The Raccoon Circle is a collection of games and ice-breakers all centered around a circle of rope or tubing used by a group (typically youth). There are hundreds and hundreds of Raccoon Circle activities that have been created and shared virally for years. You can find several online listings of activities (Jim Cain’s being the most widely known) that you can freely use and adapt for your own purposes.
In my youth programs, we primarily used the Raccoon Circle as a tool to get our youth to check-in with each other, get connected to the group, and prepare for the day’s activities together. A relatively simple variation to the daily check-in, I was surprised by how effective the Raccoon Circle was in helping our youth to focus and settle in.
Here’s how the Raccoon Circle of Sharing worked.
The only supplies you need are a length of rope or tubing, tied into a circle, with one large knot. The rope should be long enough that your entire group can all hold onto it with both hands, standing roughly shoulder to shoulder.
Set the Ground Rules
Setting clear ground rules is key to the success of the Raccoon Circle. The rules are very simple:
- Everyone holds onto the Raccoon Circle with both hands and faces into the circle.
- The Raccoon Circle must never touch the floor. [Optional, but I’ve found it helps promote respect for the ritual.]
- You request to speak by shaking your section of the rope.
- Only the person who has the knot speaks. Everyone else listens.
- If someone doesn’t wish to speak, they don’t have to.
- This is a circle of trust. Show respect to each other and for what is shared.
- This isn’t a debate or a competition. Everyone has a right to their views.
Facilitate the Activity
Explain that you are going to ask the question for the day. The question should be something personal, thought-provoking, and appropriate for your group given their comfort level with each other and maturity.
Here are some sample questions we’ve used:
- What is your absolute favorite thing to do?
- What is the most important thing for someone you’ve just met to know about you?
- What are you most proud of?
- Who are your heroes?
- How are you unique?
- Your house catches fire- what object would you save first?
- What was one of the happiest days of your life?
- Name two ways you consider yourself lucky.
- Name something you’ve always wanted to do and explain why you haven’t done it yet.
- What is an issue or problem in your community that you are really particularly passionate about addressing or solving?
After asking the question, the youth take turns answering it (if they wish.) Keep the activity going until every youth has had an opportunity to share. The facilitator should also participate and share, as part of the group, to set a good example.
In our experience, the ritual of the Raccoon Circle has helped build the sense of community among our cohorts of students quickly. Often a youth would take it upon herself to carefully pass the Raccoon Circle rope among the group, and fold it away neatly in its box afterwards each session.
The knot serves a similar purpose as a talking stick, with the added necessity of having to pass the knot around the circle to the person requesting it.
Youth having both hands holding on to the circle in our experience tends to help them focus on the group and not get distracted.
Silence in between youth’s responses is fine. Sometimes they like going in a circle, other times they prefer to do it popcorn style.
Shout-out to Christine Wilkinson for introducing me to the Raccoon Circle.
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