Activity 9: Helium Stick


  • Brainstorm and share creative problem-solving strategies to complete the challenge
  • Work cooperatively to lower the tube without loss of contact
  • Discuss their experience and feelings

Character Focus



Time: 1 minute
1 long Toobeez tube
1 envelope
chart paper (optional)

  1. Place the Risk Taking Note into an envelope.
  2. Have the Toobeez ready

The Challenge

Lower the Toobeez tube to the ground.

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

  • Do not attempt this challenging activity with groups in serious conflict
  • This is an intense communication activity where each person must be absolutely committed to doing his or her part. People are likely to get frustrated, and it’s common for some blaming to occur
  • You’ll notice in the video clip that it is common to lose contact with the tube multiple times. If this happens to a group you’re working with, you have been given a great opportunity to talk about the level of commitment to (1) the task and (2) following instructions

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:
    “Only as high as I reach can I grow,
    Only as far as I seek can I go,
    Only as deep as I look can I see,
    Only as much as I dream can I be.” - Karen Ravn
  2. Share the following storyline with group.
    You need to keep this helium rod from floating away. It is the only thing that will help you leave the island where your team is stranded! Work together to bring it down to the land, and you will have what you need to go where you want to go!
  3. Read aloud the following Activity Challenge Box to the group.
    Challenge: Lower the Toobeez tube to the ground. Follow the guidelines below:
    • The tube’s starting position is at waist level
    • Both index fingers must be placed below the tube and only the index fingers may be used
    • Nothing else is allowed to touch the tube
    • No one may loose contact with the tube at any time
    • 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. Divide your group in half and have them create two parallel lines (approximately 12 – 18 inches apart) facing each other and holding out their index fingers at waist level. The participants stand shoulder to shoulder.
  7. Place a Toobeez tube on top of their fingers. IMPORTANT - when you place the tube on their fingers, do so from behind and in the middle of one of the lines and ALWAYS KEEP YOUR HAND ON TOP OF THE TUBE to prevent the group from raising the tube in the air.
  8. With your hand still on the tube, read the following directions: “As a group, you must lower this tube to the ground without even a single person on the team losing contact with the tube. Should someone lose contact with the tube you must start again.”
  9. Release your hand from the tube. Here’s what typically happens in this activity: When you give the directions and then release the tube, the group will often times RAISE the tube (not lower it)! It’s likely to take several attempts to just keep the tube steady. You may have to stop this activity several times mid-stream to help the group.
  10. 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?
  11. 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.
  12. After the activity, move to the debriefing questions for discussion.

Activity Variations

  1. Increasing Difficulty: More people and a longer helium stick.
    One tube can easily accommodate a team of six people. If you have more people, make a longer tube by adding a length of tube, but this makes the activity harder.
  2. Building up to this activity: Making it a little bit easier.
    Have people pair with a long tube. Have each pair lower their tube to the ground so they can experience success. Then have people form groups of four and repeat the activity. Increase the group size until you have everyone working on one long tube.

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 when you first tried to lower the tube?
  • What was one of the challenges of doing this activity?
  • What advice would you give to another group working on this activity?
  • 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:

  • 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 was one positive thing that happened during the challenge?
  • How do you work to keep improving your work with others?

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.