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What’s in the box?
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 01/05/2015

Boxes The following is an installment in "The Bouchard 101", a series featuring "Ice Breaker's" designed to promote training awareness and capabilities in the corrections industry.

A colleague of mine in a corrections agency in a Western state and found a one pound bag full of tobacco. “One whole pound!” she told me. “It wasn't hiding, it had just been tossed up there.” They figured that it was worth $2,500 dollars inside. Good catch. Contraband control levels the playing field and keeps all inside safer.

Part of the success in that venture was to look for something, even though it may not be there. In the spirit of this coupled with the inspiration of an Early Childhood Education Professional that I know, I ask the question “What’s in the box?”

This requires imagination on the part of the facilitator. Essentially, inside a box is placed an item. The box is sealed and teams have to guess what is inside.

The class is divided into teams. Teams work together lifting and shaking the box and writing observations. The observations are written, so other teams cannot easily commit espionage.

When a few minutes have elapsed, each team reports out what then know about the item by shaking and holding the box. This could be weight, shape, density, etc. Then each team is given the opportunity to guess.

If there is no correct guess, teams used their shared observations to brainstorm the answer.

This can be done with a variety of boxes. There does not have to be just one box in play for the exercise.

Here are a few objects to use:
  • Brick
  • Ream of paper
  • A dollar bill
  • Marbles
  • Pens
Here are a few tips to throw an occasional curveball:
  • Pack heavy items in bubble wrap
  • Place a few items inside like a water bottle and a wooden block
  • Lace nothing in the box – after all, there are times that offenders will pose false leads
  • Put in an item with a scent - like a napkin soaked in pickle juice
  • Place something unusual - like a feather
Contraband control is a never-ending proposition. It is frustrating at times. We do not always get all of the clues. “What’s in the box can put corrections staff in a good mindset to solve some of our daily riddles.

Joe Bouchard is a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections and a collaborator with The International Association of Correctional Training Personnel (IACTP). He is also the author of “IACTP’s Corrections Icebreakers: The Bouchard 101, 2014”. The installments in this series include his opinions. The agency for which he works is not in any way responsible for the content or accuracy of this material, and the views are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of the agency. While some material is influenced by other works, all of the icebreakers have been developed by Joe Bouchard.

Visit the Joe Bouchard page

Other articles by Bouchard:


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