Who Owns the Zebra?

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“Who Owns the Zebra?” is a logic puzzle intended to be solved in groups. The activity necessitates everyone’s participation as each student is given a vital clue that is needed to solve the logic puzzle. The activity includes the puzzle and a debrief discussion to emphasize the learning goals.


  • To enable community building and participation as each student is given a vital clue that that the group needs in order to solve the puzzle. The game highlights the importance of everyone’s contributions to the success of classroom objectives. This goal is best achieved by having students debrief in the closing discussion the positive and negative interactions that took place during the activity. The activity itself isn’t a model for community building so much as it illustrates the impact of individual behavior and participation on group learning goals.
  • To encourage students to think critically about participation, barriers to participation, and how social identities can impact one’s experience of inclusion and exclusion
  • To help students who tend to speak a lot in class and take on leadership roles become better attuned to the value of other students’ contributions.
  • To help students who tend not to speak up in class recognize the value of their contribution to the success of learning objectives.


Students are divided into groups (larger groups will likely be more effective to achieve the activity goals), and each group member is given strips of paper with a clue that will help their group determine which of the fictional characters in the puzzle owns a zebra and which of them drinks water. The facilitator will read the puzzle and the objective and pass out the clues but should not give any additional assistance.

The participants should be told that the group that gets the complete correct answer first will be deemed the winners. Groups are given up to 30 minutes to solve the puzzle, and should report their answer to the facilitator once they have a consensus among all group members. If a group gets the answer wrong (partially or completely), they should be instructed to “try again” without any feedback about which parts of their answer is right/wrong.

When a group correctly determines who owns the zebra and who drinks water, the game is complete. The instructor should incrementally add pressure to the groups over the course of the 30 minutes of work time. This evokes natural stressed behaviors which will be processed in the debrief as they simulate what can happen in group work when real-life pressures and stress exist. The main way the instructor can add pressure is with time updates and warnings; they can also interrupt to announce that there are resources in the room they can consider using (newsprint/markers/etc), or to say that some groups are getting close so they may want to pick up the pace (even if this is not true).
The second half of the activity is a guided discussion in which the students are prompted to reflect on their experience playing the game and working in a group. The discussion questions encourage students to think critically about participation and barriers to participation.


  • The students may not perceive the game as relevant to the course and thus may exhibit resistance. While this can be frustrating to the instructor or other students, the resistance to participation can be included as something debriefed in the closing discussion.
  • If students aren’t primed to think critically about social identities, they may not be prepared to reflect on how race, ethnicity, gender, or nationality contribute to inclusion or exclusion in the classroom.
  • The discussion questions put a particular burden on marginalized students to report on their experiences of exclusion inside and outside the classroom. While their experiences are valuable to the success of this exercise, the questions risk making marginalized students feel particularly vulnerable or pressured to speak for their social identities.

Other Associated Materials

Who Owns the Zebra Facilitation Guide

In preparation for class, print and cut the game clues so each clue in on a separate slip of paper. Print enough copies of the logic puzzle so each group can share a copy. You should also provide paper, markers, tape, or any other supplies for students to use as they wish.

If your class exceeds 14 people, instruct your students to divide into groups (between 7 and 14 students should be in a group).

Read the logic puzzle to the groups: “There are five houses, each of a different color and inhabited by a person from a different country.  Each person owns a different pet, drinks a different beverage, and performs a different exercise.  Your group’s task is to determine who owns the zebra and who drinks the water.”

Distribute the 14 game clues evenly among the students in each group (each student should have one or two clues). Let the groups know that they have 30 minutes to solve the problem.  When they have an answer (it must be a consensus), they should be instructed to share their answer with you.  If they are correct, the exercise is complete.  If they are incorrect (a partial answer is considered incorrect), encourage them to try again. Do not give them any help.  The only information that you should share with them is whether or not they have correctly solved the problem.

Markers, paper, and tape should be available to group members.  You should not, however, encourage the group to use these supplies.  If they ask if they can use them, your response should be “your task is to find out who owns the zebra and who drinks the water.”

The Clues

  1. The person from England lives in the red house.
  2. The person from Spain owns the dog.
  3. Coffee is drunk in the green house.
  4. The person from the Ukraine drinks tea.
  5. The green house is immediately to the right (your right) of the ivory house.
  6. The aerobic exerciser owns snails
  7. The swimmer is in the yellow house.
  8. Milk is drunk in the middle house.
  9. The person from Norway lives in the first house on the left.
  10. The person who jogs lives in the house next to the person with the fox.
  11. The swimmer is in the house next to the house where the horse is kept.
  12. The walker drinks orange juice.
  13. The person from Japan lifts weights.
  14. The person from Norway lives next to the blue house.

The Answers

Color: yellow blue red ivory green

Drink: water tea milk orange juice coffee

Pet: fox horse snails dog zebra

Exercise: swim jog aerobics walk weights

Country: Norway Ukraine England Spain Japan

Who owns the Zebra?    The person from Japan.

Who drinks the water?   The person from Norway.

Debriefing questions for Who Owns the Zebra

  1. What was your group’s experience like?
  2. How did you make decisions about how to solve the puzzle?
  3. Did you personally feel heard?
  4. What barriers did you feel to being heard?
  5. How did your race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, etc. affect your participation?
  6. How was influence/power expressed in your group?
  7. How was conflict handled in your group?
  8. Who “checked-out” in your group?  Why?
  9. How does this activity relate to our experiences in life?
  10. What contributes to our feelings of inclusion/mattering or exclusion/marginality?