Outdoor Action Guide to Group Dynamics & Leadership
by Rick Curtis
This material is the Group Development and Leadership Chapter from the Outdoor Action Program
Leader's Manual written by Rick Curtis, Director, Outdoor Action Program. This material may be freely distributed for nonprofit educational use. However, if included in publications, written or electronic, attributions must be made to the author. Commercial use of this material is prohibited without express written permission from the author. Copyright © 1995 Rick Curtis, Outdoor Action Program, Princeton University.
Table Of Contents
Reprinted from material
prepared by the Nantahala Outdoor Center, Bryson City,
Preparation, Motivation, or "Sell It"
Create in your participants a receptive attitude and a desire
to learn the skill.
- Put your students at ease.
- Establish an informal arrangement.
- Name the skill.
- Use stories to prove the importance of a skill.
- Give necessary background; for example:
- Purpose of a skill.
- When it is used.
- How it is used.
- Why it is used.
- Where it is used.
Presentation, Demonstration, or" Show It"
Arrange in such a way that the participants can follow the demonstration
easily and see all that is to be seen.
- Teach one skill at a time.
- Explain while showing - tell and show.
- Face the participants while telling and showing.
- Speak clearly and demonstrate deliberately in continuous sequence.
- Stress the key points of the skill.
- Stress the need for repetition.
- "Whole-Part-Whole" method of presenting a skill:
- Show the whole skill first.
- Break the skill into parts.
- Show the whole skill again in slow motion.
Application, Practice, or "Do It"
Make use of mass group, partners, and individual methods of class
organizations according to the type of skill, size of class, size
of class area.
- Have participants do the skill.
- Have participants practice progressively in parts leading
to attainment of the whole skill.
- Watch for and correct errors immediately. Early correction
of an error leads to increased success.
- Compliment and encourage your participants.
Adoptions, Follow-up, or "Use It"
The "Law of Use and Disuse" states "that a skill
which is used frequently becomes a habit and if not used frequently
may be forgotten."
- Apply and adapt the skill to numerous situations, such as:
- Problem work or drills
- Teaching to a student who has difficulty
- Encourage its use in actual situations.
- Have people teaching the skill to others - individual or class.
- Review skills periodically.
Conclusion: A good teacher challenges, inspires, encourages,
and helps his/her participants with the skills. A good teacher
never gives up, is patient, avoids bad mannerisms, speaks clearly
and distinctly, uses simple language that all can understand,
and emphasizes key points when talking directly to a group
Increased self sufficiency Meeting people more easily
Breaking down sex barriers Increased self-awareness
Increased awareness of others Intense personal contact
Appreciation of wilderness New wilderness skills
Adaptability to new situations Self-confidence
Escape from pressures Appreciation of civilization
Increased self-esteem Fun
Leveler Increased self-reliance
New random group Pushing limits
Seeing worth in others Education outside the classroom
Teaching responsibility to others Awareness of how your actions effect others
Appreciation of the natural environment Honesty & Self-disclosure
OA is based on a model of experiential learning known as the Thaw-Shift-
Refreeze Cycle. This model assumes that we each have a developed
set of behaviors and attitudes. When we are placed in a new situation,
our old behaviors may not be appropriate. So there is a thawing
period during which new behaviors/skills can be learned. If these
new behaviors work well, and are properly reinforced, they re-freeze
and the person incorporates a new set of behaviors.
It is essential to remember the following points:
- New behaviors are learned primarily from the leaders.
- It may be a challenge/stress situation (such as hiking in
a downpour - see Challenges below) that initiates the Thaw-Shift-Refreeze
- There may be anxiety during the Shift process while the person
casts of old "safe" behavior and struggles to learn
The wilderness provides an excellent "classroom" for
this type of development. An outdoor environment, in a small group
setting provides an immediate and simplified environment. You
are dealing with basic issues like staying warm and dry, feeding
yourself, and traveling from A to B. As a result the skills you
need are basic ones which give you immediate feedback. If you
didn't set the tarp up right, you get wet. Thus participants are
in an environment where new behaviors are learned quickly.
The other essential part of the situation is the group. A small
group setting (8-12) provides for diverse interaction and sharing
yet also is small enough so that close relationships can be formed.
The interconnections between people in the group are essential
for providing support and encouragement as people face challenges
and learn from them. Once again the leaders must work to facilitate
effective group interaction.
Experiential Learning is learning through doing. By definition
this involves change which is an active process. Remember that
change and new situations can create anxiety for participants.
The general process of personal change is shown in Figure 9.1
Cycle of Change
What Causes the Thaw?
- New environment
- New people
- Positive relationships
- Role models
- New rules, goals
- Stress - physical, emotional
Challenge is a goal in which there is some obstacle
to overcome in order to achieve the goal. Both the goal and the
obstacle can be internal or external (see Table 9.1).
Goal - Self-disclosure Goal - Not using homophobic language
Internal Obstacle - Embarassment Obstacle - Peer pressure
Goal - Climbing a rock face Goal - Getting to the top of a mountain
External Obstacle - Fear of falling Obstacle - Difficult climb
The fundamental goal of dealing with challenge is not whether
you reach the summit but did you push yourself beyond your previous
limits in the attempt. This is what creates growth and change,
the knowledge that you can move beyond where you were before.
Be aware that if a person gets confused about the locus of the
challenge (e.g. perceives the obstacle to be internal when in
fact it is external or vice versa) s/he may become frustrated
trying to overcome the challenge.
Example: Jim is having a hard time hiking on a wet, rocky trail.
He perceives that obstacle as internal, "I must be a wimp."
In fact, the obstacle is external-the trail is truly difficult-and
everyone else may be having trouble. If this can be pointed out,
Jim won't be so frustrated and angry with himself.
- A challenge may be something one seeks out (going rock climbing)
or something encountered unexpectedly (bad weather).
- Motivation and skill may be key factors in moving past/through
the obstacle. Many challenges involve an emotional component (often
- Remember nothing is trivial! Each of us experiences
challenge differently and each of us has different experiences
which are challenging.
- As a leader you may want to push someone to attempt a challenge,
but know when to back off. This is a fundamental principla known
as Challenge by Choice. At the final point addressing
a challenge should be a personal decision by the participant,
not something they are forced or pressured into. Accepting a challenge
is a motivational choice. Yes, I will attempt it or No,
I won't attempt it. Support the person in either decision they
make. If s/he chooses not to continue, let the person pass and
be supportive in such a way so that they feel empowered by their
willingness to try rather than devalued for not having achieved
the task. Accept the individual's choice, as long as it
is not unsafe.
- The key to growth through the Thaw-Shift-Refreeze process
is not whether the person did the activity, but rather
that s/he pushed to his/her limits to try it.
- Be aware of the Process of Decreasing Self-worth: Did not
achieve goal Sense of Failure Feeling one is not a good person,
feeling that the group will think less of you . To combat the
process of decreasing self-worth let the person know that s/he
is an accepted and valuable part of the group. Make the person
aware of the semantics of the words success and failure.
Neither exist as absolutes though we treat them as such. In fact,
they exist along a continuum. If you try to get from A to Z and
only get to T you have not failed! You have made great strides.
If someone stands at the edge of a rappel for 20 minutes, scared,
and finally decides not to do it, they have in fact succeeded.
They pushed themselves to and beyond their limits probably more
than the others who went down the rope (since it was probably
less of a challenge for them).
- Challenge can be an integral part of being in the wilderness
which is one reason why OA is able to accomplish so much in terms
of personal development. However, always keep in mind that your
diverse group can handle different challenges at different levels.
Make sure you are not placing people in situations where the challenge
is too far beyond their current levels. This does not lead to
feelings of achievement and growth but rather to frustration and
loss of self-esteem (see above).
- Also remember that "artificial challenges" created
by the leaders can be a wonderful stimulus for development (Example:
setting up camp without talking). However, if the level
of challenge is inappropriate, it can lead to great frustration
with the leaders. Make sure that you are not increasing the Accident
Potential (see Section 10 - Safety & Emergency Procedures:
Dynamics of Accidents).
Hiking faster Dealing with people different from yourself
Hiking slower Taking care of the wilderness
Leadership Sharing responsibility
Trusting others Learning a new skill
Responsibility to others Taking risks
Endurance/physical stress Honesty with the group/self-disclosure
What is Disequilibrium?
Disequilibrium is also a challenge. It occurs when someone feels
"out of their element" and can often be a stimulus for
the Thaw-Shift-Refreeze Cycle. Disequilibrium is caused by:
- Unfamiliar settings
- Unmet needs (Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs)
Learning to be an effective leader is on of the most demanding
tasks you will face. Some of the responsibilities and roles you
will need to play are listed below.
- Establish trust
- Teach skills
- Be vulnerable
- Role model
- Provide balance
- Adapt to situation(s)
- Make decisions
- Provide motivation
- Facilitate group interaction
- Move group from A B
- Be sensitive to needs of group
- Deal with expectations of others
This model of leadership is based on the premise that in working
with a group there are two basic functions which need to be attended
to. One is working to accomplish the tasks the group has set out
to do. The other is ongoing maintenance and development relationships
within the group. Thus there are two basic types of roles or behaviors
for leaders to engage in-Task Roles and Relationship Roles. Examples
of these roles are identified below.
- Information and Opinion Giver: Offers facts, opinions
ideas, suggestions, and relevant information to help group discussion.
- Information and Opinion Seeker: Asks for facts, information,
opinions, ideas, and feelings from other members to help group
- Starter: Proposes goals and tasks to initiate action
within the group.
- Direction Giver: Develops plans on how to proceed and
focuses attention on the task to be done.
- Summarizer: Pulls together related ideas or suggestions
and restates and summarizes major points discussed.
- Coordinator: Shows relationships among various ideas
by pulling them together and harmonizes activities of various
subgroups and members.
- Diagnoser: Figures out sources of difficulties the
group has in working effectively and the blocks to progress in
accomplishing the group's goals
- Energizer: Stimulates a higher quality of work from
- Reality Tester: Examines the practicality and workability
of ideas, evaluates alternative solutions, and applies them to
real situations to see how they will work.
