Ice breaker activities are a standard way to help a group of people meet one another and to stimulate group interaction. A scientific bent can give ice breakers a new twist and are great for a meeting of people with an interest in these subjects. These activities are also useful for introducing a science subject in a classroom or afterschool activities.
Science Jigsaw Puzzles
Locate photographs or images of scientific objects, a natural landscape, minerals, animals, astronomical objects, important mathematical formula (like E=mc2); almost anything can be used, so choose objects that might be important or interesting to the group. Glue the photographs to heavy cardboard then cut them into jigsaw puzzle shapes with a utility or craft knife. Have your group split into smaller groups that work together to solve the puzzle. As an added challenge, have the group identify the image after they have completed the puzzle.
Getting-to-Know-You Venn Diagram
A Venn diagram is a set of two or more circles that partially overlap. For a getting-to-know-you Venn diagram, divide the groups into sets of two to four people. Have them spend a few minutes learning about each other. Then have each group draw a Venn diagram consisting of one circle for each person in the group; have the circles all overlap. The group should list several traits they all share in this overlapping area. Next each person should record some traits unique to him in the non-overlapping part of one circle.
Build a Tower
Divide your group into sets of two to four people. Give each set two newspaper sheets, one foot of tape, five paper clips, one foot of string and a pair of scissors. Give each group 15 minutes to build the tallest tower. Measure each tower to determine who built the tallest one. You can also have the groups describe their approach to building their tower and what they learned about working together.
You can use the properties of ice and salt along with the group’s elbow grease to make ice cream. You can buy an ice cream ball for this project or you can use two containers with tightly fitting lids, but you must be able to fit one container inside the other. Add 1 pint of cream and 1/3 cup of sugar to a container with a tightly sealing lid. You can add flavors to the cream if you wish. Seal the container, place it inside a larger container and surround with ice and ½ cup of rock salt. Seal the larger container then have the group shake or roll vigorously for 10 to 15 minutes. Have the group try to explain the physics involved in ice cream making. Open up both containers and serve.
- Education World: Icebreakers 2001: Sixteen Getting-to-Know-You Activities!
- Zoom: Paper Tower
- "The Physics Teacher" magazine; Science Icebreaker Activities: An Example from Gravitational Wave Astronomy; Michelle B. Larson, Louis J. Rubbo, Kristina D. Zaleski, and Shane L. Larson; October 2006.