Two of the many requirements for a successful training program are participants' desire to learn and their ability to concentrate on the material presented. Many training programs are over loaded with information and result in an exhausting, albeit positive, experience for participants. Energizing and warm-up activities can help participants ease into a program and help maintain an atmosphere conducive to sustained learning throughout the hours or days of training. Energizer activities can help a trainer get a feel for the group's style of learning, their willingness to cooperate, and their ability to have fun. They help Trainees recognize resources and talents available among themselves that could enhance their training experience.
Energizing activities can be used to start a training program, setting the tone for subsequent sessions. They can be used to re-energize a group just coming back from a lunch or coffee break. They can successfully boost energy and interest levels that sometimes lag in the middle of a morning or an afternoon for no apparent reason. They can be free of subject matter or they can be related to the training materials you- are presenting. They can be as simple as a moment to stand up and stretch or an organized exercise that gets everybody involved and moving at the same time. They can be just a lot of fun or they can be poignantly significant.
In choosing energizers that will work for your training, a few factors should always be considered:
• The nature and makeup of your group. Consider the participants backgrounds and communication skills. Don't introduce an exercise that would feel threatening, intimidating, or embarrassing to them. If working with a group of mixed capabilities, choose an exercise that will put everyone on the same level.
• Group expectations. The participants' understanding of their roles in the learning process could affect their willingness to be fully engaged in certain activities.
• Program content. If you choose to use energizers that treat any particular subject, make sure it relates easily to the theme of the training.
• Program length. A training that lasts a week, for instance, can accommodate several different energizing activities throughout the week. A half-day or a one-day training will need only one or two well-chosen activities.
• Cultural considerations. If you are working with a culturally-diverse group, make sure you do not ask participants to do something that would be inappropriate for some of the members.
• Personal style of the trainer. As the trainer, you should be comfortable with any energizing activity that you propose to a group. They are often presented with little preparation time, and garner a spontaneous and unpredictable response. Your understanding of the exercise and enthusiasm for it as you briefly instruct the participants will set the tone for the activity.
The energizers proposed below are only a few of dozens of possibilities. Use your imagination in developing variations of these or creating new and fun activities of your own. None of the activities below requires more than five minutes to complete. They are not meant to be used as comprehensive lesson plans, but rather are quick energizers to be used spontaneously at any time during a training. You may, however, choose to elaborate on any one of them and develop a more complete lesson plan.
The activities are presented first in their generic form and then with suggestions for using guinea worm as the subject matter. You can easily integrate any other pertinent subject according to your needs.
1. THE SINKING SHIP
Have all participants stand. There should be space enough to move freely about without interference from tables or chairs.
Explain that they are in rough sea waters on a large ship. They must move around the ship (the room) until they hear you call out a number. The number must be larger than one and shouted out so that everyone can hear. It represents the number of people that can fit into a lifeboat and be saved. The participants must quickly cluster into groups of exactly the number called out. Those not included in a cluster will drown.
Repeat the exercise three times, choosing a different number each time. Insist that participants move about the room until you call out the number.
1.1 DON'T DRINK THE WATER
Have all participants stand, same as above.
Explain that they are people at a large village market. They are looking for the drinking water sold in the bright orange bottle because it is the only officially filtered water at the market; all other available water is probably contaminated with guinea worm larvae. The participants must move about the market until you call out a number which represents the number of people that will be able to quench their thirst from the orange bottle before it is finished. The participants cluster quickly into groups of exactly the number called out. Those not included in a cluster have only the contaminated water to drink.
After repeating the exercise two or three times, ask if anybody would actually drink contaminated water in an emergency of thirst. Ask if there is an alternative to drinking the bad water. Ideally, someone will suggest filtering whatever water is available with any accessible cloth or filter. The lesson: never drink water that is suspect without filtering first. A tight-weave fabric or doubled-over cloth can be used in place of a filter.
2. CONSTRUCTING A SENTENCE
Have participants stand in a fairly tight circle.
