Activity 11: Longest Bridge


  • Brainstorm and share creative problem-solving strategies to construct a bridge across the “river”
  • Communicate strategies for bridge building
  • Experiment with different ideas for building the bridge
  • Discuss the experience and their feelings

Character Focus



Time: 1 minute
1 Toobeez set per team
rope or masking tape
1 envelope
chart paper (optional)

  1. Place the Risk Taking Note into an envelope.
  2. Create one side of a pretend “riverbank” by laying down a long rope on the ground or by applying a piece of masking tape to the ground. This is the side of the river where each group will start building their bridge.

The Challenge

Build the longest bridge possible.

Safety Reminders!

Appropriate caution is important to conduct these activities in a safe manner. Be sure to review these reminders prior to beginning the activity, and if necessary, share reminders with the group during the activity.

  • Follow general safety procedures

Helpful hints

  • Don’t rush this activity. Provide at least 15 minutes for the teams to build a bridge. When groups are rushed, they tend to build sloppy bridges that fall over
  • Building bridges is a great metaphor for life. A bridge helps connect people and resources

Activity Instructions

  1. Circle up the group. Distribute or display the appropriate “Risk Taking Note” for the activity. Have one participant read it aloud twice. Provide a few moments for the participants to think about the message:
    “The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do.” - Sarah Ban Breathnach
  2. Share the following storyline with group.
    Suggest to the group that they are building a bridge to all the resources they need. Before they start building, have participants identify the resources they need in real life
  3. Read aloud the following Activity Challenge Box to the group.
    Challenge: Build the longest bridge possible. Follow the guidelines below:
    • The length of the bridge will be measured from the riverbank to the closest bridge support. The team with the greatest measurement wins
    • Only the Toobeez can be used to construct the bridge
    • The bridge must span from one riverbank (from the starting side) to a distance out from the riverbank
    • The bridge must be perpendicular to the riverbank
    • The bridge must be free-standing
    • If any guidelines are broken, the group must begin again
  4. Before the participants attempt an activity challenge, have the group work through the following six steps:
  5. Problem Solving Sequence:

    1. Circle up
    2. Know and understand the challenge and the guidelines
    3. Brainstorm
    4. Make a plan
    5. Do the plan
    6. Evaluate results and adjust as necessary
  6. If participants get stuck, have the students circle up again. Here are some suggested questions to help guide the group back on track*:
    • What is working?
    • What ideas have you not tried yet that someone suggested?
  7. If your group is still struggling OR if you feel your group would benefit from an additional challenge, present a variation provided on the next page.
  8. After the activity, move to the debriefing questions for discussion.

Activity Variations

  1. A boat passing under.
    Tell the group that a “boat” must be able to pass under the bridge AND the bridge must support one pound of weight at the center of the bridge (without collapsing). Make a boat out of a cardboard box (the taller the box the harder it will be for the group). Allow the group to view the box, but not test it, while they are building.

Debriefing the Activity

Use these debriefing questions as a guide for your discussion. Select the questions you feel will best benefit your group. It is not mandatory to cover every question. If possible, record the group’s responses on flip chart paper so all comments are displayed. Make sure to let everyone share their ideas, and remind participants that everyone’s opinions and feelings are important!

Base questions for debriefing:

  • How did you feel while you did the activity?
  • What are the bridges we must build in our lives?
  • Who or what do you want to build bridges with or to in your life?
  • What are the bridges that need to be built within our organization? Who must build them? What will building them accomplish?
  • What was one of the challenges of doing this activity?
  • What was one positive thing that happened during the challenge?
  • How can you apply what you just learned to other challenges you face?
  • What surprised you about this activity?

If the group was unable to complete the task in the given time:

  • Why do you think it was difficult to build the bridge?
  • Since you were not able to solve the problem, does it mean your group is a failure? (Push the group to respond with more than a “yes” or “no” and to instead point out and discuss what they learned.)

Additional questions: Choose which ones are the most appropriate:

  • What advice would you give to another group working on this activity?
  • How did clear communication help you and your group during this activity?
  • How do you work to keep improving your work with others?
  • Did you try different ideas and if so why did you change your approach?

Close on a Positive Note

Sum up the different ideas and feelings that you heard expressed, and restate ideas and learning moments the participants shared. Then, read the Risk Taking Note out loud again, and ask people to discuss what they think this note means. Discuss what they thought it meant at the beginning and what they think it means now.

* (ˆ) Do not provide the participants with answers. Allow them to work together.