Team building games and activities are great ways to help groups develop cooperation, decision making and communication skills. Team building exercises can be adapted for many different settings and public domain examples are found freely available across the web.
In the next few days I will post some of my favourites, used over the years in youth clubs, youth weekends, camps and as team building exercises with new groups.
A key part of these exercises is facilitating a time of group discussion after the activity. Remember to ask open-ended questions, helping the young people to reflect on what they have learned. Team building games can also provide a useful entry point to teaching themes for your group i.e. working together (the church), making choices (guidance), values and leadership.
Much depends on the role of the youth leader. A well planned and prepared activity, followed up with thought-provoking questions can be a significant learning experience.
Team building activities can be simple games, or involve creative problem-solving, or ‘pen and paper’ group survival situations. These games can challenge your young people’s values, cooperation, decision making and leadership skills.There are two classic types of ‘pen and paper’ survival games – selecting equipment and selecting people.
This is an example of the 'equipment' scenario. The plane your group is travelling in crashes. You have to choose the 12 most useful items found in the wreckage. This is done individually, then as a small group together until consensus is reached. Your final answers are then scored against an ‘expert’ opinion.
With this format group decisions are usually more accurate than individual ones, helping to illustrate the importance of cooperation and collaborative decision-making.
The second method involves the group role playing characters from the simulation. For example, your group has been shipwrecked and you are cast adrift on a life raft. Rations are very limited and in order for most to survive until rescue comes, the group has to decide to cast two members overboard. Who will survive? This can stimulate a powerful debate on values and prejudices.
After the role play, review the decisions made in each lifeboat. Discuss why you think certain choices were made. Why did you vote for...? How did you decide what value to place on people? Was there agreement or a wide difference of opinion? Did you listen to the arguments each person made, or had you already decided who would be set adrift? Do you think you made the right choices? What do our choices teach us about our values?
See the discussion starter 'Shipwrecked' for a complete outline.
Here are three team building games encouraging your group to work together to complete a challenging task.
AFRICAN RIVER CROSSING
Create an imaginary river by marking two river banks with rope or masking tape. Make it wide enough (20-25’) to be a challenge for your group to get from one side to the other. Distribute squares of cardboard (1’x1’ squares) to half of the group. Alternatively, you can use sheets of standard letter sized paper.
The aim is to get all of the group (or team) safely across the river. However, they cannot touch the ‘water’ and must use the rafts (cardboard squares) to cross. Rafts must be in contact with a human at all times or they will be swept away with the current.
Once the crossing has begun, the leader must remove any cardboard squares that are swept away by the current. Unfortunately the ‘river’ is also filled with crocodiles and if any team member touches the water they incur a crocodile penalty i.e. ‘lose a leg’ and they must complete the river crossing hopping on one foot.
The first attempt at crossing is usually hilarious to watch. Let the teams go a second time to build on lessons learned from the first crossing. Here are a few variations to try as well,
- Cardboard squares can only go forward. They cannot move backwards.
- No one can finish the crossing until everyone has left the starting “bank” of the river.
Remember to discuss,
- What worked? What didn’t work?
- Who provided leadership?
- How did you work together as a team?
- Was communication good or not?
- Did the group support one another?
- Did you learn anything from this activity?
Allow 30 minutes for this activity. Divide your group into teams of 4-6. Supply each team with an equal amount of paper, cardboard, toilet rolls, bubble wrap, string, elastic bands, straws etc. Then give each team a hard-boiled egg.
The challenge is to see which team can make the best capsule and parachute for their egg to survive a drop from a great height (recommend 10-12’). The least impact damaged or cracked egg wins. This project can require some considerable teamwork and imagination. Of course, you can be really challenging, and invite them to try the exercise with a raw egg!
This activity can be run in a number of different ways. Basically the group has to cooperate to try and fit into an ever decreasing area. How far can they go?
Take a large sheet and spread it on the floor. Have the young people (or each team) stand on the sheet. Easy! Once they have done this fold the sheet in half and challenge the group to repeat their previous success. Continue this process, making the sheet smaller each round. Eventually, it will become so small that your group (or each team) will require a great deal of cooperation, teamwork and ingenuity for everyone to get on without falling off the sheet.
Make sure your group are comfortable with this game as they will need to get physically close and support one another. Alternatively you can have two teams competing against each other – boys vs. girls.
MORE TEAM BUILDING GAMES
For more, click on team building games in the category list on the sidebar.
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