Designing New Activities
Most of the activities I use as a facilitator, I have borrowed in its entirety or at least the basic idea - I’ll admit that. 'Borrowing' is part of how things happen in this industry. One thing that will need to happen as you progress in your skills, is the ability to take those activities, or at least the basic form of those activities, you borrow and mold them to make them your own AND adapt them to fit new situations. This is easier then is seems and begins with a very clear idea of WHAT you are trying to accomplish and WHO you are working with.
Goals, Outcomes and Objectives: One of the first things I learned when I began my student teaching experience was how to write objectives. My cooperating teacher really stressed this and made me write out very detailed and specific objectives. I did not enjoy this part, but I learned quickly that if I was clear about this, the lessons, which I was forced to do mostly experientially, pretty much wrote themselves. In experiential education, I believe this still applies. Use activities with a clear purpose and mold the activities to fit your needs and the situation.
Know your participants: This is really a part of the first suggestion, but more immediate to the situation and things that change as you work with any group—this is about awareness. Can you tweak an activity to meet the group where they are now, adding in new twists or elements, combining aspects from other activities, or setting up a metaphor related to a lesson or challenge the group faced earlier?
Here are some specific ideas:
• Add a metaphor: Within a simple and common activity like Group Juggle lie limitless opportunities to add objects that represent key learning objectives, add in other odd little twists that push the awareness envelop or make participants think in different ways. My favorite is adding in random objects and emphasizing what the original goal was (essentially the basic activity). The random object can represent something critical. This is just one idea though. Think of your current toolbox and add some twists and metaphors to things you already do.
• Combine Activities: It is possible to take elements from one activity and place them in others. As an example, I once saw a way of running Mine Field that incorporated elements from an activity using Mr. Potato Head that had a team working with a blind builder helping that person reproduce certain potato head models. Only one member of the team could speak, but he could not see the model and was dependent on his other muted team members for information that she would convey to the blind “assembler.” It was really fun and over time I started using a similar team method for Mine Field as well. No activity needs to stay pure.
• Take something you know and mold it to create other activities: My primary example involves taking a skill I knew—building fires with friction fire kits—and creating an initiative that borrowed elements and ideas from several other activities. It has become a stock and trade activity (“Tea”) that we use very successfully at camp. What is your new innovation?