Every time I teach Team Games it’s an adventure. I was just coming to the end of my class at the end of the day and was pretty impressed with how far they had come in growing their skills and collaboration. To end the day, I decided to give them one more big challenge. I pulled over an imposing wooden contraption with multiple ropes hanging off it, and told them the rules: “Team, this is a mode of transportation. You need to use it to transport me from this end of the field to the other. The only rules are you can only touch the ropes, the wood has to be upright, and I can’t fall off. Now, start planning!” There was a little bit of a pause, then a flurry of ideas were brought up regarding the challenge. They decided on a plan and told me what they wanted to try. It sounded good and safe to me, so I hopped on the board, held on tight, and off we went across the field.
In these team building initiatives and games, like the Team Games class offered at Wolf Ridge, students undertake fun and often difficult challenges that require key skills to solve, including strategy, problem solving, communication, and perseverance. For example, one challenge involves a large “A-Frame” built of wood, with which a team must figure out out how to make it a mode of transportation using only the attached ropes and without touching the wooden frame, transporting the instructor for several feet. It takes a bit of planning, some intense communication and coordination, and also requires focus and collaboration from all students involved. Eventually, the A-Frame starts to move with each member of the team alternating between pulling and loosening the ropes, tilting and walking the frame and rider in a Frankenstein-esque manner until finally everyone transports the frame to its destination.
As a naturalist and teacher, I appreciate being able to see all the skills and lessons that can be learned from participating in a Team Games class, but I think the dynamic that I appreciate the most is seeing students work together towards a common goal, listen to each other’s ideas, and struggle to see things from their teammates point of view. Research has shown that activities and experiences like this can be especially effective in preventing bullying, especially with its dynamic of success requiring close listening skills, having to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and trusting people to do what is needed to succeed, even if you don’t know that person very well. The more kids stretch their comfort boundaries in a safe place and learn from each other, the more likely they are to find common ground with each other, and the less likely they are to put each other down. This is something that teachers have been able to see time and time again when they experience team initiatives and anti-bullying training with students, and it’s also something we get to see regularly in our team building program here at the Ridge.
The month of October, and the second Wednesday in particular are devoted to bullying awareness and prevention, so let’s continue to dedicate ourselves to building strong communities, safe places to learn, and growing kids who understand and support each other. #NationalStopBullyingDay
Adventure Programs Coordinator
Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center