The Wetfoot Blog

Monday, May 10, 2010

Top 3 Experiential Activities Every Facilitator Needs to Know

Activity #3 “Mine Field”/”Search and Rescue”/”The Road of Life”

Hi Everyone! Over the last couple of months we have covered two other key activities that have lots of applications and variations. This month I want to end this series with one of my favorites. I actually first saw it run with the name “The Road of Life,” but have since seen it run many other ways and with other set ups. I include a variation called “Search and Rescue” simply because it is a simple way of accomplishing some of the same goals.

Essentially, this is a communication activity. It also has some application as a trust activity, however, it can also be set up as a basic problem solving initiative with some minor adjustments. The basic set-up involves a blind or blindfolded participant being guided across a specific area, sometimes with a range of obstacles(and sometimes good things to pick up) by sighted helpers.

Safety alert: Because participants are blind or blindfolded, it is important that facilitators be available, on the play area to spot, guide and assist if necessary.

Basic Set-up: My favorite way to set this activity up is to have a roped off play area 6-8 feet wide and about 15 feet long. I may designate an entrance and exit area and arrange a range of obstacles from chairs and mousetraps to stuffed animals around the play area. The goal can either be to guide the blind participant through the “maze” and out the exit OR to retrieve an object of some kind and return it to the group. Here are the key things you need to do:
• Have your group choose:
o A blind participant that will be the person being guided on the play area
o A speaker: They can speak, but they stand on the entrance end of the play area with their back to the play area and the blind “searcher.”
• The other participants are in front of “the speaker” facing the play area. They can see the play area, but they can not talk. All communication to the blind “seeker” must come through the speaker. The speaker, in turn, is dependant on these sighted, but mute participants to convey all information necessary for success to the “searcher.”
Typically any misstep on the part of the blind “searcher” involves a penalty ranging from returning to the starting point, to being turned around 3-5 times and restarted.
I like doing this with groups no larger the 8-10 and giving them a practice round and time to plan a strategy before selecting a new searcher and playing another round.

Variations:
• “Search and Rescue:” A simple version with minimal set-up can also be done with the same participant arrangement minus the obstacles in the play area. I always designate a specific play area and usually establish a line on one end of the play area that can not be crossed by the sighted participants. I then toss a stuffed animal or some other object onto the far end of the play area and the speaker and the other muted participants must guide the searcher to that object and then back to the starting line. As with the original version of this activity, I can set it up as a basic problem solving initiative by giving the group planning time after an initial test run and requiring that all participants be involved in some way. Groups come up with tremendously creative ways of communicating distance and direction to the speaker using a range of props, signals and signs when given the opportunity.

• “The Road of Life:” Any good activity is readily adaptable to a range of metaphors and this activity is no exception. As mention, I first saw this game used as a life metaphor with a slightly different set-up. A play area was set up with a range of obstacles and also a number of “good things” that included fun toys, candy, etc. Participants worked in partnerships with one sighted with the ability to move along the outside of the play area and one blind moving from the entrance on one end of the play area to the exit on the far side. Along the way, the guides would help participants move around problems and pitfalls (represented by the obstacles) and to pick up “the good stuff” along the way. The challenge was that there may be 5 or 6 partnerships involved with many voices giving instructions at the same time. It got confusing and distracting so teams needed to work out a way of staying focused and working through the many distractions. It was a great way to set an activity up and provided some great lessons to participants. Obviously there are many ways to adapt this version to many applications, situations and groups as needs and outcomes dictate.

As usual, send me your ideas and comments. I’d love to hear about ways you use this activity or similar ones.

Happy playing!
Mark Zanoni

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