao.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:46 AM on April 6, 2007

Can I just say that I'm totally jealous of this? A few years ago, I directed a play with some young teenagers in the cast and crew. Hanging out with them added this great energy to my life that I'm very much missing now.

To add another game suggestion, the game of choice for my nerdy teenage clique was Diplomacy. Among other things, it teaches you about the complexities of world politics and how to be an asshole.

The brainstorming activity sounds an awful lot like Future Problem Solving, a fantastic program that does a lot for research and reasoning skills. This might be more than you bargained for, but you could coach the kids in an FPS team.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:25 PM on April 6, 2007

Fishbowl might be good, if the 12-yr-olds are mature enough to handle it. I've done it with 15-year-olds:
male & female facilitators
paper & pens
male & female teens

Separate the facilitators and teens by gender. Each gender/group gets some paper and pens, and each participant writes down an anonymous question they honestly would like to know about the opposite sex (e.g. "Does having your period hurt?" "Do boys ever worry about their weight?"). All the questions get passed to their same-sex facilitator, who reads them out to the group one at a time, and edits or censors the questions that are inappropriate or not genuine. This might lead to a discussion that brings up more questions to ask, that the facilitator can write down and add to the pile.
When both sides are done compiling their questions, come back to a single, whole group, and have the facilitators swap questions. Have a male counselor read out a question from the girls, and have the boys answer the question. Then have a female counselor read out a question from the boys, and have the girls answer the question.

This really only works for kids who feel pretty comfortable with one another already, but it can be a great learning experience if facilitated well.


The book Islands of Healing and its followup, Exploring Islands of Healing (both available here) have great information about how to make abstract-type stuff really stick and be meaningful.

This website, which I've brought up on AskMe before, is a great clearinghouse for activities. Numbers 7, 10, and 11 would probably be of the most interest to you.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 12:41 PM on April 6, 2007

Best answer: EGG-DROP!

by far the funnest group activity i've ever done.
done in teams, the exercise is mostly a fun way to illustrate group dynamics.
done as individuals, it's a fun engineering puzzle with tons of possible right answers.

to make a structure that will catch a raw egg dropped from a height.
or, make a little space-suit for an egg, that will protect it from breaking when dropped.

EGGS (3 per group, or one per person)
RANDOM OBJECTS (milk carton, cardboard box, newspaper, egg carton, ziploc bags, toilet paper rolls, paper towels, elastic bands, laundry lint, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, box of drinking straws, etc)
CRAFT TOOLS (scissors, tape, glue, stapler, etc)
PLAY MONEY in small denominations.

give monopoly money to each group of 4 people (maybe $50/group).
give all groups a few mins to look at the stuff & form a strategy.
activity leader auctions off the items, one by one. if an item is unclaimed in its first round at auction, it is voided from the list. activity leader should auction the most logically useful items last to build pressure.

groups get some time (15-20 mins?) to build their catchers, using only the items they purchased in the auction. they may try to buy or trade with other groups though.

each group presents their finished catcher, explaining its virtues. maybe ask them to do a commercial for it. you can give points for spirit or humour or whatever.

spread newpaper on the floor, with egg catcher in the centre. group leader stands on a table & holds an egg at the chosen height (maybe shoulder height). the group verbally helps leader to aim egg & says when to drop it.

if egg doesn't break, group wins that round.
if egg breaks, group gets 2 more tries.

to break a tie, reapeat the procedure, dropping eggs from progressively higher levels
(ceiling height, up each rung on a ladder, or down a stairwell or something)

talk about what construction strategies made the best catchers
what else would work?
how'd the group work? was there a leader? conflict? did all people contribute ideas and labour?
what would have made your group even more successful, both in terms of building strategy and interpersonal tactics?

this is a great exercise because it's sooo fun- it's surprisingly competitive and exciting to drop the eggs.
posted by twistofrhyme at 1:41 PM on April 6, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks a lot for the help everyone! These are some fantastic ideas, keep 'em coming!
posted by 913 at 2:59 PM on April 6, 2007

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