You have been asked to facilitate training sessions for groups of volunteers. Because each group will be comprised of varying ages and experience levels, you have decided to put together a set of icebreakers that will engage the participants. Use icebreakers that encourage participants to move beyond the polite round of introductions and engage in more conversation and interaction with each other.

Group Juggle

This icebreaker works best for newly formed groups of volunteers. The activity involves a high level of energy and creates an exciting, visual effect. Form small groups comprised of six to eight members and a corresponding number of soft balls. One member of each group starts by calling out the name of the person opposite him and throws the ball. That person calls out the name of another person who is opposite her and throws the ball. This continues until the last person throws back the ball to the first person. Repeat the same order two more times until everyone is clear about the process. Repeat a third time and add the following twist. After the first person throws the ball, he grabs another ball from the stash and begins the process anew. He continues until all six balls are in the air or until the process begins to break down. Repeat the game a few more times and ask someone in the group to keep track of the group's best "juggling" effort. Encourage the volunteers to make suggestions on how to improve the process.

What's Cooking?

New and experienced volunteers will enjoy this activity, which promotes efficient teamwork. Form groups of six to ten members. Describe the following scenario to all the groups. Your group has just inherited a successful restaurant from a long-lost relative. The restaurant is opening this evening and it is your responsibility to prepare one of the signature dishes. Each member of each group is given a strip of paper that contains information about the recipes. Each group must put themselves in order as quickly as possible to create a recipe that makes sense. When a group has completed the task, they can loudly announce "bon appetit" to signal the end of the game. As facilitator, keep track of the correct order of the recipes and provide small prizes for the top team. At the end, have each group introduce themselves and read their recipes in order.

The Magic Lamp

The following icebreaker works best with groups of volunteers who have already worked together and are familiar with the organization. Divide the participants into groups of three to five and give each team a piece of flip-chart paper and a marker. Describe the following scenario. Your team has discovered a lamp. You rub it and a genie appears. The genie grants you three wishes. You are allowed to make any three changes in your volunteer placement. You may change yourself, your supervisor, working conditions or any other factor. After reaching a consensus, design a wish list for your genie and post it on the wall. Appoint a spokesperson for each group to read the list out loud.