Home E-Learning Platform The Life Boat

The Life Boat


20 minutes

Learning Outcomes

Participants will practice empathy because they are put in a position where they have to empathise with different characters to be able to make a decision.

Resources & Preparation Needed

Making groups: 

  • Up to 12 people might be in one group together
  • If more than 12 people, you divide the class into smaller groups
  • If you are 5 people or less than 5 people: You tell the group, that the idea is to imagine that this small team have the responsibility of deciding the destiny of the 12 people in a boat, since only 3 people will able to stay in the boat.


The participants are told that they are in a hypothetical shipwreck. 12 people got on the lifeboat, but it can only hold 9. If 3 people are not sacrificed, everyone will drown. There is no way to survive without being on the life boat. 

The participants must discuss which 9 people (from a given list of different persons) get to stay in the lifeboat. 

After the decision is made, participants should share how they felt about making this kind of decision, which criteria they used, what problems they faced in making the decision, etc. 

Possible list of characters: 

  • A sailor with a broken arm
  • A doctor who is a drug addict
  • A young mother
  • Her small child
  • A grandmother who has gained a national reputation for organising a meals-on-wheels service for the whole country
  • A successful business man who employs 250 people but who pays them an unjust wage
  • The leader of a country
  • A young nurse
  • A twelve year old child who has is mental handicap and is the only son of a widow aged 40
  • A blind teenage girl who is a famous musician
  • A 30 year old who is sick with cancer

Ideas For Reflection

Ask the students to share their ideas in the group or in class: 

  • How did you reach to a conclusion / decision?
  • What was the difficult part of the decision making?
  • Which criterias did you use in the groups?
  • What did it mean to have personal information about the passengers?  
  • Invite the students to share their feelings about joining this exercise?

Extra Material


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