Posts Tagged ‘group initiatives’

Wind In the Willows

Ever trust a group of people to have your back? It’s a rare real-world experience that everyone should have. I read about this in a book called “Games”. That’s all I remember about it. At the time, I didn’t give this game much thought but now I see it’s value as a group-building and trust exercise with lots of potential. 


Object: To support the person in the middle without letting them fall. To trust that your group will support you and will be gentle about it.

Materials: None.

Area: Small. 7′ x 7′

Number of Participants: 8-12

Set-up: Choose one person to be the “willow”, standing in the middle of the circle. Have all other campers circle around in a very close and tight circle so that they are less than one arm’s length away from that person.

How To Play: Have the person in the middle (the “willow”) close their eyes, fold their arms across their chest and keep their legs stiff. Huddle everyone else around the willow within an arm’s length of them, making sure there are no gaps in their huddle. On “go”, the willow will fall in any direction while the circle catches them and pushes them gently around the circle or back and forth. Think of it as a reed swaying in a gentle wind. Pushes must be gentle and on pre-approved or “safe” body areas such as shoulders, back and arms only. Nobody should be touching the willow on their stomach or waist or head or chest. Take turns so that everyone gets to be a “willow”.


Ancient Coin


An archaeologist, keen to make a discovery of a lifetime, unearths a coin with the date 56BC on it. She excitedly calls her museum curator on the phone to tell him about her discovery. “I’m absolutely sure it’s a fake” the curator confidently says over the phone. How can he be “absolutely sure” about this without ever having seen the coin?



How would anyone in the era we know as “B.C.” or, “before Christ”, have known how many years before Christ it was? It wasn’t until after Christ or the era we call “A.D.” that years were numbered as “B.C.” and “A.D.”

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

I attended a training given by PlayWorks this week. If you ever have a chance to go to a PlayWorks training, I highly recommend it. Check them out at They have an interactive website for games that is far superior to anything else I’ve seen. Just enter the number and age of participants, the type of game you are looking for and hit ‘enter’. It pops up a list of playground games to choose from. Easy!    The following game is from the PlayWorks training given by Kristina. Obvious Dr. Seuss reference. 


Object: Get the token back to the Island side of the court without getting caught.

Number of Participants: 10 – 30

Area: half volleyball court-size

Equipment: a token about the size of a tennis ball

How To Play: One person is chosen to be “it”, stands at one end of the court (Fishy Side) with the token on the floor at the line.  Everyone else stands at the other end of the court (Island Side), behind their line.  “It” turns her back to the other players and calls out “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish”. During this time, the participants try to get to the token, take it and sneak it back to the other side of their Island base line. When “it” finishes reciting “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” she turns around. If she catches even one person moving, the entire group goes back to the their Island starting line. If she doesn’t catch anyone moving, play continues from that point, while she turns around again and calls out again “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish”, and then turning around to try and catch people moving.

If the token gets nabbed the game is only half over. Players still must stop every time the chant ends, but “it” gets three guesses as to who is holding the token. If she guesses correctly, the token is returned to the Ocean starting point and all the participants must re-start from their Island side of the court. If “it” doesn’t guess who is holding the token, play continues as before (“it” turns around with her back to the participants, says “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish”, and then turns back around to try and catch the token holder, again with three guesses.

Play ends when the Islanders have successfully nabbed the token and gotten it back to their Island.

Variation: This game can end pretty quickly if you don’t use this simple variation. Once the token has been nabbed but before it has made it back to the Island, it must be passed to at least ten people. This is what makes the game a cooperative initiative.

Stage One of the ReST Method: Preparation

The entire process of the ReST Method of Conflict Resolution consists of three stages: Preparation, Communication, Resolution. In it, the mediator begins by controlling the interactions of the two in conflict and ends up giving that control over to them.

Preparation is the first stage in the ReST Method of Conflict Resolution. It lays the necessary foundation for successful and enduring resolution. The Preparation stage consists of cutting out the excess, controlling the pacing and timing, and finally, checking emotional temperatures.