- Evaluator: Compares group decisions and accomplishments
with group standards and goals.
- Encourager of Participation: Warmly encourages everyone
to participate giving recognition for contributions, demonstrating
acceptance and openness to ideas of others, is friendly and responsive
to group members
- Harmonizer and Compromiser: Persuades members to analyze
constructively their differences in opinions, searches for common
elements in conflicts and tries to reconcile disagreements.
- Tension Reliever: Eases tensions and increases the
enjoyment of the group members by joking, suggesting breaks, and
proposing fun approaches to group work.
- Communication Helper: Shows good communications skills
and makes sure that each group member understands what the other
members are saying.
- Evaluator of Emotional Climate: Asks members how they
feel about the way in which the group is working and about each
other, and shares own feelings about both.
- Process Observer: Watches the process by which the
group is working and uses the observations to help examine group
- Standard Setter: Expresses group standards and goals
to make members aware of the direction of the work and the progress
being made toward the goal and to get open acceptance of group
norms and procedures.
- Active Listener: Listens and serves as an interested
audience for other members, is receptive to others' ideas, goes
along with the group when not in disagreement.
- Trust Builder: Accepts and supports openness of other
group members, reinforcing risk taking and encouraging individuality.
- Interpersonal Problem Solver: Promotes open discussion
of conflicts between group members in order to resolve conflicts
and increase group togetherness.
The notion that leadership is distributed enters in because
all of these roles do not need to be fulfilled by the leader.
In many instances a member of the group may be the Energizer who
gets people psyched to get out of bed in the morning etc. As the
group matures and develops into a cohesive entity, more of these
roles are taken on by the participants and the leaders can play
less of a active role.
Situational Leadership Theory (SLT) takes the Distributed Functions
Model of leadership one step further by stating that there is
a most effective style of leadership in any particular situation
(See Figure 9.2).
SLT states that Task Behavior is the extent to which a leader
engages in one-way communication by explaining what participants
are supposed to do as well as when, where, and how tasks are to
be accomplished. Relationship Behavior is the extent to which
a leader engages in two-way communication by providing emotional
support, "strokes" and facilitating behaviors.
SLT is based on an interplay between
- The amount of direction (task behavior) the leaders give,
- the amount of emotional support the leaders provide, and
- the "maturity" level that participants exhibit on
a specific task, function, or objective.
Participant Maturity is defined as the capacity to set high but
attainable goals (achievement motivation), willingness and ability
to take responsibility, and education and/or experience of and
individual or group. These variables should be considered only
in relation to a specific task to be performed.
Example: On the first day of a canoeing trip the participants
have a low maturity. Most have never done it before. They don't
know the strokes, the terminology, or how to canoe with a partner.
Also the group is new to the area and each other. On the fourth
day of the trip, the group probably has a high degree of maturity
in canoeing. They have learned how to successfully maneuver the
canoe and how to work together with a partner. They may be able
to handle easy whitewater that you would not have taken them down
the first day.
SLT defines four general styles of leadership based on the degree
of Task Behavior and the degree of Relationship Behavior (see
the diagram below).
High Task/Low Relationship Behavior - is
referred to as "telling" because this style is characterized
by one-way communication in which the leader defines the roles
of participant(s) and tells them what, how, when, and where to
do various tasks.
High Task/High Relationship Behavior - is referred
to as "selling" because with this style most of the
direction is still provided by the leader. S/he also attempts
through two-way communication and emotional support to get the
participant(s) to buy into decisions that have to be made.
High Relationship/Low Task Behavior - is called
"participating" because with this style the leader and
the participant(s) now share in decision making through two-way
communication and much facilitating behavior from the leader since
the participant(s) have the ability and knowledge to do the task.
Low Relationship/Low Task Behavior - is labeled
"delegating" because the style involves letting participant(s)
"run their own show." The leader delegates since the
participant(s) are high in maturity, being both willing and able
to take responsibility for directing their own behavior.
SLT connects the style of leadership with the maturity level of
the group. That is, to determine the most effective style of leadership,
first determine the maturity level of the group in relation to
the specific task. Then draw a line from the maturity level axis
to the bell-shaped curve in the drawing. The intersection of the
line and the bell curve indicates the most effective leadership
style for that situation. As the group matures, the most effective
style of leadership changes along the bell curve.
Example: On the first day of a trip the participants have a low
maturity when it comes to setting up camp. The most effective
leadership style is High Task/Low Relationship (Telling) since
participants need to be taught how and where to set things up.
On the fourth day of the trip, the group probably has a high degree
of maturity in relation to setting up camp. In this case the most
effective leadership style is Low Task/Low Relationship (Delegating)
since the participants can handle it on their own.
The important point to remember regarding SLT is that there
is no one "best" way to be a leader. Rather, from
one situation to the next there is a most effective style.
As situations change, the tasks change and so do the maturity
levels of the individual or group in relation to the task. Thus,
throughout the trip you will be changing your style in order to
provide the most effective leadership. This also does not mean
that using another style off of the bell curve is "wrong"
but it probably will be less effective or appropriate.
Example: On the fourth day of the trip, the participants know
what to do about setting up camp and are good at doing it themselves.
If the leader(s) use a High Task/Low Relationship style the participants
are likely to wonder why they are being "told" what
to do and may get frustrated or angry with the leader(s).
As the group matures they take on more responsibility for running
the group both in terms of tasks and relationships. The Distributed
Functions Model comes in here because the participants have begun
to take on many of the leadership roles originally provided by
the leaders. As much as possible it is a goal to move to a Delegating
style (as long as the participants are ready for it) since this
helps to facilitate growth through the Cycle of Change.
For example: When teaching an important skill you would be more
task oriented. Also in any emergency situation you need to take
quick charge of things via the task oriented style. Remember to
use your "leader's radar" to assess not only the state
of maturity of the group but also the maturity of each individual.
You may need to use one style with the entire group and different
styles with individuals within the group.
- Age of group
- Motivation of participants
- Trip situations/activities
- Safety issues
Developmental Approach - Maturity can be increased
by the leaders using a little less task behavior (direction) allowing
the participant(s) to take on more responsibility. If this responsibility
is well handled, the leader should encourage the participant(s)
with an slight increase in relationship behavior (encouragement).
Keep in mind that the movement towards changing leadership
styles must be gradual. As the participant(s) reach moderate
levels of maturity the leaders can begin to reduce both task behavior
and relationship behavior. The reduction in relationship behavior
means that the participant(s) have reached a point where they
are confident enough and sharing enough among themselves that
the leaders do not need to provide so much.
Regressive Approach - It is possible that as the
situation changes the groups maturity can decrease. If this occurs
the leader(s) must modify their style in the opposite direction
on the bell curve by increasing task and relationship behavior.
Example: On the fourth day of the trip it is pouring rain. When
the group gets into camp everyone just stands around somewhat
mopey. Even though they know what to do, the weather has gotten
to them and their maturity level has decreased. The leaders need
to become more directive in terms of task behavior to get camp
set up and to increase relationship behavior to help lift people's
1. One-way Communication - giving instructions or making
announcements to the group who are not allowed to communicate.
The listeners are passive and the communication effectiveness
is determined by how the messages are created and presented. It
takes less time to communicate info but is less effective. Though
less frustrating for the sender, it is more unsatisfactory for
the receivers. [Assigning a Task]
2. One-way Communication with Feedback (coercive or directive)
- the leader presents the message and the group gives feedback
on how they understand it. Exchange is completed when the group
members indicate to the leader that they have received the message
correctly. Called coercive because no provision exists for mutual
influence or exchange. The communication begins with the belief
that the leaders's position is correct and that the only information
s/he needs form the group is that they correctly understand and
accept the message. It is faster than two-way communication and
less frustrating for the leader but also less accurate and more
frustrating for the group members. [Teaching a Skill].
When one-way and one-way with feedback are used, communication
can be so poor that informal communication among group members
is necessary in order for them to complete the group's tasks adequately.
Unless members have the opportunity to communicate freely with
the leader, the informal network may become more influential and
effective that the group's formal network. It also may lead to
fragmentation and factionalization if the group members have different
3. Two-way Communication - is a reciprocal process in which
each member starts messages and tries to understand the other
members's message. The leader and the members freely exchange
ideas and information in a productive discussion. Both sending
and receiving skills are needed. All members are able to participate
at will, minority opinions are encouraged and more apt to be expressed.
Feelings of resistance or doubt can be discussed and resolved
at the time. Two-way communication encourages open interaction,
distributed participation and leadership, and consensual decision
making. Although it is much more time consuming and more frustrating
for the leader, it is less frustrating for the group members and
much more effective in the long run since the experience of all
group members is brought to bear.
- Clearly own your messages by using "I" language.
(See Leadership Concepts below).
- Make your messages complete and specific.
- Make your verbal and nonverbal messages congruent.
- Be redundant.
- Ask for feedback concerning the way your messages are being
- Make the message appropriate to the receiver's frame of reference.
- Describe your feelings by name, action, or figure of speech.
- Describe other member's behavior without evaluating or interpreting.
- Acknowledge how the other person is feeling.
- Make sure that your body language communicates your attentiveness
to the person. You should be looking at them, have a focused body
- Paraphrase accurately and nonevaluatively the content of the
message and the feelings of the sender.
- Describe what you perceive to be the sender's feelings.
- State your interpretation of the sender's message and negotiate
with the sender until there is agreement as to the message's meaning.
Leader's radar is all about listening and assessment. It means
being attentive to all of the members of the group, including
your co-leader and yourself. From a safety perspective, it means
being aware of increasing Accident Potential (see Section 10).
From a group dynamics perspective it means being aware of how
each individual member of the group is doing emotionally, physically,
are they being challenged, under stress, getting along with others,
in conflict, etc. It also means having a sense of the group as
a whole. How well are they interacting and coperating, etc. All
of this "information gathering" is for you to determine
what each person needs from you in terms of education, support,
encouragement, being left alone, etc. Leader's radar is made up
of concrete listening skills, conversations with your co-leader,
careful observation, and intuition. As you develop this skill
through actuial trip leading experience, you will be better able
to dtermine what roles and steps you should take in working to
facilitate a positive group experience.
