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Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc.



Clean up your own mess

By Judy Demers


Grades 3 and up


Various-colored beanbags (5 of each color), and 1 trash can or box


This activity makes participants aware of the responsibility we all have for keeping our environment clean.


A trash can or box is placed in the center of the room. One player on each team is blindfolded. After the players are blindfolded, the instructor or group leader spreads the beanbags randomly throughout the room. On the signal to go, the team members who are not blindfolded tell their blindfolded teammate where to go to pick up their team’s beanbags and then how to get them to the trash can (the blindfolded teammate must take the beanbags to the trash can one at a time). The non-blindfolded players must stay at least 10 feet (3 meters) away from their blindfolded teammate.

Each team will want to work out a strategy for effective communication with their blindfolded teammate. It may be difficult for the blindfolded player to understand directions if multiple players are screaming at her at the same time. Each team might choose one player at a time to call out instructions. It also might be of benefit to call out the blind person’s name before giving a command. For example, "Sandy, right!" or "Sandy, stop!" For safety, blindfolded players should walk with their elbows bent and hands up in front of them to act as bumpers. When a blindfolded player is instructed to bend down to pick up a bean bag, she should do so by bending her legs and keeping her back straight while lowering herself to the ground. Bending over at the waist could cause collision with another nearby player (the group leader or teacher can help prevent this by not placing bean bags of various colors too closely together), so be careful! If a player touches another player, that player is penalized and has to stand still for 20 seconds. The first player to pick up all her team’s beanbags and put them in the trash wins that round for her team.

As a wrap-up activity, you might have one blindfolded person on each team pick up all colors of beanbags. Then you might discuss with the group whether or not the task was completed more quickly when everyone was on the same team and had a common goal.

An optional part of this activity involves asking groups to come up with nonsense words or sounds to represent English commands. The words should not be in a language that currently exists. Being blindfolded and not fully understanding the language makes communication and learning more difficult. This aspect of the activity has the additional benefit of helping participants better understand and have compassion for those who have special needs.

At the end of the activity, you might ask the teams these questions:

  • What was your team’s strategy?
  • Did you try to stop other teams from cleaning up the environment?
  • What could that represent in real life?
  • How did you feel when someone stopped you from doing your job? What could you do about it?

While supervising in the physical education locker room, I’m constantly picking up clothes, shoes, and jewelry that students have left behind after class, not to mention endless trash. When students come back the next day and can’t find their clothes, they tell me they were stolen. Needless to say, in most cases they find the missing items in the lost and found. Many lost items are never claimed because they have been too easily replaced.

I’ve had students ask me where the trash can is when I’ve asked them to throw away their garbage, yet they have to practically trip over the trash can to get in and out of the locker room! However, it’s not just the young who are blind when it comes to taking responsibility for caring for the environment. Irresponsibility is a learned behavior, and many of us-youth and adults alike-forget to "clean up our own messes."


This is an excerpt from Character-Building Activities.

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The above excerpt is from:

Character-Building Activities

Character-Building Activities

Character-Building Activities

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