The Preparation stage starts by getting rid of the excess. If you can remember the concept of Occam’s Razor, apply it here to the unnecessary hangers-on eyewitnesses who saw it all and are hanging around to offer their expert testimony of what happened. While testimony is helpful for finding out what really happened, it doesn’t help at all to empower people to resolve their own conflict in the future. That is our goal. For this reason, you need to tell everyone who is not directly involved to go away. Those who think they are involved will quickly go away if you say “Remember, if you are involved, you will be sharing the fate of these two who are fighting.” Watch the yard clear and how quickly you will be left with the two people who have a problem with each other.

(But why don’t we care what really happened? Getting to the bottom of it all is unnecessary. The combatants will always believe what they want to believe and trying to persuade them otherwise only invites more emotion. It also sets up an atmosphere of distrust, working against the entire Respect, Safety and Trust trichotomy while setting you, the mediator, up as the expert. No, no, no and NO! The point of this method of conflict resolution is to model behavior that fosters effective communication so that it will be more easily employed in the future. Remember, you are forging a new path through a virgin field. The first time you do this, you may only trample a few bushes. As you do it more and more with the same people, you will create a highway that they will go to without thinking about it.)


Once you have cut out the excess participants and are down to the two combatants, you will be working to set up the pacing and timing. Here you will lay down the rules the combatants must follow or suffer the consequences, whatever they may be. I usually start here by saying the following: “You will stop and listen to me. I don’t want to hear either of you talking. There will be time for that. I don’t want to hear who did what and I don’t want to hear from any witnesses. I will tell you when to talk and I will ask you what you heard. Your job is to listen until I ask you to talk.”

The rules aren’t there to be mean or authoritarian. I’m putting time between the event and the present. At this point, I am doing all the talking and have essentially stopped the locomotive of emotions and ceaseless one-upmanship yelling about who did what. I’m getting my combatants out of fight mode and into listening mode. The more I talk, the more time there is between the event that set them off and right now. I never want to dive right into trying to solve a crisis while emotions are high. The less accusations they hurl, the more ready they are for the Communication phase.

The Preparation stage is all about pacing and timing. The more time you can put between the event, the better. Time heals all wounds, right? In this case, time is your best friend as the mediator. The more time up front you spend delivering the ReST Method properly, the less time you will need to spend on the back end resolving an issue that shouldn’t involve the United Nations.

Besides time, as mediator you are controlling the pace of the interactions. You will be asking one person one question at a time. That is all one person should be handling anyway, right? When one person interrupts the other (e.g. “That’s not true! I didn’t do that!”) it becomes two people offering their side of the story at one time. You want to not be confused, so, you will simply say “You are interrupting. We are listening to this side of the story now no matter how it might sound. This is what this person has experienced. This is what is true to them. You will get your turn. I promise.”

What happens when you control the interactions as such is that you are slowing down the entire scene allowing one person to say as much as they want until they are tired. Follow up with, “Is that everything?” just to milk it a bit. You want it to seem like an excruciating and long slow-motion scene. You are deliberately slowing down the pace of their interactions to a snail’s crawl. Why? You are sending the message that this is not a race, you are in control, you want to understand, you are listening, you won’t tolerate interruptions and there is no hurry. When they realize they are stuck here for a long time and you are not performing the usual “meatball surgery” playground resolution, they will actually relax back in their seat and take a long deep breath. Encourage that.

Now that you have successfully made a wide gap from the time of the event to now AND set the stage for how interactions will be paced, it’s time to check in with your combatants. Let’s take their emotional temperatures.

Ask one person this question: “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being ‘I am the angriest I’ve ever been’ and 1 being ‘I’m not angry at all’, how angry are you right now? And how angry were you when the event happened?” After they’ve both answered this question, mirror it back to them. “Wow, you say you were a 10 during the event and now you’re about a 6, you’ve come down quite a bit but you’re still angry, right?” This gives each person a chance to share their emotional state with the other, validates how they are feeling when you get it right and puts even more time between the event and the present. Checking the emotional temperature with each person throughout the resolution process indicates to you when they are ready for the final step and it helps them show each other whether they are still ready to fight or ready to heal. Finally, it shows them that you care about how they feel which fosters the atmosphere of Respect, Safety and Trust.