Research shows that in western culture there are gender differences
where men and women tend to use different paradigms for communication.
Women tend to communicate with a goal of establishing connection
and men tend to communicate with a goal of establishing status.
Both status (asymmetrical communication) and connection (symmetrical
communication) can be present to varying degrees in a conversation
and both approaches are used by both men and women.
These two different approaches are often correlated with "soft
skills" and "hard skills" which is why these skills
have been connected with female roles and male roles. The "female
paradigm" (soft skills) is demonstrated when the leader is
focusing on developing positive connections between the members
of the group. The "male paradigm" (hard skills) is demonstrated
when the leader is giving instruction (teaching) since this ususally
creates a hierarchical structure where one person knows more than
another (differential status).
It is important to recognize your own dominant conversational
style and be aware of the situations where it is most effective.
Being a well-rounded leader means expanding your communication
repertoire to include both styles and recognizing when they are
most effective. We need to demonstrate to men that female paradigms
are valid and demonstrate to women that male paradigms are valid.
Like Situational Leadership, there are different situations in
which asymmetrical and symmetrical conversational styles are most
effective. Figure 9.3 shows conversation style as related to Situational
Leadership. As you can see, when the leaders are focusing on more
task-oriented behaviors the most effective conversational style
is more assymmetrical since this is often associated with teaching
skills to participants. When leaders are focusing more on relationship-oriented
behaviors the most effective communication style is more symmetrical
since the goal is to develop positive group interaction. Remeber
that both styles will be active in a conversation, just that one
may be more prevalent than the other depending on the situation.
It is also important to recognize how the dominant styles of your
participants can sometime affect their roles within the group.
In groups seeking to develop camaraderie, men will tend to engage
in establishing hierarchy and women in developing connections.
For example, men are often afraid to ask questions about how to
do something because it "places" them in a lower status
position. Men would rather "figure it out for themselves"
and maintain independence rather than feel uncomfortable in "surrendering"
control. Women may not be as ready to "take over" a
conversation if they feel it will damage the connection between
members. The degree to which hierarchy can be downplayed and connection
increased improves group boding. The OA model of shifting more
responsibility onto the participants while the leaders move from
providing instructions to developing rapport facilitates this
Space tolerance in communication is primarily the difference between
symmetrical and asymmetrical conversation. Women, with a greater
focus on connection, are willing to wait longer to "fill
the conversational gap" than men. Men, due to their focus
on hierarchy, tend to step into the gap more quickly. This can
create the appearance of the male leader as the authority figure
(hard skills) while the female leader is perceived as the group
bonder (soft skills). In fact, both leaders have the same skills.
Leaders need to discuss the issue of their own personal space
tolerance and find a comfortable level for between them so that
both leaders can take on different roles with the group.
Both feedback and self-disclosure are essential communications
skills. Through self-disclosure we reveal things about ourselves
to others in a way that allows us to be vulnerable and demonstrates
that we trust the others in the group. Self-disclosure by one
person tends to lead to self-disclosure by others increasing group
sharing and trust. This is an important behavior for leaders to
model to participants since it helps establish symmetrical communication
and encourages group bonding. Sharing leads to trust. But, one
has to trust in order to share, therefore start
with sharing. It is here that leaders modeling sharing
behavior becomes crucial.
It is important to remember, however, that the level of self-disclosure
has to start slowly. If you get "too deep too fast",
you will frighten others away from sharing. Like Space Tolerance,
different people are comfortable with different levels of slf-disclosure.
In order to create a "safe environment" for all group
members you will need to model levels of disclosure that are appropriate
for all members of the group. You can usually tell whether
people are comfortable going deeper. If responses suddenly get
"light and silly" it may be that people aren't ready
to go any further. Slack off and let the group or individual(s)
get there at their own pace.
Feedback is a tool for leaders to encourage positive behavior
change, to correct inappropriate behavior, and to help others
see themselves more clearly. Remember, like self-disclosure, feedback
is a powerful tool that should be used carefully so as to be at
a level appropriate to the individual or group. Leaders should
also be prepared to give each other feedback throughout the trip
to see how tings are progressing.
- Decide whether the feedback should be to the entire group
or to an individual. If you are giving feedback to an individual,
decide whether it needs to be done in private.
- Feedback should be descriptive rather than evaluative. For
example, "When you were at the crux of the climb and seemed
to be having difficulty, I felt that you took charge of yourself
and continued the climb."
- Feedback should focus on specific behaviors and actions rather
than on generalizations. For example to be told that one is dominating
is not productive. Instead, tell the person, "when we got
into camp you told everyone else what to do and did not allow
anyone else to take an active role."
- Give feedback that focuses on behavior the person can change.
People will only be frustrated if they are reminded of something
over which they have no control or can't change quickly.
- Feedback can be focusing on positive aspects of the person
or group or negative aspects. When focusing on negative aspects,
be sensitive to focusing on specific behavior that is problematic.
Make sure that you express that you value the person, but have
a problem with the specific behavior. Use "I language"
- Make sure the timing is right to give someone feedback. In
general it is best to give feedback at the earliest opportunity.
However, if the person is not going to be receptive to feedback
at this point (disappointed, angry, etc.), then giving it will
not be helpful.
- Try to express your feedback from a point of reference that
will make sense to the person.
- Has a clear understanding of its goals: overall and immediate.
- Is flexible in selecting its procedure as it works toward its
- Has achieved a high degree of communication and understanding
among its members. Communication of personal feelings and attitudes
as well as ideas occurs in direct and open fashion because it
is considered important to the work of the group.
- Is able to initiate and carry out an effective decision-making,
carefully considering minority viewpoints and securing the commitment
of all members to important decisions.
- Achieves an appropriate balance between group productivity and
the satisfaction of individual needs.
- Provides for sharing of leadership responsibilities.
- Has a high degree of cohesiveness (attractiveness to its members).
- Makes intelligent use of the differing abilities if its members.
- Can be objective about reviewing its own processes. Can face
problems and adjust to needed modification.
- Maintains a balance between emotional and rational behavior,
channeling emotionally into productive group effort.
- Members must interact, give and receive help from one another,
and share ideas, information, and resources to help accomplish
the group's goals.
- The group goal of getting the task done at the highest level
possible must be accepted by everyone, and members need to develop
commitment to the group goal.
- Because the possibility exists of different group members doing
different sub-tasks, groups may divide the labor in various ways
to accomplish their goals.
- Rewards, if any, must be based upon the quality and quantity
of group performance, not individual performance.
There are several basic stages that new groups go through as they
move to becoming effective as a group. These stages parallel the
Situational Leadership Model (see above) and as shown in Figure
9.4, different styles of leadership tend to work best at different
points in the overall development of the group.
- Forming (Getting Acquainted) - This first stage
is characterized by a sense of uncertainty and awkwardness and
perhaps anxiety. Participants may be unsure of what to do and
how to do it. The "rules of the road"-group norms and
standards have yet to be defined and participants are eagerly
looking to find out what is okay and not okay. This phase often
shows as tentativeness or even some anxiety on the part of the
participants. Leaders need to set the tone for group behavior,
activities, and interactions (see Establishing Group Norms below).
Most people are polite as they try to put their "best foot
forward." The result is a superficial level of harmony and
cooperation. This serves the purpose of getting the group started
and off the ground in terms of motivation and commitment. Members
may tend to verbalize how close they feel to each other, and may
develop quite a group spirit due to successful task accomplishment.
Leadership at this point should be a combination of High Task/Low
Relationship (Telling) in terms of teaching skills and establishing
norms moving to High Task/High Relationship (Selling) to get everyone
involved and interacting in the group.
- Storming (Struggling Forward) - This next stage
is characterized by individual assertive behavior which may result
in some group instability. Participants have begun to feel comfortable
enough with their new environment to take some risks in revealing
more of their personalities. Each person wants to feel a sense
of individual importance and influence on the group - "finding
a niche." This becomes more evident as increasing responsibility
is shifted to the group as they move into moderate levels of maturity.
The Leadership style which may be most effective are High Task/High
Relationship (Selling). Leaders should not be surprised if some
conflicts develop in the group at this stage. This is part of
the natural process of the group becoming self-sustaining.
- Norming (Becoming Personal) - This stage is characterized
by a growth of affection and establishment of personal relationships.
Participants will begin to take responsibility for resolving conflicts
and strengthening friendships. The Leadership style which may
be most effective is Low Task/High Relationship (Participating)
since the group is competent regarding tasks but needs assistance
and support in terms of relationships.
- Performing (Working Together) - This stage is
characterized by harmony among group members. Participants look
outwards to see how other people in the group are doing to make
sure all are supported. Decision making and problem solving will
be shared within the group. At this stage the group is mature
enough to attend to its own needs both in terms of task and relationship
matters. The leadership style which would be most effective would
be Low Task/Low Relationship (Delegating).
- Transference - This final part of the group process
is essential in making sure that the trip is not remembered as
"just a fun couple days in the woods." It is important
that participants be able to transfer the things which they have
learned about themselves and being in a group back to their regular
lives. This is accomplished through the debriefing process discussed
in below in Transferring the Experience.
Establishing norms is an important part of the first stage of
group development, letting people learn "the rules of the
road." Many of the group norms that we use in OA are actually
underlying goals for the experience (like group cooperation, minimal
impact, etc.). Group norms can be established in three ways:
- Stating - telling/explaining to people how to behave,
e.g. this is how to wear a pack.
- Modeling - demonstrating behavior for others to adopt,
e.g. leaders picking up trash along the trail.
- Importing - bringing in behavior customary in other
social situations, e.g. people will going off into the woods for
privacy to go to the bathroom.
These methods often must be combined in order to work effectively.
For example, if you want to reinforce minimal impact camping practices
you will need to state it as a goal, explain how to accomplish
it, and model the behavior. If the leader simply tells people
to pick up trash along the trail, but then walks right by trash
without picking it up, the participants become confused as to
the norm and may assume that the instruction was merely lip service.
Remember, at the beginning of a trip, participants may not know
what to expect and may not have previous experience in the outdoors.
