Fun and games and "decision making." (leadership activities are good outdoor party games)
Playing games leads to learning--and lots of laughter--in the activities pictured and described on these pages. Arranged by The Wilderness Institute, a nonprofit educational organization, these games are among the activities used for one-day leadership-training programs.
Instructors find that "initiative' activities improve skills such as communication, cooperation, teamwork, listening, trust, risk taking, decision making, leadership, "followship,' planning, problem solving. For some players, it may be in introduction to these skills; for others, it may reawaken a few dormant ones.
The games are suitable for all ages. Because they usually require physical contact, patience, and group effort, they make good party activities; try a few at your next block party, family gathering, Scout meeting, or company picnic.
Seven easy games to try for starters
We list them from simple to more complex in terms of equipment.
Pass the hoop. (This is a good icebreaker.) Make a circle, hang a hula hoop on one player's arm, and hold hands. The group must pass the hoop over each player and on to the next without breaking the chain of hands.
All stand up. (Use as a warmup to develop a sense of cooperation for more complicated games.) Each player chooses a partner. Partners sit facing each other, with the soles of their feet touching, and grasp hands. The next step is for both partners to stand up at the same time, keeping their feet together and not releasing their hold. When you've done this one successfully, try it with a group of three or four, or more.
Coyotes and crows. Blindfolded participants take scattered positions. An overseer whispers a critter identity to each. Using only "caws' or "howls,' each player locates his or her teammates and gathers with them until entire team is assembled.
Blind polygon. The object is to form a perfect square, triangle, or pentagon with a knotted length of rope. Have each player bring a scarf or bandanna to use as a blindfold. With eyes covered, participants must keep both hands on the rope at all times (sliding is allowed). It gets more challenging as your numbers increase.
Trolley. The aim is to move a 3- to 10-member team on the "trolley' from point A to point B--with no casualties. You'll need two 8-foot-long 4-by-4s with holes drilled about 12 inches apart and lengths of rope to knot and slip through the holes. (Set a time limit.)
Swamp cross. The goal is to get a team of 6 or more across a "swamp' (at least three times the length of the boards you use) without anyone touching the ground or going backward. Equipment: two 8-foot-long 2-by-12s, four milk crates, and a 20-foot rope.
Spider web. Objective: get all team members through a "web' without alerting the spider by touching the strands (if anyone touches, the whole team must start over). For the simplest variation, tie two lengths of rope between two trees, making an X. A four-member team can use each opening only once. For larger teams, add more ropes to make more, smaller openings. (Set a time limit.)
If you'd like to try other initiative games, two books are particularly helpful: The New Games Book, edited by Andrew Fluegelman (Doubleday, New York, 1976; $7.95), and Silver Bullets, by Karl Rohnke (Project Adventure, Box 100, Hamilton, Mass. 01936, 1984; $14.95).
For more information about The Wilderness Institute, write to the institute, 23018 Ventura Blvd., Suite 202, Woodland Hills, Calif. 91364, or call (818) 887-7831.
Photo: Swamp cross
With two 8-foot planks, four crates, and 20 feet of rope, a six-person team must devise way to cross imaginary 25-foot-wide swamp
Photo: Blind polygon
Without letting go of knotted rope, blindfolded team tries to form an equilateral triangle (or other shape). You can do this with groups of 6 to 30
Photo: Coyotes and crows
Two blindfolded teams seek out co-members using only animal sounds. Players crawl to prevent accidents
Ropes and 4-by-4s make a trolley; four-member team must travel predetermined distance. It takes communication, cooperation--and good balance.
Photo: Pass the hoop
Withough using clasped hands, players pass hoop over neighbor's head; neighbor steps through, passes it on