I co-facilitated this activity with Pam Hall, a Substance Abuse Counselor who works throughout our school district. The activity focuses on decision-making steps and dealing with the outcomes of our choices.
Decision-making step cards (see below), paper lunch bags filled with candy and other assorted items such as lip balm, pencils, little toys, etc…
Place several items in each of the lunch bags. Make sure to vary the contents of each bag. There should be bags that are more desirable and others that are less desirable in terms of amount and type of contents. Fold over the tops of the bags so that participants can not tell what is in them. Place the bags in plain view on a table (see picture above). Create cards (or strips of paper) with each of the decision-making steps on separate pieces of paper (using the attached template). Place the decision-making step cards in blank envelopes. Make several sets.
When you gather your group, divide the participants into several smaller groups of no more than three or four.
Open up the session by asking if any of the group members have ever decided to get arrested or suspended from school. How about fail a class or get in trouble? While they may not have made decisions to have these things happen, they may have made a series of seemingly small poor decisions that led to a disastrous outcome. Discuss any decisions your group members choose to share and ask why they think they made those decisions and what the outcomes were. Have your participants reflect on the fact that they are constantly making decisions. Point out that they all have made many decisions already today! For example, they all chose to get out of bed and come to school (or wherever you are working).
Next, hand each small group an envelope with the decision-making steps and have the participants attempt to put them in the correct order. Once the groups are done, check for accuracy and review the steps with participants.
Direct the participants’ attention to the bags. Ask for one volunteer to come to the front and take one bag. He or she can not feel the bag or lift it up before choosing. Once the bag has been selected, ask the volunteer to explore it without actually opening it and seeing the contents. Then offer them the option of trading it in for a different bag or keeping it. Be sure to tell your volunteer that they will only be offered one trade. If they trade their bag in, they must keep the one they take. As they go through this process, have the group determine what decision-making steps the volunteer is taking. Once the volunteer makes their final choice, invite the rest of the group members to choose one bag without touching any other bags first. Once everyone has a bag, encourage them to explore it without opening it. Ask if anyone would like to trade in their bag, again, pointing out the steps in the decision-making process they are engaged in. Remind them that their choice will be final. Once everyone has their final bag, they may open them and keep the contents.
Have members reflect on their choice. Do they feel that they made a good or bad choice?
Do you regret your choice to keep the bag (or trade it in)? Why or why not?
How do you feel about your choice? What emotions are you experiencing?
Have you ever made a choice that you later regretted? How did that feel?
This activity was shared with me by Pam Hall. Pam is a substance abuse counselor that works district-wide in the Manchester Public Schools. She has been using this activity as the second session in a three-part series about substance abuse, although, it stands on it’s own well! With this activity, Pam cleverly steers away from directly discussing substance abuse, rather focusing on decision making.