Every time I teach Team Games it’s an adventure. I was just coming to the end of my class and was pretty impressed with how far they had come in growing their skills and collaboration. To finish the afternoon, 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 goal: “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 strategy 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 waited to see what would happen.
Participating in initiatives and games, like the A-Frame and challenges offered in our Team Games class, students undertake fun and often difficult challenges that require key skills to solve, including strategy, problem-solving, communication, and perseverance. 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 started to move as each member of the team alternated between pulling and loosening the ropes. The “A” tilted onto one leg, then swung to the other, giving me a ride in a Frankenstein-esque manner. Cheers erupted as they worked out the kinks and we headed down the field. I hopped off the crossbar of the A-Frame and asked if anyone else wanted to try standing in my place. Hands shot up everywhere. In the end, they all worked together to ensure everyone who wanted to had a chance to ride the “A” on its way to the other end of the field. At the beginning of class things might have unfolded differently– a couple of the more gregarious kids might have taken long turns and left the others out. Instead, they were now a cohesive team who made sure each person got a ride without me having to remind them. It seemed to me they care about each other a bit more, which made me smile.
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 games whose focus requires 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. Time and time again, teachers tell us what a positive difference shared experiences make in how their students relate to each other. Travelling north on a bug class trip and succeeding together here in games and challenges gives them a foundation of respectful communication and problem-solving that they can build upon as they grow into adults with more serious social challenges to solve.
Adventure Programs Coordinator
Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center