Cultural Diversity and Stereotyping Youth Work Session

Cultural Diversity and Stereotyping Youth Work Session

This is a session using drama as a way into discussing cultural diversity and stereotyping.

Keeping the World in the Air

1. Form a circle.

2. The facilitator shows the ‘world football’ to the group. You could use an inflatable globe.

3. The facilitator then asks the group ‘In our everyday lives, how do we manage to keep all the balls in the air, such as homework, meeting with friends, family, home life, the clubs we attend and so on. This world ball represents how tough it can be to keep things in life going and sometimes it can come crashing down. If so what can we do to help ourselves?’

4. Each person places one hand behind their back and the other hand palm upwards into the circle. The facilitator throws the ball gently up into the air in the centre of the circle. Everyone works together, one person at a time tapping the ball up with the palm of their hand, aiming to keep the ball up as many times as they can before it falls to the ground.

5. When the ball hits the ground, the game starts again with the facilitator tapping the ball up into the air.

6. After a few rounds add the instruction that everyone has to hit the ball up at least once before anyone has a second tap.

7. To finish tell the group the aim is to get to twenty, tapping the ball into the air twenty times without letting it fall. When the group reach twenty have a round of applause.

8. Return to a brief discussion on the questions outlined in number three above. In relation to the question ‘What can we do to help ourselves?’ refer to the importance of developing coping skills and developing strategies to deal with stressful or difficult situations. If you are attempting to deal with too many things at the same time, life can become pressurised or chaotic. Having a strategy to cope with pressure is important, for example focusing on what is important, learning to prioritize and giving less attention to things that are trivial. A coping strategy is important to avoid things becoming chaotic or difficult. Coping with issues such as racism also requires a strategy and the workshop aims to explore ways in which we can positively act to overcome racism.

Introducing Diversity

1. Explain to the group that there are many different cultural greetings, for example one we may be familiar with is a handshake. Everyone walks around the room, mingling and shaking hands with everyone they meet. You move from person to person with the greeting ‘Hi, my name is…‘saying your first and second name, making direct eye contact and accompanied by the handshake.

2. The facilitator calls ‘freeze’ and introduces the next cultural greeting, which is to stick out your tongue (a tradition of some Tibetan tribes). Again everyone mingles and greets each other with ‘Hi, my name is…’ accompanied by sticking out your tongue.

3. Two more cultural greetings are introduced; rubbing noses and finally hugging and kissing with two great big kisses on both cheeks or large ‘air’ kisses. Encourage the participants to exaggerate all the greetings.

4. Then ask the participants for suggestions on a final cultural greeting that they may know of or to create their own variation.

5. To finish, ask for comments and feedback.


This is an excellent warm-up game and it also introduces the context of cultural diversity. The game is an icebreaker; it frees up the group and encourages playfulness and a sense of fun, which are essential for accessing creativity. Participants hear each other’s names and it develops connection and group awareness. Start the discussion at the end of the exercise by asking for comments and feedback on the different cultural greetings. Can the group identify any other cultural greetings? Introduce the terms culture and cultural diversity.

Culture: Ideas, customs, skills, arts, attitudes, social behaviour, etc of a particular people or society that are transferred, communicated, or passed along from one generation to the next.

Cultural diversity: Having people of different cultures, religions, nationalities, ethnic groups and backgrounds making up a community. Diversity refers to the fact that everyone is unique and different and cultural diversity promotes being respectful to other cultures besides your own.

Fruit Bowl Game

1. All sit on chairs in a circle or stand in a circle with one person standing in the middle.

2. Give each person on the chairs a name, either apple, pear or banana. The person in the middle also gets the name of one of the three fruits.

3. Person in middle calls out one of the fruits, for example ‘apple’ and all apples must change places, and they cannot go to the seat directly on either side of them, directly to their right or to their left.

4. Person in middle also tries to sit on a chair and so one person will be left standing once everyone has found a chair. That person now goes to middle and calls a fruit, such as bananas, all bananas change place and so on.

5. The person in the middle can also call ‘fruit bowl’ and when ‘fruit bowl’ is called, everybody changes places.

6. We now link the game to ‘identify’ as the person in the middle calls out categories to do with a person’s identity for example anyone who has…black hair, blue eyes, lives outside Scotland, etc. The categories to cover are (a) appearance, (b) family, (c)place, (d) likes and dislikes, (e) something you have done or love that no one else has done/loves, I like you because…This can be used to discuss what we may have in common with each other. Introduce the term ‘identity’.

Identity: A person’s identity is who a person is and what makes them who they are. A person has an individual identity and an identity based on the groups he or she belongs to. Parts of a person’s identity are fixed: other parts are fluid, they can change or alter.

