“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”
At camp having success is dependent on the talent and skills that each individual staff member brings together to build the most effective team. Team building goals include but are not limited to promoting leadership, motivation and having a productive camp. Whether it is orientation, workshops or a mid-season refresher, using the most effective team building exercises are essential in improving chemistry, break down personal barriers and most important having fun. Check out these five easy team building exercises, adopted from my travels to numerous staff trainings and conferences to improve your team!
Summary: Progressive Groups is an activity designed to help trainees get acquainted, moving from one-on-one contact and discussion to small groups.
Materials Required: None.
Procedure: In a large room or outdoors, announce that you are forming a map of the continental United States, and indicate the furthest most points of it (and the directions of the compass) by showing where Maine, Florida, California, and Washington would be. Ask group members to place themselves in the proximity that they originally hail from. Those from out of the country should place themselves in the proper direction away from the States. Once this is done, have people identify to the others where they are standing (geographically). Divide the entire “map” in half, and have participants pair with another person from the opposite side of the map. Once these pairs are formed, have members of each pair talk for 4 minutes about what they love about children and camp (specify 2 minutes each). Then have each pair find another pair, and discuss for 4 minutes what they believe are the most important things camping can provide for children (specify 1 minute each). Continue in this way, changing topics, and gradually increasing numbers of people, while perhaps reducing time.
- How did it feel when there were more people to talk, and less time in which to do it?
- What might that tell us about our relationship to children?
Summary: Shut-Out develops awareness of social isolation and the potentially harmful results of cliques.
Materials Required: None.
Procedure: In groups of 8-10, one person from each group volunteers to be it, and stands outside of group. Rest of group stands in tight circle, as close as possible, and leader instructs them to place their arms around each other’s shoulders and waists. Leader now instructs the person on the outside to try to get into the circle of the group. Let the outside individuals attempt this for 3–5 minutes, and then stop activity for processing. Use with other group building activities.
- The people who were on the outside: How did you feel as you were trying to get into the group?
- The people on the inside: What were your feelings as you kept that person out of your group?
- Was there anyone who got into the circle?
- Was there a group that let the person in?
- Did anyone notice that I did not, at any point, tell the groups not to let the outside person in?”
Continue processing in this manner.
Who’s the Leader?
Summary: Who’s the Leader, is a cooperative guessing game requiring concentration and increased perception, and utilizes existing skills.
Materials Required: None.
Procedure: In one group sit in a circle, facing inward. One person volunteers to leave the room (or area). Group decides who will be the leader (should not be the usual leader). This chosen leader begins an action which the group will repeat (clapping hands, snapping fingers, tapping shoulders etc…). When the volunteer returns, he or she will find the group doing something (such as clapping their hands). Their job is to identify the leader, who is the only one who can change the action of the group (leader changes from hand-clapping to finger snapping). The leader should change activity every 5-10 seconds. Once discovered, another person volunteers to go out.
Four Letter Words
Summary: Four Letter Words is a very active, cooperative/competitive game requiring quick thinking. This exercise can get noisy, therefore perfect for groups that are either timid or too laid back.
Materials Required: A large card with a letter of the alphabet on it for each participant (will need to repeat some vowels and consonants).
Procedure: Everyone is given a card with a letter of the alphabet on it (avoid rarely used letters such as x and q; add extra vowels). The object of the game is at the word “Four!” to find three other people whose letters, combined with yours, spell a four–letter word. Allow one minute to pass, try to sort out who is left, and quickly have groups announce their word. Play again, forming groups of three, five, and six.
Camp Common Book
Summary: This team-building exercise takes place not in one sitting, but over time with camp staff. Make a large, blank journal or scrapbook available in the break room or other common areas. The book may have prompts on each page, asking questions or suggesting things to write or draw. Or, you may have guidelines printed and displayed next to the book (i.e. no swearing, nothing offensive, no complaints, no scribbling out other’s work, etc.).
Materials Required: Pens, markers, tape, large blank notebook or book. Leave pens, markers, tape, and other items that your team can use to write and draw in the book. Encourage them to write down quotes from things they are reading or from team members, to write about a fun event that happened at camp, tape or glue ephemera or anything that helps record the team’s culture. When the book is full, put it on the shelf and get a new one.
Purpose: This team exercise creates a kind of living history of your camp that you can keep adding to. It is somewhat similar to the Zappos culture book, but allows your team a chance to build it more directly. It encourages creativity, collaboration, and recollection. It also gives you something concrete to look at in the future to see where your team has been and how far they’ve come.