Jen Bladen

Here’s a problem-solving and team-building activity I found in a book I really like, Teambuilding with Teens by Mariam G. MacGregor, M.S.

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The game reminds me of a game that my Girl Scout leaders (one of whom was my mom!) taught us: each of us in the web were plants and animals in a particular ecosystem. The activity was to show us that if any one member of the food chain (web) were to disappear, the whole system would dissolve.

Here’s a simplified version of the activity. Before you begin, create nice big easy-to-read nametags for their words.

Circle Up

Have students form a tight (shoulder-to-shoulder) circle. Explain that this is a listening activity and that they should remain very quiet and observant. This is not a competition.

Name Game

Pass out name tags with words. Here’s the list from the book – don’t hand them out in this order! Mix them up. But make sure Vision and Leadership are across the circle from each other – these two will be the last ones standing.

Build A Web

Hand a large roll of string (or a skein of yarn) to Vision, but act like that’s a random choice. Ask the student to hold tight to one end, and then toss the roll to anyone else in the circle. (They can’t hand it to the person next to them – they must toss it across the circle.) “Guide the group as they toss the roll of string across the circle to each member of the group until everyone is holding onto a section of the string” (MacGregor p.57). Remind everyone to hold onto their piece of the string very securely! We’re building a web.

Set The Stage

Say, “Now I’m going to tell you a very sad story. I want you to listen very carefully and when you hear your name called, step out of the circle and let go of your piece of the string. If you still have your string, I want you to work with the rest of the web to keep it off the ground as best you can.”

Sad Story

Tell the story (abbreviated here) from the book. Address each player by their game-name.

  • Friendship: Lately it seems that people just haven’t been getting along. You need to step to the side and try to figure out why. [Friendship drops his string and steps out.]

  • Support…

  • Trust…

  • Cooperation: People are having more and more trouble working together. No one wants to help. Stop and figure out a new approach. [Cooperation drops her string and steps out.]

  • Recognition…

  • Organization…

  • Adaptability…

  • Fairness: You’ve been so busy trying to keep everyone happy that you’re starting to get too involved and can’t stay objective. Get out of there! [Fairness steps out and drops his string.]

  • Decision Making…

  • Respect: What respect? …Why not go sit on the sidelines?

  • Understanding: You’ve had it! …Get out while you can.

  • Motivation: Morale is horrible… Give it up.

  • Creativity…

  • Communication…

  • Empathy: Nobody seems to care about anyone’s feelings, and you have no energy left for keeping an open, upbeat attitude. Go sit and sulk.

  • Approachability…

  • Dependability…

  • Risk Taking…

  • Vision and Leadership: You are the only ones left; it’s up to you to pick up all the slack. What are you going to do? How will you keep it together?

Talk About It.

This is the most important part of any team-building activity. If we were to leave it at the end of the activity itself, they’d remember a silly game with string and none of the lessons it could illustrate. Here are (direct and indirect quotes of) questions the book suggests.

  • “What stands out most from this activity?”

  • “As time went on, how did it feel to have to leave the circle? What was it like to be left in the circle?”

  • How does this activity reflect what’s happening in this group on a day-to-day basis?

  • Upon whom do we rely for each of these things? Who is “Friendship”? Who might be “Communication”?

  • “Does this group need to change how things are being done in order to be more successful or better prepared for challenging situations or crisis? If in real life the group were falling apart as this web activity symbolized, what would need to happen to bring your group back together?”