Direct demonstration is the best way to get things across in this
early stage. Before the trip goes out, think about what sorts
of group norms you want to convey to the group before leaving
campus as well as what things you will need to cover during the
trip. Below are some examples of things to present to the group.
- Group Cooperation (everyone needs to do their share)
- Minimal Impact Camping (idea not specific techniques)
- Substance Free trip
- Challenge by Choice
- Good Communication and Listening between group members
- Respect for Others
During the course of a trip, there are a number of decisions that
will need to be made by the whole group. These might include things
like where to camp, which route to take, whether to rest for the
afternoon or do a side hike, etc. Group decision making can be
a powerful learning and growth tool for the group. It can also
be a place for conflict to develop. The first thing to determine
is whether it is a decision that can and should be made by the
group, or with input from the group, or is it a decision to be
made solely by the leaders. Obviously some issue, such as those
that involve safety, will be made by the leaders. To present such
a decision to the group suggets that they have authority to make
the decision, and if the leaders disagree, they must countermand
the group's decision. Also some decision-making can lead to splitering
the group. Both of these can lead to bad feelings by the group
members and damage the postive group spirit and interaction leaders
have worked to facilitate. Avoid this problem by thinking ahead
and determining what decisions are appropriate for the group to
make. It may be better for the leaders to make the decision from
their status as authorities, that to give the decision to the
group and have the process lead to negative outcomes. Leaders
will also need to decide if they should be involved in the decision
process, or "sit it out." Sometime the presence and
perceived authority of the leaders can slant the decision making
process. However, in certain situations, this can work to your
advantage as a leader. Making good group decisions involves a
process, which the leaders may have to state or model as a norm
for the group to follow.
- Authority Decides - In this case the decision is made
by the leaders by virtue of their role of being responsible for
the trip or by some person determined to have the greatest knowledge
about the topic. This process can be very effective when the individual(s)
have significantly more knowledge than the other members of the
group. It is also very efficient in terms of time. In some cases,
getting feedback from the group may be essential for the leaders
to have all the facts in order to make a good decision. For example,
if the leaders have to decide about changing the route, they need
to know the physical and mental state of all the participants.
The most common scenario for this decision making process is a
safety or emergency situation. Here the leaders need to take charge
of the group. Keep in mind that some individuals, even though
they may be the most knowledgeable, may not be good at making
decisions. Making effective decisions is a skill that all leaders
should develop. If things seem to be breaking down and a decision
is not being made, you may have to move to another method.
- Majority Vote - In this case members of the group are
polled and the option that receives support from the greatest
number in the group is chosen. This strategy works well if everyone
agrees to be bound by it, and if everyone feels they have a chance
to express their viewpoints and needs. However, it can lead to
splitting of the group. Once again leaders should evaluate if
this method will be a positive or negatice experience for the
- Consensus - This is the most effective method of making
a group decision in terms of members feeling included. Consensus
decision making means reaching a decision that all members of
the group are willing to support at some level. In order to reach
this point, everyone in the group must be given ample time to
express their view and time to express their disagrement with
other's views. Through a process of negotiation, the group moves
to an idea that everyone can place some level of support in. this
process can take a great deal of time and "perfect consensus"
is almost never reached. Make sure that you have the time before
embarked on this as you approach. It is counter-productive to
start with the consensus process and then have to give it up to
make the decision some other way because you don't have enough
In all of these strategies it is important for leaders to model
good listeining and communication skills. Leaders may need to
act as facilitators for effective communication through such things
as asking people not to interrupt others, quieting dominant members
of the group, and asking quieter members to speak up.
Group Decision Making Process
- Set goal(s) & prioritize them
- Brainstorm options for achieving goals
- Evaluate the different options and examine how the options
meet the goal(s)
- Determine the decisio-making strategy to be used (see above)
- Decide on an option using one of the following criteria
- Best serves highest priority goals
- Best serves all goals
- Serves goals without creating any negative outcomes
- Creates the least negative outcomes
Conflict can always arise in group settings. Conflict occurs when
there are differences in:
These differences can be between individuals or between sub-groups
within the group. Many times the conflict is due to lack of communication
between people. If people understand the needs, values, perceptions,
etc. of others in the group, then conflict can often be avoided.
This is why one of the important roles of the leaders is to set
the tome of the trip and introduce the basic goals, norms and
values (see Group Development above). This gives all of the participants
a common understanding of what is expected and can help prevent
conflict. There are two major goals you must take into account
when dealing with conflict situations:
- Achieving personal goals (task orientation)
- Keeping good relationships with the other persons (relationship
These two issues may run up against one another. How you deal
with balancing these two goals is important.
When faced with an interpersonal conflict, here are some of the
techniques to use to help resolve or mediate the conflict.
- Compensation - ask yourself if the behavior you are seeing
is compensation for something else. Try to identify the root issue
and deal with that.
- Accept the person but you don't have to accept the behavior.
- Quote OA Policies when necessary. This can take the "burden"
off you as the leader. Saying, "this is OA policy and I am
required to follow it as the individual responsible for leading
this trip." This can displace participant frustration from
the leader to the OA Program Director.
- Quickly correct inappropriate language or other problems.
Don't let bad patterns get started and supported in the group.
- Know how much to push.
- It is OK for leaders to use their authority to set standards.
You can do this in a problem situation by letting others know
that they are not comfortable with certain actions. Example, "I'm
not comfortable with people doing unsupervised climbing so don't
Problems can often be divided into personality related or physically
related (injury, environment). Some possible situations are given
- Correcting Group Action/Decision
If the answer to either of these questions is yes,
the decision must be changed, in doing so:
- Is there a safety consideration?
- Is the decision necessary to correct?
- Act quickly to avoid safety problems.
- Be subtle in transmitting information. It may be just to one
participant and not involve the rest of the group.
- Maintain the worth of all group members and their input even
though you must alter the decision.
- When dealing with someone having difficulty with a challenge:
- Move the situation to focus on something outside the person.
- Break it into discrete, do-able parts.
- Refocus the persons on a level of challenge appropriate to
- If a person is creating a problem it is essential to accept
the person and let them know they are still important, but
you do not have to accept the behavior. Make it clear that
the problematic behavior cannot continue.
- Feeling of lack of control leading to fear can be one of the
greatest motivations for negative behavior. If someone is behaving
negatively, they may be compensating and trying to create a sense
of self-empowerment and control. When you see negative behavior
ask yourself what needs for that person are not being met that
may be resulting in negative, compensating behavior.
- In dealing with problems try to turn the problem into a solution
- flip it 180 degrees. "Your disability is your opportunity."
- Kurt Hahn
Example: Sarah is constantly hiking ahead of the group. She is
in good shape and out distances everyone else. She thinks the
group is too slow and everyone should catch up with her. Let her
know that the challenge for some other is just hiking. She doesn't
have that challenge. Instead her challenge is to slow her pace
down and stay back with the others using her strength to help
the others. You have flipped a problem into a solution.
Sometimes you may get into a situation where the other person
is really having difficulty and their behavior is getting out
of control, what is often known as an "in your face"
situation. Here are some techniques you can use to settle the
- Recognize from early on when you are in an "in your face"
situation or when things are escalating in that direction
- Don't just enter a conversation expecting your own outcomes.
Recognize what the other person's outcomes may be. Not being sensitive
to the other person's needs can often escalte things into "in
- Know when to put off a conversation until another time. Sometimes
emotions are running too high to have a productive conversation.
- Know when the discussion needs to be private. Other times
you may want corroboration from your co-leader that can't come
with a private discussion.
- Don't interrupt people. If someone is out of control, interruption
probably won't get them back in control. Best to let them have
their say completely and then comment if it seems appropriate.
- Give up being invested in making your own point. If things
are out of control, you don't want to feed the fire by trying
to get your own point across. Let it be, at least til later. Spend
your energies trying to reduce the anxiety. After things have
calmed down, have another discussion if necessary to get back
to your points.
- Go into active listening mode. Rephrase the person's comments
so they know you have heard them. Read between the lines and ask
yourself what is going on with this person that is motivating
them to act this way. Remember compensating behaviors. If appropriate,
you can tell them you disagree with their points and list your
- As you rephrase the person's statements, be prepared to apologize
if your find that they have interpreted you in an objectionable
way. "It sounds as if you are frustrated with my telling
you that you can't hike by yourself. I apologize if that offends
you, however, it is the standard OA policy that the group should
stay together for safety reasons."
- Don't raise your voice or change your physical presence. Stay
cool and collected. Changes indicating your anxiety will only
raise the level of tension.
- Monitor your tension level. Be prepared to clamp down on it.
Take a psychological "deep breath" and chill. This process
may need to go on while the other person is talking.
The following are some common personalities and situations that
may appear on an OA trip. It is useful to think about how you
would respond to the needs of this person and perhaps to the needs
of the group.
- Group comes to a trail junction, hiking either route is possible.
Half of the group wants to head down to the river while the other
half wants to head up to the ridge. People start to argue about
- One of the participants, John, has been hiking 1/4 mile ahead
of the group all day. When you ask him to slow up and hike with
the group he says: you all should catch up with me.
- Tom, one of the group members has been having trouble hiking
since the first day of the trip. He has blisters from his new
boots. He has to stop frequently to rest. At one stop he says
he wants to quit and leave. He's sick of holding everyone up.
- It's been raining since early morning. The trail has been
rocky and the wet rocks have been slippery making walking treacherous.
Everyone is cold and damp and frustrated. No one is saying anything.
The planned campsite is still 2 miles away.
- Suzie always seems to hang out by herself. She doesn't say
much during the day hiking. In the evening when the group is playing
games and getting camp set up, Suzie goes off by himself.
- Sam and Jill are the two OA leaders. Sam feels that Jill is
be too active in the group always telling the participants what
to do: put the tarp over there, the stove there, Jill always cooks
dinner, etc. Sam tried to tell Jill to back off a bit. She tells
him that she's lead more trips than he has and she knows what
she's doing. Sam has stopped trying to change the situation.