Explain that they will construct a sentence together by allowing each participant to add two words to the previous words given. The subject matter is not predetermined and the sentence can take any form but must make sense in the end. A volunteer offers the first two words, with the next person adding two words until the circle is completed. The trainer writes the words quickly as they are given and reads the sentence when the exercise is finished.
2.1 CONSTRUCTING A SENTENCE ABOUT GUINEA WORM
This version is the same as above except that the subject matter is predetermined. You might ask, for example, that the completed sentence include a message about guinea worm prevention or guinea worm life cycle.
The exercise could be repeated a second time if the participants are interested.
3. A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS
Choose a picture, a painting, or any kind of image that you can post in front of the group. Have participants get up from their seats to look more closely at the image for a minute without speaking. Have participants return to their seats, or stand in a circle where they will take turns sharing one word only that comes to mind concerning the picture.
3.1 A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORMS
Same as above except that you choose a picture that clearly exhibits a message concerning guinea worm disease. Make note of the variety of feelings indicated by the participants words. Ask for a volunteer to summarize the responses, forming one or two primary messages concerning guinea worm disease.
4. MEDITATION OR VISUALIZATION
Sometimes Trainees just need a moment to collect their thoughts or rest their tired minds. Ask participants to sit comfortably in their chairs, take their shoes off if they like, close their eyes and enjoy two full minutes to breathe deeply and relax. Explain that you will notify them when the time is up.
4.1 GUINEA WORM VISUALIZATION
Explain to participants that you will conduct a short visualization exercise concerning guinea worm disease.
Ask participants to find a comfortable position in their seats, close their eyes, and listen carefully. In a gentle, soothing voice you describe a lovely village. The people in this village have recently been suffering from guinea worm disease. The village was visited by health authorities who explained the cause of the disease and methods of prevention. The people in this village are committed to doing all the right things to eradicate the disease and become a healthy community again. Everyone filters drinking water at home and away from home. Healthy neighbors of those with guinea worm help to care for the sick families. They gather wood and water for them and make sure the small children are cared for. Docks and platforms are built at the water source to allow people to collect water without immersing themselves. Teachers integrate hygiene lessons into their classes and teach the children proper filtering techniques. The older children teach the younger ones. After one year, there is no more guinea worm in the village. There is a community party to celebrate the return of good health in the village.
After a few moments of silence, ask the participants to open their eyes and share what they visualized about the village and how they felt about those images.
5. WHAT IS THIS?
Place an object-any object-on a table in front of Trainees. (It could be a simple rock.) Ask Trainees to spontaneously brainstorm possible uses for the object. For example, a rock could be used as a paperweight, a door stop, a hammer, a garden decoration, a weapon, etc. Continue the exercise for about a minute and note the creative ideas that surface.
5.1 WHAT IS THIS FOR?
Display a piece of cloth-about 2 square feet-in front of Trainees. Ask them to brainstorm possible uses for it, including those that would be appropriate in the local culture. Responses might include a head covering, a handkerchief, a cleaning cloth, a diaper, a scarf for carrying beans or rice from the market, etc. If no one mentions the possibility of using the cloth as a filter for water, ask the participants how the cloth might be used in a guinea worm-infested village. Responses should include use as a filter for drinking water (it may be necessary to fold it once to increase the density of the weave), as a cloth for cleaning the water jar, or (if torn into strips) as bandages around treated guinea worm sores.
6. HE SAID/SHE SAID
Have participants stand in a circle. Explain that they will pass a message from one to the other by whispering in each other's ear. The trainer gives the original message written on a piece of paper to someone in the circle who will start the process. Each participant whispers the message only once regardless of whether the receiver heard it well or not. When the last person in the circle receives the message, she or he states the message out loud for everyone to hear. The first person then reads the original message. Probably there is a difference between the two, maybe a vast difference. A comment can be made about the importance of clear communication. The original message can be complete nonsense or it could be related to training materials. An example of a nonsense message:
I heard yesterday that we'll be having hot fudge sundaes for lunch tomorrow but they're giving us liver and onions today.
