team

Crocodile River

A team-building activity in which a group is challenged to physically support one another in an endeavor to move from one end of a space to another. It requires working together creatively and strategically in order to solve a practical, physical problem. It tends to emphasize group communication, cooperation, leadership and membership, patience and problem-solving.

  1. Step 1:

    Space
    For this exercise you need an outdoor space (preferably grass). About 15-25 meters long depending on the number of participants (about 1-1.5 meters per participant – if more than 15, count 1 meter and, if less than 15, 1.5 meters) and about 6-8 meters wide.

    Materials

    • Wooden planks, 1 per participant (about 20x10cm and a thickness of about 2-3 cm – to be magic stones).
    • Two ropes about 6-8 metres long (to mark the banks of the river)
    • A roll of tape, tennis ball or other similar-sized object (to be used as an oxygen mask)

    Prepare the challenge by putting out the ropes marking the banks of the river. Pile the wooden planks on one of the banks. There should be as many planks as participants, minus one. With groups of 20 or more, create two teams, one on each bank of the river, crossing in opposite directions.

  2. Step 2:

    Assemble all participants on bank where the planks are. Tell them that they may not yet touch the planks. Explain that they are about to undertake a challenge and must listen closely to the instructions.

  3. Step 3:

    Give the following instructions: “For this challenge you need your problem-solving and collaboration skills. You are a team on an expedition deep in the jungle, when suddenly there is a big forest fire. Trying to escape the fire, you have reached a wide river that you must cross with the whole team in order to survive. In the river there are very aggressive crocodiles. Get too close and you’re finished. But fortunately you have discovered a set of magic stones laying on the bank. This is the only support you can use in order to cross from one side to the other. The magic stones float on the water as long as there is constant body contact. As soon as body contact is lost, when a stone is in the water, it sinks and disappears. If someone puts a hand in the water, the crocodiles will immediately bite it off – the same with feet.”

    Demonstrate by putting a stone in the water and put your fingers on the stone and put your foot on the stone and then take away the fingers. Show that when a stone has no body contact, it sinks. Show that if a hand or foot touches the ground, it gets bitten off and must be held behind the back.

    “If someone falls in the water the person is eaten and the challenge is over.”

    If this happens quite early in the challenge you can ask the group if they want another try).

    “Your task is solved successfully when everyone is on the other side of the river alive. Any questions before you start?”

    This is their final chance to get clarification. Ensure that the rules are clear but do not answer any questions about how the challenged should be solved. Once the explanation is over, the facilitator(s) become the sharks. Move around the space watching the group closely. When a stone is left without body contact, remove it from play (it has “sunk.”) When participants accidentally touch the ground with hands or feet, tell them that the limb has been “bitten off” and that they must continue without using it.

  4. Step 4:

    The group will somehow establish a plan and then begin moving across the river. Different groups take different approaches ranging from highly structured to extremely chaotic.

    If the group seems to be succeeding at the challenge relatively easily, consider introducing the “oxygen mask” Tell the group that the big fire is getting closer and there is a lack of oxygen. All participants both in the water and standing on the bank need to breath through the “oxygen mask” (a roll of tape) at least every minute. Thus, they must pass the mask constantly, ensuring that each member gets it. This pushes the group include everyone and get out on the water as a full team. It can also be used as a mechanism to raise the stress level in the group.

  5. Step 5:

    Let the group continue until they succeed in getting all members to the other side If a member falls into the water then the group fails and must start over from the beginning.

  6. Step 6:

    Once the group has succeeded at the challenge, debrief by reflecting on how the group worked together. Use questions such as:

    • What happened during the task?
    • How did we work as a group?
    • How did the experience make me feel?
    • How did I behave / respond / react?
    • What did I learn about myself?
    • What did I learn about groups?
    • How can I apply insights from this activity?