Team-building games are a fun way for youths and adults to deepen their understanding of cultural diversity. Team-building diversity games also can help participants appreciate the advantages that result when people with a variety of skill sets and personalities work together to get something done. Be prepared to follow each activity with a provocative group discussion -- or hire an experienced team-building facilitator to tailor a program to your specific needs.
Hello in Different Languages
Challenge your group to say "Hello" in as many different languages as they can. When someone calls out a greeting, repeat it clearly, and then ask the group to repeat it. Note: Some languages -- such as Chinese -- do not have a phrase for "Hello." Instead, they ask "How are you?" or "Have you eaten?" This exercise is a great warm up for multicultural activities.
Prepare a set of "name tags" with descriptors, such as homeless person, lawyer, cop, inmate, teen mother, cheerleader and politician. Place a name tag on each participant's back. Participants can see the name tags of others but not their own. Participants must try to guess the character type placed on their back by asking yes/no questions, such as "Am I in good shape?" or "Am I well-educated?" Participants move on to another person after each question. Discuss with participants how they decided what questions to ask and how they answered each other's questions. For example, if a "cyclist" asks "Am I overweight?" how would you answer?
Ask each student to write down on an index card something interesting she has done. Collect the cards and shuffle, then return cards to the participants. Have participants read aloud their cards and guess whose fact they have read. The guessed person simply says "Yes" or "No." If the guess is correct, the guessed person may briefly explain her experience. Ask participants to discuss what details, such as gender, demeanor or weight, they considered in making their guess. Discuss the way we attribute (or don't attribute) particular traits, actions or stories to the people we know.
Tell participants to pair up and decide who will be blindfolded first. The sighted person in each pair leads the blindfolded person. Lead the group along a path that includes interesting obstacles, such as steps, hills, holes and scattered debris. After each person has had a chance to play both sighted and blindfolded roles, ask open-ended questions such as "What does it feel like to be blindfolded and led by someone else? What did you do to help the blindfolded person follow the path?"
Assign each participant a role in the food chain. Direct participants to form a circle by holding hands with a food-chain member they depend on. They should be standing close enough for their shoulders to touch. Next, have them turn to the right so that everyone can place their hands on the shoulders of the person in front of them. Ask everyone to slowly sit down and form a continuous circle. Quietly ask one person to disengage from the circle. The circle will fall apart. Discuss the importance of biodiversity for a healthy ecosystem. Then, guide participants to consider the importance of diversity in human social settings and systems.
Linda Basilicato has been writing food and lifestyle articles since 2005 for newspapers and online publications such as eHow.com. She graduated magna cum laude from Stony Brook University in New York and also holds a Master of Arts in philosophy from the University of Montana.