6.1 WHAT DID HE SAY / SHE SAY ABOUT GUINEA WORM?
This version is the same as above except that the original message uses guinea worm as the subject. Try one of these messages as an example:
Some people believe that guinea worm is the result of a curse placed on the village because someone did something taboo, like farming on a traditional holiday.
Some people believe that guinea worms get angry when they are covered with a bandage and so will retract into the body to go look for another place to emerge.
After comparing the two messages, ask if the original statement is true. Why or why not?
7. TOSSING TENSIONS AWAY
Ask participants to take out a piece of notebook paper. (If possible, provide sheets of different colored paper.) Ask them to reflect for a moment on one unpleasant or "yucky" thing that happened to them today or yesterday or recently. Give them one minute to write whatever they want about the incident. Assure them that they will not be asked to share what they write. When they finish writing, ask them to wad the piece of paper into a ball. Instruct them that when you say "Go," they should throw the wad of paper, and their tension, across the room.
Ask participants how that felt. Collect all wads of paper and put them in the wastebasket.
7.1 TOSSING GUINEA WORM TENSIONS AWAY
Conduct the same as above except ask participants to write down any personal fears or reactions to what they have seen or heard about guinea worm disease.
After throwing the wads of paper, ask participants if you can read some or all of the reactions to the group. (All comments should be anonymous.) Read as many as you think appropriate for the exercise and allow comments or discussion if time permits.
8. LIVE WIRE
Have participants stand in a line holding hands. Explain that they represent a live electrical wire. They are going to rapidly repeat the sentence, Live wires are dangerous, one word per person, following the sequence of the line, until someone misses her or his cue or messes up the sentence. That person represents the short and must immediately react as if giving off an electrical shock (perhaps by trembling in both arms or the entire body). The shock, of course, travels up and down the wire (the line of participants) until everybody is shaking like a live hot wire.
Given time and interest, you can repeat the exercise before asking people to take their seats.
8.1 LIVE GUINEA WORM WIRE
Same as above except the sentence to repeat has a guinea worm message such as, guinea worm disease can be eradicated.
After one or two rounds, ask participants how guinea worm can be eradicated. Spend just a minute on their responses.
9. BEND AND STRETCH
Sometimes participants just need to get up to stretch their legs for a moment. Have them stand away from their tables and chairs. Ask them to SLOWLY bend forward trying to touch their toes. (They should go only as far as it is comfortable for them.) Have them hold that position for a couple of seconds before you ask them to come up SLOWLY and continue their motion until they are reaching their hands and faces toward the ceiling. Instruct them to hold that position for a couple of seconds, then ask them to return SLOWLY to the standing position with arms at their sides.
Repeat once. Ask them to return to their seats.
9.1 BEND AND STRETCH A GUINEA WORM
Do exactly as instructed above for the first round of the stretch. Then ask participants to imagine the discomfort of sitting for days and weeks without being mobile because of guinea worm disease. Ask Trainees to do the same bend forward as if they had a guinea worm or several guinea worms coming out of their legs or arms. Talk them through it.
When they have returned to the standing position, tell them to do it one more time as healthy people who no longer have guinea worm and are able to move freely. Repeat the exercise, then have participants return to their seats.
10. UNTYING THE KNOT
Divide participants into small circles of about 10 people each (or just one circle if your group is not large enough to divide). Ask them to cross their arms at the elbow and reach to hold the hands of others in the circle. Tell them to hold hands tightly as they maneuver, twisting and turning, to untie the knot and form an unbroken circle facing each other, or facing out.
10.1 UNTYING THE GUINEA WORM KNOT
Do exactly as instructed above but explain that sometimes people have several guinea worms and they must untie the knot of worms to allow them to come out of the body. Remind them that it is dangerous to pull on a worm too hard because it might break causing complications. They should maneuver gently.