- Eric and Betty have signed on to the trip as boyfriend and
girlfriend. They spend all their time hiking together. When the
group comes into camp they wander off by themselves. Several of
the group members are grumbling that they don't help out with
- The group has been canoeing down a flat stretch of the Delaware.
Greg and Bill have been acting pretty wild all day. The group
pulls into a campsite above the first rapid of the trip. While
everyone is getting into dry clothes and setting up camp, Greg
and Bill slip off and paddle down through the rapid. The leaders
hear them laughing and yelling after the canoe swamps.
- Dave is a participant on a Freshmen Trip. He's been backpacking
before and brought all his own equipment. He acts the part of
the tough outdoorsman all the time. Putting down people who are
having trouble carrying their weight or hiking up steep grades.
The other members of the group are getting pissed off at him and
generally feel that he is a jerk.
- You are the leader on a backpacking trip. You have set up
camp early and everyone is hanging out on their own before dinner.
You are coming back through the woods after taking a dump and
you smell marijuana. As you peer through the trees you see two
of your group smoking.
- Joe and Sara are leading a backpacking trip with 6 guys and
5 girls. The guys tend to hang out together and are pretty crazy,
a little immature. The women don't really want to have much to
do with the guys and stay together.
- The group has pulled into camp after a long day of hiking.
There's 1/2 hour of daylight left. Steve, a participant, tells
Julie (another participant) that he is going to head up the hill
to catch the view before sunset. An hour later everyone is gathering
at the stoves to start dinner. One of the leaders, Lisa, asks
where Steve is. No one has seen him since Julie did. It is now
- The group has been hiking along a rocky section of the AT.
Alice steps into a pothole and falls over. She immediately starts
screaming that her ankle is broken. The group stops and while
the leaders attend to Alice the rest of the group shuffles around
nervously anxious about Alice and unsure what to do.
OA has the potential to be an extremely valuable learning experience
for many people. The key to making it such an experience is transference;
encouraging the person to transfer the things they have learned
about themselves and dealing with others from the trip back to
their daily lives. The method for facilitating transference is
debriefing. The idea behind debriefing is to get the participants
to think and analyze their experience. There are numerous forms
of debriefing some which can be done throughout the trip. There
also should be a final debriefing at the end of the trip, to bring
the trip to closure and allow an opportunity for reflection.
Processing is an integral part of the Thaw-Shift-Refreeze process.
It is through processing that participants are able to take the
experience and reframe it in a larger context that they can apply
in other areas of their life. In order to do so participants will
need to reflect upon the experiences they have had, how they felt,
reacted, and explore how they can use this new knowledge and experience.
The essence of processing is self-disclosure, either to other
participants or to oneself. Processing through shared group discussion
is a symmetrical communication process which creates rapport and
bonding. Through self-disclosure students learn more about themselves
and learn how others experienced things similarly or differently.
All of these insights can help lead to personal growth. You should
think of processing as a regular part of your trip planning process,
just like laying out a route or buying food. It is important to
have some time each day for reflecting on the experience and tapping
in to how people are doing and feeling.
When to Process
Leaders need to be sensitive to when to utilize processing techniques.
Both for the group as a whole and when individuals in the group
may need to process an experience. Here are some guidelines:
- Daily basis - on a multi-day trip there should be some
form of processing on a daily basis. This can involve informal
discussions about the day after dinner at night. This will help
the leaders track where participants and the group are and help
them plan what sorts of challenges and activities they may be
ready for the next day.
- Before a Challenging Activity - when the group is going
to be doing something readily identifiable as a challenge (rock
climbing, high ropes course) it may be useful to do some processing
about the experience that is coming and how people are feeling
- After a Challenging Activity - after a challenge participants
may need to sit down and process what happened to them. Depending
on logistical issues this might happen immediately afterwards
or sometime later.
- When an individual is having difficulty - recognize
when an individual is in a high stress situation and needs processing
to deal with it immediately. This may need to be done outside
of the group.
- At the end of the trip - as a time to bring the whole
- Open Forum - with this approach you bring the group
together and provide an opening statement in anticipation that
the group will volunteer their perceptions and insights. An example
of an opening statement that you might want to use is "I'm
interested in hearing peoples' reactions to today's peak ascent".
- Questioning - this entails the development of a set
of questions that you would like participants to respond to after
they have completed the activity. The value of this pre-planning
is that you establish specific objectives that you would like
to achieve for the session. Through the identification of objectives
you can develop questions that focus in on the specific issues
that you would like to see addressed at this time. The sequence
of questions that you use will vary according to your personal
style. However, we suggest that you begin with the concrete and
slowly *move on to more insightful types of questions. A general
sequence that you may want to consider involves the use of three
simple questions: 'What happened?', 'What did you learn?', How
can you use this knowledge in the future?' Additional questions
that you may want to consider appear in the section on questions
for the levels of processing on pages.
- Rounds - a round is an activity in which every member
of the group is asked to respond to a stimulus that you have presented
to the group. Rounds are a very valuable tool to make use of.
When time is an issue the use of a designated word or number round
or a word or phrase round is useful for getting people to reflect
and communicate in an expedient manner. It also gives the leader
some important information about individuals that you can use
as you transition from activity to activity or can follow up on
at a later time either individually or with the group. Other advantages
of using rounds are that they can be used at the beginning of
group discussion to get members focused. Rounds give each person
time to think about what they are going to say and also they get
to hear what other people think about the topic of discussion.
They also get individuals to think in greater depth about a specific
issue. As will be discussed later in the section on reluctant
individuals, rounds allow you to get everyone involved and finally
the use of rounds permits you as the group leader to survey the
group to get a general reading of how people are thinking and
feeling. This can provide you with a quick survey of how things
are going and provide stimulus for deciding what issues to focus
on with the group at this time or in the near future. When using
rounds it is a positive practice to vary the starting point so
that different members get to speak first and last. At times you
will want to begin with the person who you know is comfortable
sharing his or her ideas. This will get the conversation flowing
with energy and enthusiasm. This train of thought may also be
extended to negative and positive energy people who are members
of the group. By beginning with a positive energy person and trying
to end with a positive energy individual, you can avoid the pitfall
of allowing the negative energy member to shift the focus of the
group if that is not appropriate at this given time. Finally,
you may want to think about where you want to end the round especially
if you have an individual that you know is reluctant to talk or
who you know is in need of some help.
- Designated Word or Number Round - this can be done very quickly
since each member is asked to respond with either a single designated
word or a number on a scale, which is usually from 1 to 10. A
few examples include: "I would like each of you to think
of your role during the last event and choose one of the following
labels to describe it. 'leader', or 'follower.'" "On
a scale from 1-10, how would you rate your commitment to the course
right now", or "On a scale from 1-10, how comfortable
are you being a member of this group right now. A 1 means that
you are not comfortable at all and a 10 indicates that you are
- Word or Phrase Round - in this type of round group members
are asked to respond with only a word or a short phrase. A few
examples include: "I would like each of you to think of an
adjective that describes how you feel right now." or "I'd
like to hear from everyone, so 1 would like you to think of a
word or a phrase that describes how you think we handled the last
- Comment Rounds - in this type of round group members are asked
to share more than a few words either because the question calls
for more than word or phrase or because there is a desire to have
individuals express more than just a few words. Examples that
you may want to consider using are: "I would like to hear
a brief reaction from each of you in regards to how you think
that we are working as a group." "How did you feel about
your experience on the ropes course? Let's do a round and hear
- Rounds - leaders give the beginning of a sentence or phrase
and ask for a brief response
- One word or number (ex. Were you a leader or follower today?
How would you rate your feelings about the group today on a scale
- Adjectives (ex. Give an adjective that describes how today
went for you)
- Word or phrase (ex. How did you do today? Give me a word or
phrase that describes your day.)
- Fill in the blank (I am happy that today I __________.)
- Free form writing
- Assigning processing questions for participants to write about
- Writing Activity Sheets - incomplete sentences to fill out,
statements to complete (ex. I am confident in myself because...)
- Poetry, Haiku - specific forms that create a more focused
style for writing that may be challenging in their own right for
- Write letter to yourself, open it in one month
- Group journals - students can write at will or different students
can be "assigned" each day.
3. Dyads - two person conversations, increases the amount
of personal involvement, useful before large group sessions
4. Small Group discussions
5. Time Alone
- Solo - make sure that you have set up proper safety guidelines
when doing solos in a wilderness context
- Solitary hiking - spread the group out enough so that people
can't talk, but you should be able to see the person in front
of you, one leader at point one leader at sweep.
6. Drawing - often produces disequilibrium for adults,
provides an avenue for those who aren't as verbal
- Life Spiral - draw a spiral with your birth at the center,
close your eyes and point to a spot. Write or talk about why that
spot on the time-line off your life is important
- Symbol - create a symbol that you feel represents you and
- Personal shield - draw a shield and add items to your "crest."
Explain why you picked particular items to represent you.
- Structure regular periods of time throughout the trip. Let
people know from the beginning that you will spend time reflecting.
- Vary the style and methods used
- Alternate times of day (if you always do it at the end of
the day, people will almost always be tired)
- Provide sufficient "wait time" for people to think
before responding. Also prevents "quick people" from
jumping in all the time.
- Ask open ended questions (ex. What did you think was most
challenging part of the day? instead of How many people
thought the rock climbing was the most challenging part of the
- Ask one question at a time (don't piggy back questions)
- Own the questions you as (ex. "I'm curious how people
feel about today" rather than seeking a "right"
- Give participants specific feedback (ex. "I like how
we broke camp and got moving today")
- Guard against "small talk" by setting a time line
(ex. "Okay, we'll go 5 more minutes")
- If people aren't in the mood, cut the session short. Don't
make everything an encounter group. Give them options an empowerment
for cooling out.
- Move gradually into increasing levels of self-disclosure.
- Make sure people are relaxed. Group backrubs, songs, etc.
can help establish a relaxed atmosphere.
- Acknowledge each person's comments with direct eye contact
and a nod, a yes, or thanks.
- Remember that the leader is modeling the self-disclosure.
You can help move the group into deeper levels by revealing a
bit more about yourself, but, like hiking, go at the pace of the
"slowest" member of the group.