Orange Exercise: Stereotyping

1. Participants sit in a semi-circle around the flipchart and the facilitator asks them to brainstorm the question ‘What is an orange like?’ As participants call out words to describe an orange the facilitator writes a list of them up on the flipchart (for example ‘round’, ‘orange’, ‘man from Delmonte’, etc).

2. Then divide the participants into groups of four and ask each group to pick an orange from a pile on the floor (have a large bunch of oranges, more than the number of groups involved). Each group has ten minutes to create a story about their orange.

3. After ten minutes each group shares their story with the rest of the participants.

4. The facilitator then takes back the oranges and places them together on the floor. Make sure to mix up the oranges. One member from each groupis asked to retrieve their orange. It usually happens that each group will have no problem identifying their own oranges, as the oranges are no longer generic specimens but individuals with characteristics.

5. The participants then discuss what made each of their oranges unique for example individual markings, names, personalities, stories, histories, etc. Then ask the participants to consider what they can learn from this activity in terms of how we view other human beings (for example do we tend to categorise rather than take on more meaningful ways in which we can know an individual). Introduce the two definitions ‘Stereotyping’ and ‘Prejudice’.

Stereotyping: Labels or categories people use to define or describe others, particularly those they perceive to be from a different grouping to themselves. Stereotyping applies generalised characteristics to a group. Although these can be positive or negative, stereotypes always have the potential to do harm because if they are accepted as ‘the truth’ they lead to sweeping assumptions about entire groups.

Prejudice: A negative judgement against a group or people often stemming from stereotyping.


Questions to ask the group to encourage a discussion on Stereotyping and Prejudice.

• What groups do we stereotype and what labels are attached to these groups?
• What are the consequences for each group due to labels?
• Are you treated differently?
• Where do stereotypes come from? Why do we stereotype?
• What are the dangers of stereotyping? Do we all stereotype?
• What causes prejudice?
• What can prejudice lead to?
• How do people show ‘hate’ in our society?
• Does hatred always lead to a crime? What else can it lead to?

(Examples of groups who may experience discrimination are people from different ethnic groups; people from different religious groups; people with disabilities; people with different sexual orientations and members of the Travelling Community)


1. The facilitator guides the whole group through a physical exercise to explore a physicality for different characters; everyone is spread out in the space and works at the same time but independent of each other. The following are two suggestions:

(a) ask the group to walk around as themselves, and then ask them to walk like an old person, then like a bank manager, then like a young child and finally back to walking as themselves.

2. The facilitator distributes a set of cards with each card containing a piece of information that could be used in the description of a person for example ’78 years of age’, ‘wealthy’, ‘blind’, ‘refugee from Afghanistan’, ‘asylum-seeker’, ‘poor’, ‘in a wheelchair’, ‘traveller’, ‘woman’, ‘man’, ‘teenager’, ‘lesbian’, ‘devout Muslim’, ‘homeless’,’Catholic’, ‘Protestant’, ‘unemployed single mother’, ‘wealthy university student’, ‘sex worker’ etc. Each participant is given one card.

3. Each participant is now the character referred to on the card and each person is encouraged to come up with three facts about their character. For example the title is ‘Elderly’. The three facts can be (a) I go to bingo, (b) I love to walk in the park, (c) I play with my grandchildren. Each person also explores a walk for his or her character.

4. Divide the group into pairs and in pairs, each person shows or demonstrates their physical walk to their partner.

5. On a given signal, the partners begin an improvisation called ‘Getting to Know You’ where they get to know each other. During the improvisation they must act as if the information on the card is true, that they are the person described, but to not directly reveal this information. The whole group is working together in pairs at the same time and depending on the group experience you may ask one pair to demonstrate on their own for the whole group.

6. After 6-8 minutes, ask each couple to try and identify or guess what was written on their partner’s card.

Discussion: Stereotypes

Encourage participants to explore any tendency to stereotype, for example when acting out their individual characters, did they present other characteristics in addition to the original description and were these associations in any way stereotyped or prejudicial? When people were guessing the description of their partner’s character, did they have any additional associations and again how stereotyped or prejudiced (if at all) were these? Use this time to generate discussion on terms such as stereotyping and prejudice.

Questions to ask include:

  • How did you know or guess who the person was?
  • What gave it away?
  • Did you think the facts you heard were true about that person?
  • What do you call it when you make assumptions?
  • Who are marginalised?

Include an overview of earlier discussions in relation to relevant terms. During the exercises and discussions always come back to questions around the specific terms.

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