INTRODUCTION: When facilitated right, "Crossing the Line" is a
powerful, interactive, and effective activity that builds
diversity awareness within a group. The goals of this activity include helping
participants learn about themselves; give participants an
opportunity to reflect upon their self- and cultural identity; allowing the community
involved to appreciate its
own diversity more and learn to treat each other like the diverse human beings
we all are, instead of as homogenized, singular, cultureless
POINT TO PONDER: "Education
should not be the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." -
William Butler Yeats
DIRECTIONS: The following is a
list of recommended instructions for Crossing the Line. This
activity requires thorough facilitation, and should not be conducted
carelessly or lightly. Read over the directions closely, and
email any questions you have to info [at] freechild.org.
About 35 minutes for the
activity. About 45 minutes for discussion.
Plenty of open space (All chairs to the side or
out of the room)
Note on the door (Workshop in Progress, DO NOT
Dim the lights a bit if possible.
Facilitator should be off to the side so he is
not the center of attention.
Keep it vague. It seems fair to describe it as “a
workshop where we find ways in which we are both different from and similar to each other.” Be careful about
over billing the workshop.
Introduction of the facilitator
Be careful not to draw too much attention to the
facilitator; the focus should be on the exercise and the group.
Statement of Purpose
"This is a diverse organization and we have spent
the last couple days exploring that diversity. In this exercise we continue exploring that diversity. Much of
our earlier exercises addressed diversity that was obvious.
We want to acknowledge and address those
differences but also bring to the surface other differences that we may not have recognized. This process might
prove difficult at first, or a bit awkward. This afternoon we want
to break down stereotypes and make it easier to
know one another as full human beings."
Description of the Process
"I would like everyone to gather on one side of
the room and face towards its center." (Wait for everyone to move.)
"I will call out specific
categories/labels/descriptions. I will ask that all those who fit
this description walk to the other side of the room and turn around,
facing the rest of the group." (As an example, the facilitator names a category
that only he or she would fit, and then walks to the other side of the room, and
"After several seconds I will ask you to return
to the group.”
"Over the next half hour or so, we will share
some of our experiences and vulnerabilities with one another. This will demand a safe
atmosphere. To insure that we remain sensitive to one another's feelings, we need to
follow two critical guidelines."
"The first involves LISTENING. Let's have silence
throughout the exercise--no talking, snickering, giggling, etc.
Silence will allow all of us to participate fully. Silence will also
enable us to experience our personal thoughts and feelings more
"The second guideline is RESPECT. It is
imperative that we respect the dignity of each person who is here this evening. Everything that is
shared should remain confidential. Nothing that is offered should leave this room. However,
if--having gone through the workshop--you truly need to talk to a particular individual about something
he or she has shared, be sure you ask that person's permission."
“I need a nod of the head to indicate that you
understand the importance of our keeping an atmosphere both silent and respectful..."
"Before we begin there are several other
guidelines that we need to consider."
NO PRESSURE. "No one here is under any pressure
to respond in any particular way to any of the questions. If you have any doubts
about sharing some part of yourself, you should feel perfectly comfortable with your decision not to
walk across the room."
"One final point. Each of the categories I use
will have some GRAY AREAS. If you find yourself stuck in a gray area,
simply define the words from your own point of view. In other words, define the terms as you
yourself understand them when thinking of yourself. For example, suppose the question asks everyone
who is religious to walk across the room. If you think of yourself as religious, then the
word fits, regardless of whether or not someone else would use the word "religious in the same way,
and regardless of other meanings the word might have. If you have serious reservations about the
clarity or meaningfulness of any particular category, then the best things to do is to not cross to the
other side of the room."
Suggestions to Facilitator
Speak clearly. If the group is large, people may
have trouble hearing you,
and their questions will cause an interruption.
Don't rush the process. Allow time for
reflection. Don't ask the next
question too soon.
"So that's it for the format and the guidelines
to he followed. Any
"If you cannot stay for the entire exercise,
don't feel comfortable with the guidelines, or simply don't believe like the
workshop is going to he beneficial for you, it's OK to wait outside the
room during the exercise."
"To start, let's try a simply category. It will
help me clarify the process."
"CROSS TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROOM IF
YOU WEAR GLASSES OR CONTACT LENSES. THANK YOU.
Once we begin, please, no interruptions.
ONCE WE BEGIN, PLEASE DO NOT ASK ANY QUESTIONS.
Often during the process you may feel like you
want to say something. There will be plenty of time at the end for discussion
about the process."