- Remember, this is not an encounter group, just an opportunity
for people to remember their experiences, reflect, and hopefully
- People always have the right to pass. Make sure you come back
to them later unless you have a sense that answering the question
could compromise the person. If you get strong resistance to answering,
don't force it, the person probably has a good reason for not
sharing that information or does not feel comfortable enough with
- Groups may have a tendency to wander away from your initial
question, which is fine as long as you feel the conversation is
useful. If they have simply wandered, you may need to help them
refocus on the question.
In most cases processing is done verbally through discussions
or questions asked by the leaders. There are a number of issues
to keep in mind while facilitating a verbal processing session.
- Setting - processing should be done at a time when
all participants can be focused on the task. Make sure you have
enough time to process. Typically sitting in a circle so everyone
can see everyone else is works well.
- Physical Presence - it is important for the leaders
to have a focused physical presence with good eye contact to participants
as they are speaking, a focused body posture, and verbal or physical
acknowledgment of a person's comments.
- Silence - leaders should not be afraid of silence.
Silence comes as participants search for an answer to a question
or are examining feelings, or feel challenged. Rushing to fill
the silence only interrupts the process for the participants.
Wait and see what happens. If no one responds, try rephrasing
- Sequencing of questions - processing is based on self-disclosure.
Students need to start at easy levels of self-disclosure and move
to deeper levels in a slow, graduate way. Asking questions that
require too much self-disclosure too early will only force sharing
at a superficial sharing. By carefully orchestrating the types
of questions you ask and the order in which you ask them you can
"lead" the participants back through the experience
and help them rekindle their feelings and thoughts at different
points along the way. Then you can ask them to focus on how and
why they reacted certain ways. Finally, you can ask then to reflect
on what they have learned from this trip and how to incorporate
that learning. The general sequence for types of questions is
A What? So What? and Now What? Leaders should use
this basic sequence to design a series of questions for the group.
- A What? Questions that deal with the factual experiences of the trip. These are
easy to answer and help bring back basic memories about the
- So What? Questions that ask why particular events were important or had an
impact. These questions require greater self-disclosure and
require participants to think about their reactions to the
- Now What? These questions require self-assessment and ask that participants think
about what comes next after this experience, how can they take
what they have learned back to other parts of their lives.
Here is a sample ordering of questions that touch on a number
of areas of a group experience.
- What is a visual image that you remember about the trip?
- What is a sound (noise, word, or phrase, etc.) from the trip
that you remember or that stands out in your mind? Why does it
- What is an event during the trip that you remember? Why did
it Stand out?
- If you could remove one thing from the trip what would it
be and why?
- If you could add one thing to the trip what would it be and
- If you had to describe the trip in one word what would it
be and why that word?
- What was the most challenging part of the trip for you? Why?
- What do you think you have learned from this trip?
- How would you describe this trip to a friend who didn't go?
- What would you tell them they missed?
- How do you think you can relate this experience to your life
back on campus or at home?
Fill My Cup - This can be a good activity to use
as part of your final debriefing process. There are a number of
different variations. The basic approach is to have one of the
leaders start and say something positive about the person to their
left. Then you go around the circle with everyone saying something
about that person. You continue until everyone has been to focus
of the group. Options for the specific statements include:
- Something I like about you.
- omething special that you added to the trip.
- A characteristic you have that I admire.
- A characteristic you have that I wish I had, etc.
The final debriefing should be held at the end of the trip, preferably
before getting back to campus. (Once back on campus it is
difficult to recapture the mood of the wilderness and to get everyone
together). This series of questions is adapted from the Thresholds
Program as a method of processing an experience. The group should
form a circle and the leader(s) should ask the questions below.
(Other questions can be used, but notice the format of the questions
below. They begin as easy to answer, without needing much sharing
and work up to more intimate questions. Whatever questions you
use follow this format). Everyone should answer each question.
Hop around the circle asking people for their thoughts. If someone
doesn't have anything to say at that point, remind them that they
have the right to pass but you do want to hear from everyone so
you'll come back to them later. Everyone should answer a particular
question before you move on to the next question. Make the
participants aware that there are no right answers. They should
say whatever they feel. Leaders should acknowledge all responses
with a nod or yes or some other sign of acceptance. Be conscious
of your body language and attitude as you ask a question; often
the attitude you take can influence the willingness of the group
to respond. Remember that leaders are also participants in the
debriefing process and should answer all the questions themselves.
Once again, you are serving as role models so model a "pace"
of self-disclosure that is appropriate for the whole group. Going
"too deep too fast" will push the group back up to a
superficial level, whereas, staying too superficial and light
may never get people to really examine their feelings and the
- What color represents the last six days?
- What was one particularly memorable moment from today?
- What has been the best part of the trip so far for you?
- Were there any events today which you found to be particularly
- Did you have fun today?
- Close your eyes--what sound comes to mind that would characterize
- What was your favorite object from the day? Why?
- What would be the one thing you would like to take with you
from today? It could be a sound, an image...
- What part of the day was your favorite and why?
- Today's favorite time was when I/the group...
- What kinds of challenges do you feel were overcome by yourself
and the group today?
- Give an image from today that you'd like to remember.
- What did you most enjoy doing today?
- What's your favorite movie?
- What is your position of the effects of television and music
on young people? What, if anything, should be done to correct
any problems or ill effects?
- How did you feel getting back on the trail this morning?
- One new thing I learned how to do (or learned about) was.....
- What motivated you to sign up for this trip?
- I thought setting up camp was...
- Think of an animal that describes the person next to you.
- What was your favorite meal on the trip?
- What word would you use to describe the day?
- One reason why I decided to come on OA is...
- Something I'm looking forward to at Princeton is...
- What is one significant thing the trip has done for you?
- What was something that made you stop and think?
- What did you expect to get out of this trip?
- Did you feel leaders-of-the-day was useful for you? How?
- Describe in a few words the real you.
- The best part of our trip was...because...
- What was one good discussion or thought that you had today?
- What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you?
- How do you think today went?
- Do you think that everyone else enjoyed today? How can you
- Tell about a fear that you have and why.
- What were your high and low points of the day? What emotions
were you feeling at these times?
- The most difficult thing about today was...
- How do you feel about the not-environmentally-friendly attitudes
of people that come in here?
- Were there any challenges that you overcame?
- Which is one aspect of the group that you thought worked particularly
- On this trip, have you experienced any event that resembles
something from the past? How?
- What memorable moment could you share with the group?
- Has there been anything about the trip which you would like
to have changed?
- Have you become more comfortable with the wilderness, or maybe
found a greater appreciation for the wilderness by coming on this
- How do you feel about the trip thus far? How does it compare
to your expectations?
- One thing I missed by coming on OA was...
- One thing I gained by coming on OA was...
- In a year what do you most want to remember about these few
- Have you discovered anything new about yourself while being
in the wilderness?
- Do you find that an experience which has occurred on this
trip has changed the way in which you look at a particular aspect
of yourself, others, Princeton etc?
- If you could have brought one more person on this trip, who
would it have been and why? What would they have added to the
- Think of a mood you felt on the trip. What did it feel like
and how do you feel about it now?
- Has any part of this trip brought you a physical or a mental
- How have you grown as a person from these past few days?
- Were there any challenges that you feel you still need to
work towards before achieving and how would you work towards them?
- Where do you think this is leading you in terms of values
and judgments and how have your fellow participants helped your
- Personal qualities I want to work on in myself are....because...
- What do you think you have learned about yourself from the
group and individual experiences of the trip?
- How well did the group work together today? Did everyone
feel satisfied by our performance today?
- How do you think your experience differed from everyone else's?
- What can you carry with you from this trip for future experiences?
- What would your reaction be if, on returning from this trip,
you learned you had missed an important national event?
- What has been the most important or enjoyable aspect of our
- One interesting thing that I learned about someone else in
the group was...
- The most challenging part of this trip for me was...
- What is something that has really been on your mind a lot
lately (bothering you or making you feel good).
- How, if at all, did the week help ease your apprehension about
heading into college life?
- How has this trip been different from your expectations?
- What is a personal challenge that you foresee in the upcoming
- What was something you learned about yourself when you're
in a group situation?
- Would you recommend this trip to a friend and why?
- The biggest adjustment for me so far on this trip has been..
- Today was unlike any day before in my life because...
- Situational Leadership - the idea that there is one
most effective leadership style for a person or a group based
on the situation. It is based on a bell curve set on a X-Y axis
of relationship and task behaviors and the maturity of the participants
regarding the task.
- Teachable Moment - finding an opportunity to introduce
some new knowledge or experience that "fits" with what
- Leader's Radar - sensing how individual participants
and the group as a whole are doing both physically and emotionally.
Using this assessment to decide appropriate leadership strategies.
- Thaw-Shift-Refreeze - the basic model of how we change
our behavior. Often it is a challenge or disequilibrium that initiates
the Thaw and a supportive environment is usually required to help
Refreeze the new behavior.
- Challenge - challenge is often a fundamental part of
the Thaw-Shift-Refreeze Cycle. A challenge occurs when there is
a goal and an obstacle to overcome to reach the goal. The goal
can be internal or external and the obstacle can be internal or
external. If the participant attributes the locus (internal vs.
external) of either the goal or obstacle incorrectly, it may lead
to frustration. The person may need help seeing the situation
more clearly. Remember that each person will have different things
which challenge them and will experience a challenge in different
- The Edge - the point at which we make the shift to
the new behavior in the Thaw-Shift-Refreeze cycle is known as
the edge. We are at the edge of our know behavior moving into
new and possibly unknown territory. This can be a period of great
stress for the person both physically and emotionally (which can
have safety implications in some activities). It may be necessary
to do some debriefing and processing with the person right then
- Debriefing - a process that encourages both personal
reflection and self-disclosure. It is accomplished in various
ways and is an essential part of Transference.
- Safe Environment - creating a "safe" emotional
environment so that participants can fell comfortable telling
the group if they are having problems.
- Task/Relationship Roles - leadership can be broken
down into specific types of behaviors. Task Behaviors are aimed
at moving the group in the direction of completing a task. Relationship
behaviors are aimed at fostering effective group interaction.
