“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.
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).
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 person from England lives in the red house.
- The person from Spain owns the dog.
- Coffee is drunk in the green house.
- The person from the Ukraine drinks tea.
- The green house is immediately to the right (your right) of the ivory house.
- The aerobic exerciser owns snails
- The swimmer is in the yellow house.
- Milk is drunk in the middle house.
- The person from Norway lives in the first house on the left.
- The person who jogs lives in the house next to the person with the fox.
- The swimmer is in the house next to the house where the horse is kept.
- The walker drinks orange juice.
- The person from Japan lifts weights.
- The person from Norway lives next to the blue house.
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
- What was your group’s experience like?
- How did you make decisions about how to solve the puzzle?
- Did you personally feel heard?
- What barriers did you feel to being heard?
- How did your race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, etc. affect your participation?
- How was influence/power expressed in your group?
- How was conflict handled in your group?
- Who “checked-out” in your group? Why?
- How does this activity relate to our experiences in life?
- What contributes to our feelings of inclusion/mattering or exclusion/marginality?