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Thumbs Up
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 04/16/2018

Bouchard thumbs up The following is an installment in "Icebreakers 101 - Volume IX: UNDAMMING THE ICE", a series featuring "Ice Breaker's" designed to promote training awareness and capabilities in the corrections industry.

Now it is time for horrible ‘joke’ related to this icebreaker:
Q. What has two thumbs and writes strange icebreakers?
A. This guy! (as I point two erect thumbs to my chest and beam with unapologetic pride)

Sorry… Allow me to make a less cheesy approach.

Behold the anatomical wonder of the ages: the opposable thumb. Humans are the masters of the animal world because we can manipulate tools and, therefore, build civilizations. This is less likely to have occurred without his biological phenomenon. Naturally, the large brain and reasoning skills also play into this. Still, we are not at the mercy of, for example, organized, thumbed squirrels. And our respective thumb configurations play into this.

Not convinced? How can we demonstrate the utility of our thumbs? Why not try to live for a few minutes without them?
  1. To start “Thumbs Up”, select four people from the class.
  2. Render them thumb-less by duct taping their thumbs to a position parallel to their palm.
  3. The four temporarily eight-digited participants will perform the task appointed to them. The object is to do increasingly difficult tasks without thumbs.
  4. Appoint a judge, a pinnacle of integrity who can award points. If a glove wearer gets a hole in any part of their glove they are disqualified.
  5. The person with the most points can select a small item from the box of dubious prizes as selected and compiled by any good instructor. This can be comprised of fake dog poo, plastic snakes, and the like.
  6. Discuss which tasks were the hardest.
  7. List alternatives taken during the exercise to compensate for the temporary thumblessness.
Here is a sample of tasks done while your thumb is taken out of the equation. along with suggested point values:

1 point – write your name
2 points – zip up your coat
3 points – button your shirt
4 points – tie your shoe
5 points – pick up a hand full of thumb tacks (note the irony of that)
6 points - untie a knot
7 points – make an origami swan
8 points – unfold a tightly folded piece of paper
9 points – Deal and play a hand of poker
10 points - shuffle a deck of cards

So, always appreciate your thumbs. Consider them part critical tools in daily success. This can segue into a module on critical tools. Two thumbs up for those who can list all critical tools they use every day.

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” and "Operation Icebreakers: Shooting for Excellence" among others. 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

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