Leaders may have strengths in one or both areas and should strive
to improve their behavioral repertoire to include both. As the
trip progresses, the participants may take on more of these roles
as indicated by the Situational Leadership Model.
- Challenge by Choice - an essential aspect of challenge
is that the individual should not be forced or coerced into it.
In some situations (e.g. bad weather) there is nothing we can
do. But in situations where activities are voluntary people must
feel the have the right to say no and not feel a loss of self-worth.
This is part of creating a Safe Environment.
- Setting the Tone - recognizing that the opening stages
of any group are very pliable for establishing group norms. This
is the time to introduce and model appropriate types of behavior.
It is also the time to correct behaviors which are inappropriate
before they become established norms.
- Body Language - make sure that when you are talking
or listening to someone that your body language shows that you
are actively paying attention to them. You should be facing them,
attentive, looking at their face (not down to the ground), and
giving other signs like nods to show that you are focused on what
they have to say. When its your turn to talk, your posture should
be the same, your are focusing your message to that person. Looking
away, etc. suggested that you don't think that talking with them
is important or suggests that you are nervous or are not being
honest. Body language is especially important in high stress situations
and emergencies. Part of the way you take control of the situation
is through your body language and physical presence. Be firm,
direct, look people in the eye, speak directly to them and address
them by name giving specific instructions for what they are to
- Assessment - the process of using Leader's Radar to
assess the current state of participants and the group and apply
the Situational Leadership Model to determining the most effective
leadership behavior for that situation.
- Leaders as Role Models - leaders are carefully watched
for signs of behavior that is appropriate or inappropriate.
- Facilitator - one of the leader's primary goals is
to facilitate effective group interaction and encourage personal
- Honesty - it is imperative that you are honest with
the group at all times. There should be no hidden agendas.
- Your Disability is your Opportunity - the notion that
in some situations it is useful to try to turn a problem into
a positive situation.
- Success and Failure are not Absolutes - the idea that
not achieving your stated goal is still success. If you aim to
get from A-Z and get to M you have still traveled a great distance.
If someone is having difficulty, you may need to help them see
- I Language - owning your feelings rather than placing
the responsibility for them on others by saying "I feel __________
when you _________."
- Gender Inclusive Language - since language can have
extremely subtle effects on individuals it is important to model
this behavior. It will make some more comfortable and may challenge
others leading to a positive Thaw-Shift-Refreeze.
- Respect for Others - this is an inherent value for
OA, a form of minimal impact in working with people. This means
that we have to create an environment where everyone is respected.
You don't have to agree with the person, but you need to respect
- Accept the Person but Not the Behavior - the idea that
if someone is exhibiting problematic behavior that you should
focus on the behavior and still communicate your interest and
caring for the person.
- Refocus - some people in seeking reasons for why things
happen some people tend to be internal attributers (assume it
is something they did or didn't do) and some people are external
attributers (assuming it is caused by something outside themselves).
Neither is always true and often it is a combination. If someone
is having difficulty, try to determine how they are making their
attribution, and if it is, in fact, an appropriate assessment
of the situation.
- Transference - the process of transferring the new
knowledge learned from the trip back to daily life and incorporating
it there. Debriefing is essential to successful transference.
- Recipes, basic ingredients, chefs and cooking styles
- a metaphor for leadership in which the leaders are chefs. Each
may have their own recipes but there are certain fundamental cooking
skills which must be mastered by all.
- Compensating Behavior - the notion that the initial
interpretation for why someone is behaving a certain way may be
incorrect. There may be another issue and the person's behavior
is an attempt to compensate for a situation they find uncomfortable.
- Anxiety Meter - a method of checking to see how stressed
people are feeling.
- Space Tolerance - the idea that each leader tolerates
a certain "response space" between when s/he asks for
something to be done and when, if participants don't jump in,
s/he will do it herself. Leaders have different space tolerances
and problems can result. Co-leaders should discuss their space
tolerance before a trip and negotiate how they will deal with
differences. If I have a low space tolerance, and no one steps
in, I feel uncomfortable that a need is not being met and I step
in. This can prevent others (leaders and participants) from taking
responsibility and can lock me into one role on a trip. I may
need to expand my space tolerance to create opportunities for
- Co-leadership - It is best for leaders to support each
other in front of the group. If you have disagreements with your
co-leader, it is best to work them out privately, unless you feel
there is a safety issue involved. In that case, deal with the
safety issue first.. Better yet, talk with your co-leader before
the trip to explore the goals each of you has for the trip, what
skills and experience you each bring, what areas you need support
on, and to work out how you want to run the trip. This also lets
you talk about possible areas for conflict like Space Tolerance.
- Right to pass - people always have the right to pass
on an activity. This is part of the philosophy of challenge by
choice. In some situations, like debriefing, it is important to
hear from everyone, so a pass means you will come back to that
- Pre-trip briefings - are an important way to start
to set the tone for the trip. This includes discussing activity,
laying ground rules, defining the roles of leaders, stressing
minimal impact and safety, and doing some ice-breaking games (see
Initiative Games below).
- Leaders-of-the-day - is an important structural technique
for moving responsibility for the group from the participants
to the leaders.
- Informal discussions - on the first night of the trip
help set the tone for later debriefings. This gives an opportunity
for checking out how the group felt the first day went, answering
questions, and talking about the next day's activities. It also
give leaders a chance to share some of their thoughts in a low
key way that starts to model self-disclosure.
Initiative games are a great way to bring a group together, particularly
at the beginning of a trip when setting the tone is so important.
They can help people get to know each other and begin that elusive
process of establishing trust. Keep in mind that there is a level
of interpersonal risk in some of these games. Use your leader's
radar to assess where the group is and what they are ready for.
Below is a list of some games. (See Section 15 - Bibliography
& Footnotes: Resources for additional resources).
- Use games which are appropriate to the "level" the
group has reached. If you push too much with games before the
group has developed an identity, you may turn some people off.
- Safety comes first! In any situation in which
people are off the ground they should be spotted at all times.
It is too easy for someone to fall and injure an ankle, etc. which
could ruin the rest of the trip for them. Also be aware if things
start to get too rambunctious and out of hand; this can often
lead to an accidental injury. Slow down the activity or stop it
before something happens. Any unsafe practices
such as hanging upside down, diving headfirst, throwing people,
or overstraining must be stopped immediately. (See Section
10 - Safety & Emergency Procedures: Dynamics of Accidents).
- Consider things such as the weather and the physical condition
of the group to decide the type of activity.
- Be careful of such things as glasses, watches and jewelry
which can get broken (and can also inflict wounds).
The Name Game - Each member of the group must invent some
action to go with their name (a graceful bow, somersault etc.).
Each person says their name and demonstrates their action, and
then says the name and performs the action of the others in the
circle. This continues around the circle until each member has
"performed" everyone else's name and action. This is
a great tool to break the ice and get people to know everyone's
Name Game II - Each member is asked to give their first
and last name and some history or some special thing for them
about the name. (e.g. I am named after my great grandmother who
immigrated from the moon, or I am named after my dad's first cat,
Human Knot - Stand the group in a circle. Have everyone
put their right hand in the center of the circle with the thumb
up. Then everyone should reach in with their left hand and grab
someone else's right thumb. Make sure that right hands are attached
to left hands and make sure that two people don't have both of
each other's hands. Send a pulse around the group to make sure
that everyone is connected (if not, exchange a few hands to connect
everyone). Then try to unscramble the knot back into a circle.
This is another great game to do at the very beginning of a trip
to get people to "unwind." The knot should untangle
unless you have an overhand knot (which cannot be undone, except
by creative reconnecting).
Animal Size Lineup - Whisper to each member of the group
the name of a particular animal. The group must line up from the
largest animal to the smallest by making the animal's sound and/or
acting like the animal. No talking. Then when they have lined
up have each person present their animal to the group and the
group must guess the person's animal identity. See how close the
group came in its size lineup. This can also be done blindfolded
by just using noises.
Circle Sit - Have the group stand in a circle facing in,
then have everyone turn 90 degrees to the same side so that they
are facing the back of the person in front of them. Tighten up
the circle and have the group all sit at once so that each person
sits on the lap of the person behind. Once sitting, try to get
the group to move the circle around by having everyone lift the
same foot and shuffle it forward, then move the other foot and
"walk." Then have the group stand back up simultaneously.
Group Stand Up - Sit the group in a tight circle with their
backs to the center and have them link arms and then try to stand
up as a group. You can start with only part of the group then
slowly add more and more people.
Monster Race - A Monster is formed by counting the number
of feet and hands in the group and dividing by 2. That number
is the total number of appendages (hands or feet) that can be
touching the ground. The goal is to build a Monster with only
that number of appendages touching and have the monster move as
a unit from one point to another. If there are enough people,
you can form two or more Monsters and have a race.
Circle Stand - Draw a circle 1 foot in diameter on the
ground. The entire group must stay within the circle for one minute.
Caterpillar - Have the group lie down on their stomachs
side by side creating a long line. The person on the end rolls
over everyone down the line and drops in at the far end continuing
the line. Go through the entire group moving slowly across the
ground. Make sure that the ground is suitable-not rocky
or covered with glass, etc.
Camp Setup - Have the group set up camp without talking
and only using one hand per person. This should go on for a specified
period of time or until some event (like the tarp setup) has been
completed. For safety, all stove and fire activities will
be performed using 2 hands , minimal talking is permitted.
A What? - Sit in a circle facing the center. One person
starts the game by taking an object, turning to the person on
his right and saying "this is a _______." That person
then turns and responds, "A What?" The first person
says, "A _______." Then the second person says, "Oh,
a _______." The second person turns to the third person and
the entire exchange repeats until it has worked all the way around
the circle. Once people have the hang of it you can confuse everyone
by calling the object some other name (for example pass a rock
and call it a fish) and/or by starting another object going in
the opposite direction from the first object.
