Icebreakers and Team-building Activities
This document includes ice-breakers (shorter, introductory activities, typically for people who don’t know each other well), Team-Building Activities (longer activities, typically for groups of people who have been (or will be) working closely together, and links to some hands-on activities that are also good for groups of people who may or may not know one another.
Shorter, introductory activities, typically for people who don’t know each other well. Most of these are good for introverts and/or people who hate icebreakers.
Call out four different terms and point to a corner of the room – people must go to the corner that represents the word they identify with most. They typically laugh a bit and meet other people with similar interests but it’s pretty non-invasive.
e.g., football – hiking – skiing – basketball
spring – summer – fall – winter
chemistry – physics – earth science – biology
Star Wars – Star Trek – SpaceBalls – None of those
Vanilla – Strawberry – Chocolate – Orange Sherbet
People organize themselves into a line that represents a spectrum of where they position themselves relative to the given topic.
It can start easily, like darkest to lightest shirt. Then you can rearrange the line into more complicated categories like what size was your high school, how many times have you been to Canada, how many pets do you have, etc. You can do a fun variation by having people arrange themselves without speaking!
You can also do a variation with post-it notes – give people a post-it note (don’t have to write on it) and they can put it on a whiteboard on where they consider themselves on an introvert-to-extrovert gradient. You can call on the extroverted end to talk about why they positioned themselves there.
Airplane / Snowball fight
Write some info* about yourself on a piece of paper and then make it into a paper airplane (or snowball – easier, just crumple it up). Then everyone tosses them or flies them for a minute or so. Each person picks one up and reads about that person. The person introduced then picks up one and reads about a new person. *You can give specific question prompts or make it open.
Five fingers (or 10)
Everyone stands in a circle and holds up five fingers. The first person says something interesting or unusual about themselves, and if you don’t have that in common, you put a finger down. See who is the last person with fingers up. For example, some people say “My favorite pie is pumpkin.” Lots of fingers down. Other people try to find something truly unique – e.g., “I went stargazing with Neil deGrasse Tyson.” Unlikely anyone will keep all fingers up!
Big group (40+) Rock-Paper-Scissors
Do a giant game of Rock-Paper-Scissors. Each person faces off against the person next to them and plays a quick game of Rock-Paper-Scissors. The person who loses, has to follow the person they lost to around as their cheerleader, chanting their name while they challenge the next person. If the leader of the ever-growing cluster loses, the whole group has to now follow a new winner, until there are just two people left and they face off on stage. It would go super fast with just 40 people, but you could do a few rounds. This is also a nice one for people who hate ice-breakers.
Building a strong team – by Dr. Jani Pallis, University of Bridgeport, NEBP Engineering Track (as featured in lesson 4 of the NEBP engineering online course)
As you may know, going to Mars is a now a “career opportunity” and NASA also will send the next man and first woman to the Moon in the year 2025/2026 timeframe.
- Discuss how “conscientiousness” in this article relates to your personal participation on the Nationwide Eclipse Ballooning Project (NEBP).
- Develop a plan to improve your own “conscientiousness” over the course of the NEBP project. (If you are maintaining an “NEBP Project Notebook” include this plan in your notebook and track your progress.)
Conscientiousness, defined as "wishing to do what is right, especially to do one's work or duty well and thoroughly," has emerged as the key trait requirement for astronauts that will live and work on the surface of Mars millions of miles from Earth, according to a new study.
The astronauts selected for the first human mission to Mars will need to have more than "the right stuff." People on this very long mission will need to possess an eagerness for doing the right thing, too. This trait (conscientiousness) was identified as more important than honesty, humility, emotionality, extroversion, openness and agreeableness.
"Conscientiousness, an individual personality trait, can be thought of as a pooled team-resource," said the study's author. "The more conscientiousness a team is, the better they will likely be at accomplishing tasks."
Conversely, traits like "social loafing," or the habit of a team member putting in less effort than when they work solo, are undesirable in a potential Marstronaut. Traits that seem counterproductive and negative behaviors are likely to cause more trouble and disruptions in a team environment. The researchers consider these traits and behavior "non-negotiable" for long-duration spaceflight crews.
A careful focus on crew selection, emphasizing effective communication and very detailed work and planning processes, could help avoid any negative factors. "Anyone who has worked on a team knows conflict amongst team members can harm team performance and make for a negative experience. When people argue about how to get things done, or get into personal disagreements, there is less time and energy left for completing tasks," the author said. "What's interesting is that there are different types of conflict, and so long as interpersonal issues and arguments about how to go about accomplishing tasks are avoided, differences in views and opinions might actually improve team performance likely because this allows for the team to benefit from each member's knowledge and perspective."
- Renaud, Jeff. “ ‘Conscientiousness’ key to team success during space missions” Western News, November 18, 2020, https://news.westernu.ca/2020/11/getting-along-in-space/
Team Building: Creating a Code of Conduct – by Konstantine Geranios, University of Idaho, NEBP Atmospheric Science Team. As featured in Lesson 10 of the NEBP atmospheric science online course.
[YouTube video, 13:02, closed captioned]
NOTE: If watching this video with your team, please allot at least 20 minutes for some of the group work that is suggested in the video and outlined below.
Topic included in this video include:
- Building a code of conduct for the team
- What is a ballooning field campaign like? What is each shift like?
- Challenges to prepare for, such as sleep deprivation and inclement weather
- The value of a diverse team
- Trouble-shooting and talking through problems
- Roles for each team member and getting the best out of your team; building relationships
Six thinking hats (requires some prep)
The team (a group of 4-6 people) is presented with a scenario that they read together (break into several teams if more people). Then each person draws a card and must play that role – e.g., the black hat is the cynic, thinking about what might go wrong with a proposed solution. The yellow hat is optimism; the green hat is creativity. People come up with different solutions to the problem because they have to approach it from the role they are given, which may not necessarily be the way they act! Use some ballooning scenarios – this is good for thinking about challenges/crises. [See https://www.debonogroup.com/services/core-programs/six-thinking-hats/ for the six hats and descriptions] NOTE: They don’t literally wear a colored hat, although if you have them, it could be fun.
: Participants work in teams of 4-6 to solve a problem. They create a tool using a string and a rubber band that could be used to stack a group of cups into a pyramid.
Spagehtti Tower / Marshmallow Challenge: Legendary team-building challenge that's not just for little kids.
Straw Towers: Design and build the tallest straw tower possible, given limited time and resources (also fun for more than just kids)