We stood in a circle, raised our left hands, and then placed our open palms facing up to the sky. Then, we raised one finger on our right handed, pointed downward into the palm of the person next to us and began to listen.
Whenever we heard those key words, as our special guest John Ungerleider from SIT spoke, we tried to grab the finger of the person to our left while escaping from the grasp of the person to our right.
We may not have remembered every word, but we got the gist of the seminar: Youth Empowerment and Development!
“Ok, you have 2 minutes to gather whatever objects are in this room and altogether build a tower,” John instructed. We did it–and it was beautiful. He then asked us to stand in a circle around our structure and close our eyes.
When we opened them, he had destroyed it. We were disappointed to see our hard work as a group destroyed. “You have 2 minutes to rebuild it. However, it has to look EXACTLY the same as it did before. Good luck.”
After much discussion on how to approach our challenge, we figured it out.
“Each piece that we add is dependent on the others success in placing theirs.” -Ahmad, Muslim advisor for 6th grade
“You have to acknowledge that to rebuild it, you need to understand that you don’t know how it looks from the other side–but someone else does, and so you have to trust them.” -Noa, Jewish advisor
With nearly 30 Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Israeli and Palestinian educators from Kids4Peace, this game was just the start of the fun. We built figurative and literal models of youth empowerment–including real Kids4Peace programs, or theories as abstract as possible.
We practiced listening. We practiced dialogue. We learned techniques to encourage youth to express themselves, and allow them to listen actively to one another. We learned about group bonding, team building, and trust. We studied and analyzed the perfect balance between emotional support and intellectual challenge. We laughed a lot. We shared. And a few of us cried. All in 24 hours.