Taffy Pull - First make sure that no one is wearing sharp
jewelry or belt buckles, Then divide the group into two teams,
the taffy and the taffy pulling machine. The taffies all sit down
and link arms, legs and bodies to be a tangled taffy mess. The
taffy pulling machine has the job of trying to gently pull
the taffy apart into human sized bits. Keep in mind that the best
taffy is made by smooth stretches-if you pull too hard the taffy
will snap. And it's up to the taffy to decide how much s/he wants
to stay part of the taffy mass. Each piece of taffy that gets
pulled off becomes part of the taffy machine.
Killer - The OA leader should explain the rules of the
game and then when everyone's eyes are closed s/he should pick
a Killer by tapping the person on the head. (If the leaders want
to play, slips of paper can be passed around and the one with
the X is the Killer). The Killer kills by blinking one eye at
his victim. The victim must see the blink in order to be killed
and must wait for 5 seconds after the blink before "dying".
(Be melodramatic!) Once killed you become a spectator. The survivors
must try to figure out the identity of the Killer before they
are killed. If someone has a suspicion one can announce, "I
have an accusation." Unless someone else says, "I second
the accusation," the game continues. If someone does second
the accusation, the two accusers count to three and then each
point to the person each one suspects. (Without conferences,
gestures, etc. before pointing.) If they both point to a person
who is innocent or if they both point to different suspects, (even
if one of the suspects is the Killer), they are both dead because
of poor detective work. If both point to the Killer, s/he must
confess and the game is over.
Red Handed - The group forms a circle facing in and one
person, who is selected to be IT, stands in the center. The IT
person closes his/her eyes while the other players pass some small
object (e.g. a pebble) from person to person in the circle. The
sneakiest pass is to hold the pebble in one fist, palm down, and
drop it into the palm-up hand of the next person in the circle.
After the object has begun to make the rounds IT opens his/her
eyes, searching for the object. If IT suspects someone s/he taps
that person on one of the person's hands. If the suspect is empty-handed,
the game continues with IT searching. If the person has the object,
that person becomes the new IT and the old IT joins the circle.
Trust Circle - Group members stand in a tight circle, shoulder
to shoulder facing in. One individual stands in the center of
the circle. This person should stand straight, with feet together
on the ground and arms at his/her sides-continue to stand straight
but not rigid. S/he then closes his/her eyes and gently "lets
go" falling to one side of the circle. The group members,
standing with their palms facing the person gently catch
the person and pass him/her across and around the circle. If the
person gets out from the center of the circle, stop the person,
hold him/her gently, and move the circle so the person is once
again in the center. After a time the members of the circle can
move out a bit. As this is done the circle members should stand
with one leg behind them to serve as a brace for when they take
the person's body weight. Don't step back too far. The goal
is to gently pass the person, not throw them back and forth across
a huge circle.
Back Rubs - In pairs, a line or a circle, work the kinks
out gently. Remind your group members that people have different
tolerances for how hard/soft a back rub they want.
Trust Walk - Have the group line up holding hands. One
person at one end is the leader. The rest of the group closes
their eyes (or is blindfolded) and the leader leads them over,
under, around and through various obstacles. The leader must guide
the person directly behind him/her by vocal and/or tactile directions
and that person must do the same to the "blind" person
behind him/her and on down the line. This can also be done in
pairs. It is an interesting way to let people explore an environment
(trees, bark, leaves, wet moss etc.) Be careful of people falling,
Trust Fall - Find some object (tree stump, rock etc.) that
can be stood upon which places a person 4 - 5 feet off the ground.
It must be a stable object. Form the group into two parallel lines
facing each other. People should interweave arms with the people
across from them to make a "zipper". Have one person
stand on the stump or rock, close his/her eyes and fall gently
into the net. The person must keep their body completely rigid
with their hands crossed over their chest. Start with someone
fairly light so the group gets the feel of it before doing the
heavier members of the group. With heavy people make sure the
you have strong folks at about the middle to catch and support
the major body weight.
Dyads - Separate the group into pairs, preferably with
someone they do not know well and have them find a space together
to talk. Each person in the pair will spend X minutes telling
his/her partner anything s/he would like the other person to know
about home, hobbies, family, things they are good at, goals, Princeton,
etc. The partner will simply listen, asking few questions and
making a minimum number of comments along the way. Reverse roles.
Then have everyone regroup and have each person introduce their
partner by saying some of the interesting things they learned
about their partner.
Find Your Feet - Have everyone in the group sit in a circle
blindfolded and without talking. Each person must take off two
items of clothing (shirts, shoes etc.) and place them in the middle
of the circle. Mix up all the items. Then everyone must find their
own things and get someone to put them back on (without seeing
Crevasse Practice - Tie a rope round the waist of each
group member about 6' apart (you may need to have several ropes
with several persons per rope). Have the group break camp in the
Cookie Machine - Form two lines facing each other standing
shoulder to shoulder with elbows bent and forearms in front, palms
up. Alternate arms with the people to your left and right to create
a "zipper." You are the giant conveyer belt of a cookie
machine. The person (cookie) should stand back from the line and
announce what type of cookie they want to be. They cna then slide
into the arms of the cookie machine or run and jump with arms
outstretched. They are then passed down the conveyer belt and
are bounced and rotated so that they bake evenly. Meanwhile the
machine should give some baking sound effects. Be careful lowering
the person to the group at the end. Also be careful of glasses,
watches, and jewelry for both the cookie and the machine. - from
More New Games
Yurt Circle - A yurt is a type of Mongolian nomad tent
in which the roof pushes against the walls in equilibrium, keeping
the structure standing. Form a circle with an even number of people.
Everyone should be facing the center and standing shoulder to
shoulder holding hands. Go around the circle, one person says
'in" and the next person says "out" alternating
around the circle. Keep your feet planted firmly on the ground.
On the count of three all the "ins" lean toward the
center of the circle and all the "outs" lean back. The
yurt stays upright because each part lances and supports the whole.
- from More New Games
Bivouacs - ridge tops on clear nights with good weather
are great for these. Even if its just getting the group out from
under the tarp to sleep out under the stars (and not be so dependent
on the plastic).
These have become a fun thing to do while hiking down the trail.
The person presenting the mystery should give the situation and
ask what happened. The others participating must solve the mystery
by asking questions. The presenter can only answer yes, no, maybe,
or it doesn't matter. (Solutions are listed upside-down on the
- A man is lying dead in the forest, with a matchstick clutched
in his hand.
- A man walks into a bar, sits down and asks the bartender for
a glass of water. The bartender pulls out a gun and points at
the man. The man says, "Thanks," and walks out of the
- A man is driving along a mountain road, listening to the radio.
Suddenly, he drives off the road and over a cliff and dies.
- There is a table with 53 bicycles on it. A man, sitting at
the table, is hunched over, quite dead.
- A man gets on a train in town A and heads to town B. He boards
a train back to town A. Halfway there, he becomes distraught and
leaps from the train, killing himself.
- A man wakes up in the morning and reads the headline of his
local paper: "Mrs. Smith Dies in Ski Accident in Switzerland,"
and he announces, "That wasn't an accident. That was murder!"
- There is a man standing next to a box. Seven people walk in,
look in the box, nod to each other and then the man, and walk
- A man goes into a seafood restaurant down at the harbor. He
orders the special for the day, albatross soup. He takes one bite,
then goes out to buy a gun and kills himself.
- A man is found dead hanging from the ceiling in a completely
empty room with all doors locked from the inside. There is a pool
of water on the floor.
- Three soldiers were flying in a balloon on a reconnaissance
mission over enemy territory. Unfortunately, the balloon started
to lose altitude. Realizing that if they crash they would certainly
be caught and killed, they decide to take drastic measures. Since
they had already thrown all their ballast overboard, they decided
to draw matchsticks. The person with the shortest match stick
would have to jump, allowing the others to escape. The person
dead in the fall was the unlucky one.
- The man who walked in to the bar had the hiccoughs. The clever
bartender figured that scaring the person with the gun would be
better than a glass of water, and he was right.
- The man in the car is a disk jockey at a nearby radio station.
He had just committed a murder for which he knows he will be the
prime suspect. In order to set up an unshakable alibi, he taped
his radio show ahead of time and committed the murder while the
tape was being broadcast. On the way back to the station he hears
the tape machine malfunction and stop on the radio. He realizes
his alibi is useless and kills himself.
- The 53 bicycles are actually a deck of cards, with bicycles
on the backs. The dead man was caught cheating (slipping an extra
card in), and was shot by another player.
- The man who lives town A has been blind all of his life. He
has an operation performed on his eyes in town B in an attempt
to restore his sight. The operation was a success. However, on
the way back to town A, the train enters a tunnel and suddenly
there is no light. Thinking he has lost his sight forever, he
jumps from the train.
- The man is Mr. Smith's travel agent. Mr. Smith murdered Mrs.
Smith while they were vacationing. The agent knows because Mr.
Smith, a real penny-pincher, bought a two-way ticket for himself
to Switzerland and only a one-way ticket for his wife.
- The seven people and the man were shipwrecked on an island
with no food. Finally, in order to survive, they resorted to drastic
measures. They had the man, who was a surgeon, remove one hand
from each person so the group would have food. The surgeon kept
both of his hands so he could perform the operations. Eventually,
the group was rescued. As part of the group's agreement the surgeon
had to have one of his hands removed when they returned to the
mainland. His hand was in the box in the room. The seven entered,
saw that he had fulfilled his part of the agreement, and left.
- The man was part of the crew of a freighter that sank in the
Pacific. He, and two other crewmen, his best friends, were adrift
in a lifeboat for weeks. They had no food and all their attempts
at catching fish had failed. He became weak and delirious. One
of his friends died and the other cut up the body to keep them
alive. The surviving friend told the man that he was eating an
albatross that had been caught. When the man ate the albatross
soup in the restaurant it didn't taste anything like what he had
eaten on the lifeboat. He realized what had happened and killed
- The man committed suicide in the locked room. He hung himself
by standing on a block of ice, which melted.
- Joining Together, Johnson, David & Johnson, Frank, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1982.
- Teaching a Skill, Nantahala Outdoor Center, Bryson City, NC, 1983.
- Management of Organizational Behavior, Hersey, Paul & Blanchard, Kenneth, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1977.
Copyright © 1995 Outdoor Action Program, Princeton University.