REMINDER ABOUT GRAYNESS
REMEMBER, all the legal and philosophical
questions about "home" don't matter. What matters is what the word
"home" means to you. If you are confused or uncomfortable, the best policy is NOT to cross to the other side
of the room.
No talking... (Consider issuing this and other
reminders as an ounce of prevention, even if a problem isn't coming up at the moment.)
In the past year you have been in a relationship
and been hurt.
You feel that you have not formed a close
friendship in national service.
You take pride in your work in national service.
You are Catholic
You are Protestant
You are Jewish
You are another religion other than those three
major U.S. religions.
You are an atheist or agnostic.
You are a person of color.
You know little about you cultural heritage
You wish you had more money
You consider your family as working class
You consider your family as middle class
You consider your family as upper class (VERY FEW
WILL GO, BECAUSE THAT NOT HOW THEY THINK OF THEMSELVES, BUT THAT'S OK)
You have felt embarrassed about the economic
class your family is in
Walk across the room only when you feel
comfortable identifying yourself in this way.
You come from a family of four or more children
you are an only child
You live independently of your parents
You have taken primary responsibility either for
raising another member of
your family or caring for an elderly member of
You have low self-esteem
You would like to lose ten or more pounds
You feel lonely (ALWAYS AN IMPORTANT QUESTION)
You have been to college or plan to go to college
You have not graduated from high school
You have had serious thoughts about leaving
You feel physically unattractive
As the workshop is
structured it makes one dip into the personal with the previous
question. Then we back up to what is easier before making a deeper
You consider yourself a Democrat
You consider yourself a Republican
You consider yourself a socialist
You consider yourself a feminist
Your parents have either divorced, separated, or
At least one of your parents have died
You feel estranged or unconnected
There have been times when you have seriously
felt that, if you could choose, you would not choose
the ethnicity into which you were born
You find yourself thinking about food
considerably more often than you want
You have medical problem
You have a learning disability
You have a physical disability
You have questioned your sexual orientation
You have experienced the effects of alcoholism in
You have experienced the effects of drug
addiction in your family
You have had a sexual experience that you
You have experienced suicidal thoughts at some
point in your life
You have cried at least once this year
You have cried at least once this year for
someone or something other than yourself
Since you joined _____________, you have laughed
at yourself at least once
Cross the room if you could use a hug right now.
(People generally begin hugging each other during this time.)
REMINDER OF GUIDELINES
"I want to remind the group again of the
guidelines. During this discussion we must have the utmost respect. Again, no talking while others speak, no
side comments, giggling, etc.
"I also want to remind people that everything
spoken in this room stays in the room."
DEBRIEF OF DISCUSSION
(The discussion should feel a bit confessional.
If the exercise has run well, people will be very introspective and quiet. FOCUS THE DISCUSSION ON
"How are you feeling right now?"
"Is there anything you want to say to your fellow
participants about why you crossed the room on a particular questions?"
(Use the discussion to allow people to EXPLAIN,
SHARE, AND TELL STORIES about any of the statements. Use the discussion to allow people to
talk about HOW THEY FEEL right now and how the feel about the exercise.)
BE CAREFUL ABOUT THE DISCUSSION CENTERING THE
MERITS OF THE WORKSHOP.
One person says they did not like how we had only
two choices, crossing the room or not. Another defends the workshop and the workshop becomes the
center of the discussion. (If someone makes a comment about the workshop, thank them for
their comment and refocus the discussion towards people's feelings and stories.)
BE CAREFUL ABOUT COMMENTS THAT FOCUS ON OTHERS
RATHER THAN THEMSELVES.
(The discussion can become a group of people
questioning other people why they crossed. Try to gently steer the discussion to give space for
those who really feel the need to explain and tell the group something about themselves.)
End the discussion by thanking everyone for
participating. You may want to describe how this workshop has affected you.
Remind everyone again
that whatever was said in the room stays in the room. It is a serious
breach of respect and trust if you share any of this with anyone
outside this room. If you feel like you need to speak with an
individual about something he or she said, please ask them first.
Fletcher, A. (2002). FireStarter Youth Power Curriculum:
Participant Guidebook. Olympia, WA: Freechild Project.
Workshop Designers: This workshop originally
came from presentations done at Stanford University around 1985 by
Isoki Femi and Linda Gonzales csp). This is a modified
version based on an outline from Dennis Matthies, Center for Teaching
and Learning, Stanford University.