In this problem-solving activity students become blind sheep. A shepherd has to lead them to the flock without words, only by using different sounds and noises.
- to encourage trust
- to strengthen communication and cooperation
- to break down barriers between individuals or teams
- to work towards a common goal
Choose an adequate place for the activity. Outdoors is the best option, alternatively a room with enough space to move around can be suitable.
Step by step description
- Introduction of the activity:
“For the next hour you will mutate into a flock of sheep. A bad wolf has scared you and, panic-stricken, you have run far away from your sheep flock. Now you are in a dangerous environment and you have no idea where you are. You can’t see anything, because your are blind. The good news is that you can be sure that your shepherd will lead you back “home” safely. You just have to trust him/her and follow the signals he/she gives you …”
- Explanation of the rules:
“You will be blindfold. One by one I will place you in 'unknown surroundings' (in this room or outdoors). When everybody is in his/her place I will assign the shepherd and lead him/her to a place where he/she will stay for the next 20 (or 30) minutes. The shepherd can see, but can´t move from the place, and his/her aim is to lead sheep to the shepherd´s place, where the flock will reunite again. The shepherd has 20 (or30) minutes to get the sheep to the flock. From the moment on you get blindfold, you are not allowed to speak during the whole game – neither the sheep nor the shepherd. You can only communicate by using different sounds (e.g. claps, whistles, noises…). The sheep must not hold on to each other during the game. When the sheep come to the shepherd´s place, they can take off the scarf and observe the game (still in a silence)."
- The students have 5 (or 10) minutes to prepare their own strategy and to specify the flow of the activity.
- The game starts as announced previously. Blindfold the students, place them in different parts of the room (or in the outdoor surroundings) and assign the shepherd by taking his/her scarf off. Choose a suitable place for the shepherd where he/she can see all sheep. After 20 (or 30) minutes the clock rings and all sheep should have reached the flock.
Reflection with the students / questions for debriefing
- Sheep: Did you trust the shepherd? Did you understand his/her signals? What was particularly helpful for you?
- Shepherd: Was it easy/difficult to guide the blind sheep without moving from your place, by just using sounds and noises?
Reflection for all students:
- What went well during the activity?
- What did not work out? Which problems emerged?
- Was there enough time to fulfill the task?
- What would you do differently if you tried it again?
- What do you guess, why did we do this exercise? What have you learned out of this activity?
Suggestions for adaptations and variations
Play the activity twice or three times, each time with a different shepherd. It may be interesting to observe how the group dynamics change and how the students learn to follow the sound more effectively.
A (more complex) variation: The shepherd tries to get the flock to a marked place which is not the same as the shepherd´s place.
Reference / original source of the method
This activity was facilitated by Martina Čujová, during her workshop "Problem Solving Activity" at the aces Kick-Off Meeting 2010 in Senec, Slovak Republic.