Activity time: 20 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Two dice (extra large, if possible) of different colors
- Leader Resource 1, Ethics Play Roles
- Leader Resources 2, Ethics Play Scenario 1 - The Babysitter
- Leader Resource 3, Ethics Play Scenario 2 - Peers
- Leader Resource 4, Ethics Play Scenario 3 - School
- Leader Resource 5, Ethics Play Scenario 4 - Family
- Leader Resource 6, Ethics Play Scenario 5 - Sports
- Leader Resource 7, Ethics Play Scenario 6 - Thorny Situations
- Reusable nametags for roles
- Optional: Masks, costumes, and wigs for roles
Preparation for Activity
- Secure two dice of different colors. You might find giant dice at a toy or novelty store.
- Copy and cut apart Leader Resource 1, Ethics Play Roles. Affix the roles to reusable nametags.
- Copy and have available the numbered Ethics Play Scenarios pages, which are Leader Resources 2 through 7.
Description of Activity
Participants play a game replicating real-life situations involving ethical decisions.
Ethics Play is a game for up to twelve players, each playing a role. They are Star, Devil, Conscience, God, Parent, Friend, and six Jurors. If your group is larger, consider dividing it into subgroups and letting each play the game. If your group is smaller, drop some of the parts, but always have a Star and at least one Juror. Begin with the group in a circle on the floor or at a small table and the dice in the center. Then follow these steps:
- Announce the game: Ethics Play. Explain that "ethics" is the study of right and wrong behavior, and an "ethicist" is a person who specializes in ethics.
Put the nametags in a bag and let players draw roles at random. Explain the roles:
- Star is the person who has to make an ethical decision. Remember that the Star is a role like any other: the person playing that part does not have to act as they would in real life. They are free to make any choice, right or wrong.
- Devil is the name given to the character who wants the Star to make choices that are hurtful or unethical. Feel free to portray this character in any way; you do not have to play a stereotypical devil.
- Conscience is the name given to the character who helps the Star weigh decisions.
- God is the name given to the character who wants the Star to make ethical choices that are not harmful. You can play God any way you like; you do not have to play a stereotypical God.
- Parent is just that.
- Friend is another sixth grader.
- Juror does not participate in the action, but gives a verdict at the end as to whether or not the Star acted in an ethical way.
- Optional: If you have costumes, distribute these. Note that such materials will increase the fun of Ethics Play, but also the time required for it. You might wish to let participants make costumes at a future session.
- Say that Adam and Eve did not have a problem until they happened to meet the serpent, who tempted them. Note that life is often like this: all of a sudden, we find ourselves in a difficult situation and we have to decide fast what to do. Sometimes it is just chance or luck that lands us in those situations. In Ethics Play, you will use different colored dice to select a situation. One color stands for the group of scenarios from which the day's challenge will come (i.e., Babysitting, Peers, etc.); the other is used to select a specific challenge from that group's list.
- Decide which color stands for group and which for challenge. Have the Star throw the dice. The numbers that come up correspond to a numbered group page and a numbered challenge on that page. Note: At future sessions the Star will keep throwing the dice until you come up with a situation the group has not done before.
- Have the Star ask all players in turn, except the Jurors, what she/he should do. When the players are asked for opinions, they should give answers and arguments appropriate to their roles. Encourage participants to stand and be dramatic in playing their roles. If they want to move around and use makeshift props when they speak, that is fine.
- If there is time, let the players each speak again so they can respond to one another's ideas.
- After all non-jurors have weighed in, give the Star thirty seconds to decide what he/she will do, reminding players that often we have very little time to make important decisions.
- Give the jurors two minutes to decide whether the Star's action is right or wrong.
- End the role-playing and let all participants discuss the situation, the Star's decision, and the Jurors' verdict. Ask the group what, if anything, the game has taught them about right and wrong.
Mark on the scenario sheet which scenario you played to avoid repetition. Keep the name tags and scenarios in a secure place for future sessions. In future sessions, rotate the role of Star. If participants find themselves frequently playing other roles, help them switch with other youth so everyone gets a chance to play all the roles during the program.
Including All Participants
If some participants have limited mobility, you might wish to have the group remain seated, or at least give individuals a choice between standing and sitting when they speak.