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Exercises for DEI Training

Exercises to keep participants engaged and enact lasting change during diversity, equity, and inclusion professional development events.

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Privilege for Sale Exercise

Time Needed: 20-40 minutes

Number of Participants: 


Exercise: Participants are given a specific monetary value based on the first letter of their last name. They are then asked to purchase privileges from a list, forcing them to decide which privilege would be better than others. A facilitator then debriefs participants on the thought process around privileges and feelings about monetary values. The exercise can bring up a lot of emotions, so it is important for the facilitator to be prepared to validate and receive pushback. For more information, check out the exercise notes developed by the University of North Carolina Greensboro as well as the Safe Zone Project Team's Privilege for Sale website.

Groundwater Framework

Time Needed: 60 minutes +

Number of Participants: 1+

Exercise: The Groundwater Approach asks participants to think about racial inequity as one would think about issues with groundwater. For example, if the fish are dying in a pond then the pond habitat would be investigated. If fish are dying in multiple ponds, the groundwater would be investigated. This approach to racial inequity brings the systemic and foundational structure of racism into focus so real change can be developed. Participants of the program in Lexington, North Carolina, USA admire "the fact-based and measurable approach". Get a free copy of the paper by signing up here.

Blanket Exercise

Time Needed: 2-3 Hours

Number of Participants:  20-40

Exercise: A facilitator walks participants through the history of colonization of Turtle Island, also known as North America. Participants stand on blankets that represent indigenous nations, which are folded smaller and smaller as colonization occurs. The exercise is a combination of physical engagement, role-play, story-telling, and sharing circles that allows participants to connect emotionally to a history often not taught in schools. In the article "An Exercise in Understanding: the KAIROS Blanket Exercise", Queen's University in Ontario, Canada notes how the exercise allows for difficult conversations and positive growth in participants. For more information, visit the KAIROS website and watch their video "Welcome to the Blanket Exercise".

Privilege Walk

Time Needed: 20-60 minutes

Number of Participants: 5+

Exercise: Participants stand in a line as the facilitator reads out several statements. Participants take a step forward for each privilege they have experienced and a step back for each inequality they have experienced. Participants then reflect on their positions in the room. The National Association of Independent Schools outlines their Privilege Walk here. However, Bolger points out that Privilege Walks use the discomfort of underprivileged people to provide an eye-opening experience for privileged people. So it is important to ensure a safe space while also focusing heavily on the discussion.

Jelly Bean Exercise

Time Needed: 15-30 minutes

Number of Participants: 2+

Exercise: Participants are given a chart to assign value to several different jelly bean flavors. They are then given a container with several jelly beans in it and asked to assess the value based on their charts. The final values are then shared and participants are asked how they determined the value, leading into a discussion of assumptions, stereotypes, and prejudices. For more information, check out the exercise notes developed by the University of Delaware (6)and the official Diversity Beans website.

Equity Walk

Time Needed: 1 Day +

Number of Participants: 2+

Exercise: An Equity Walk asks participants to assess the level of equity in their environment. The framework was designed specifically for schools with principles and vice principles asked to assess public spaces, classrooms, improvement plans, and more. It promotes transparency and accountability by breaking down areas with questions and asking for supporting evidence. The Bethlehem Central School District in Delmar, New York, USA used the Equity Walk Matrix to discover their successes while also highlighting limited use of culturally relevant materials and missed opportunities for authentic engagement. An example of an Equity Walk Matrix created by Dr. Bev Freedman and adapted by the Ontario Principals Council Equity and Inclusion Team can be seen here.

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