To summarize, the Preparation stage of the ReST Method consists of cutting out the excess, setting up the pacing and timing by laying down the rules, and checking the emotional temperature of the combatants. It’s the most control intensive part of the process but it allows the next stages to flow nicely.

In future posts, we will explore Communication and Resolution, respectively, the second and third stages of the ReST Method of Conflict Resolution.

Tricky Triangle

Remember this wooden triangle mind puzzler game with fifteen holes and fourteen golf tees for markers? It has been re-purposed as a group initiative and makes for a very interesting challenge for a group of about 15 players.

I found this on a great website I want to recommend to everyone who works in teambuilding: This site is great for thousands of camp games, songs, campfire skits, stories and much more camp-related ideas.


Object: Get down to one player.

Materials: 15 poly spots or place markers arranged in a pyramid with 5 on the bottom.

Number of Participants: 15 – 20

Area: Half volleyball court

Set-Up: Arrange poly spots in a pyramid starting with 5 across the base. Keep spots about 2 – 3 feet apart from each other. Build into a perfect triangle of about 10′ -15′ per side.

How To Play: Once spots are arranged, have 15 players occupy all 15 spots. Give the team the following rules: 1) Choose one person to leave their spot and stand on the side to begin. 2) From that point on, the only movement may be done by “jumping”. 3) A legal “jump” is when one person leaves their spot, jumps past another occupied spot and lands on an open spot. 4) When a person gets “jumped” they vacate their spot. 5) Anyone may move as long as it is a legal jump to an open spot. 6) Play continues until no other moves can be made. 7) When there is only one payer left, the challenge has been met.

Notes: The group leader will need to referee to make sure only legal moves are being made. The group may become hot-headed and the leader will need to mediate. When the group cannot make a legal move and they have more than one player left over, the leader calls out to restart the game.

Trash Wrangler

Sometimes picking up trash can be fun. Try this when your campers have really let their trash get out of hand.


Object: To have picked up more trash than any other team at the end of the time allotment.

Number of Participants: At least 2 per team, at least 2 teams. Best with a full camp of 50+ to get everybody involved.

Area: Cafeteria or whatever the eating area is.

Materials: Any and all objects that do not belong left behind in the eating area such as paper bags, apple cores, straws, etc.

Set-up: After lunchtime institute this game. Have one representative from each group (preferably a counselor or someone who can be impartial) stand near a trashcan  as their base with their foot touching it. Call them the “guards”. The rest of the group can be started from wherever they happen to be.

How To Play: On “GO”, all participants who are not “guards” must kick any trash they see to their group “guard”. The “guard” must stand with one foot touching the trash can and may not leave that area. As their group kicks the trash their way, the guard counts all the pieces his/her group is responsible for wrangling. Then the guard picks up each piece that is counted and stows it safely inside the trash “corral”. After 3 – 5 minutes, play ends and trash guards tell their scores. Winning team has the most trash.

Dragon Race

Celebrate the year of the dragon every 12 years? No way! Here’s a relay race that is fun (and challenging) anytime.

Object: Be the first dragon across the finish line

Materials: None

Number of Participants: At least 8 per team, any number of teams can compete against each other.

Area: Basketball court size

Set-up: Establish starting line at one end of the course and a finish line at the other. Add obstacles as desired and depending on the age of participants. Line up all teams at starting line. Have people on each team stand a little less than arm’s distance behind the team member in front of them. Everyone crouches over and puts one hand (let’s say their left hand) between their legs, reaching out to the person behind them. The person behind them holds that hand with their right hand. We now have a train with a very fragile link.

How To Play: On “GO”, the teams move toward the finish line as fast as they can without breaking a link. First team across the finish line wins.

Adaptations: Depending on the agility and age of the participants as well as the purpose of this exercise, you can try one of two adaptations:

1) add obstacles
2) make it a relay whereby each team is split in half (half the team on the starting end and the other half at the other end) and have one person start by running down to the other end, connect “dragon-style” with the first person in line, move back to the starting area and pick up the next person “dragon-style”. Play continues going back and forth, linking up sections to the dragon until a complete dragon makes it down to the other end of the court.