Quarter Race: Tool for Teachers

This post is for educators who would like to bring social and emotional learning games and activities into their classrooms.

Created by Metta Center fellow, Matthew Liston. Check out our resource, Educators for Nonviolence, for more classroom support. 


This game emphasizes skills related to focus and body awareness. When students have the opportunity to focus on different body parts in a fun way, they build their awareness of how their body feels in a variety of environments. As they increase their understanding of their body and how it responds to different stimuli, students improve their ability to proactively respond to challenging situations.

Target Age: K-Adult

Materials Needed:

  • 8-16 quarters
  • Open space without chairs and tables like a hallway, gymnasium, or field.
  • Something to mark a start line and finish line about 10 feet away from each other (string, tape, pool noodle, stick, etc)

How it works

  1. Separate the students into 4 groups and have them line up at one end of the space, behind the ‘starting line.’
  2. Give the first student in each group 2 quarters, and tell them to place a quarter on the toe part of each shoe.
  3. Explain the rules: 
    • Students must walk to the finish line and back while keeping the quarters on the top of their shoes.
    • When they return to the start line, they give the quarters to the next person in line. The first group to have every member complete the race will win that round.
    • Students are not allowed to tuck the quarters into their shoelaces or hold them on their shoes with their hands.
    • If a quarter falls off their shoe, participants must stop moving, place the quarter back on the shoe, and then continue with the race.
  4. After the first round is complete, try different versions of the race by asking the students to balance the quarters on:
    • the back of their hands
    • forearms
    • forehead
    • chin
    • elbows
  5. Once students understand the basic premise of the activity, switch from a competitive to a cooperative approach. Instead of competing to see which group is fastest, ask the students to set a time goal for the entire group to complete the activity. If they meet their time goal, then the group can celebrate together and try again to meet an even lower time goal.
    • Each student chooses the body part that they want to use to balance the quarter.

Debrief Question Ideas:

  • What did you like/dislike about the activity?
  • What was hard/easy for you?
  • How was the cooperative approach different from the competitive approach?
  • What other ways would you like to try out this activity in a cooperative spirit? 
  • When are other times when you need to work together in order to accomplish a goal?