The students cooperate in order to solve the challenge of moving blindfolded and speechless from one field to another.
- to foster cooperation by moving blindfolded and speechless
- to raise awareness about the significance of communication and cooperation in solving problems
- Make sure that the distance to move from one defined field (= shuttle) to another one (= mother ship) is long enough (at least 30 to 50m, distance and ground depending on the group), possibly over uneven ground. Secure the gaming zone, but put some obstacles on it to increase the challenge for the students. Ideally, the activity takes place outside, optionally the school yard could be used.
- Set the scene and define the fields for an imaginary mother ship and a shuttle.
- Explain the „Stop Rule“:
Everybody can say stop at any time, if he/she feels unsafe or unwell physically, emotionally, psychologically. A stop will end any activity or discussion immediately and does not have to be explained. All will then re-evaluate the situation and decide how to go on.
Step by step description
A story around the activity makes it more fun and lively, it also increases the feeling of a real-life situation and, accordingly, the pressure and the group dynamics.
Imagine the following situation: You are a group of specialized and highly skilled astronauts on a space mission. Suddenly your space shuttle breaks down. You realize that you have to evacuate your shuttle and return to the mother ship. There is a little bit of oxygen left in the shuttle for your crew, but it will be used up in 5 minutes. Your crew members have to evacuate the ship by that time, but can still be in space suits safely. All have to reach the mother ship in 15 minutes because otherwise there will not be enough oxygen available.
Outside the shuttle the astronauts are safe, thanks to the special space suits they wear. The suits have sun-visors to protect the eyes (blindfolds). They also have an inbuilt intercom for all to be able to hear the instructions from the space shuttle as well as the mother ship. The astronauts cannot communicate with each other with words while they are on their space walk. Will all of them manage to reach the mother ship safe and sound?
2. Two students volunteer for the mother ship and take their positions as „instructors“. Two other students volunteer for the shuttle and remain there for the next 5 minutes. After 5 minutes they have to leave, too and to reach the mother ship („the oxygen in the shuttle is going to be used up very soon“). Students in the mother ship do not leave their field position for 15 minutes.
Both the students in the mother ship and in the shuttle can see and speak – they give verbal instructions to their astronaut-colleagues on their way from the shuttle to the mother ship.
3. All other students get blindfolds – they cannot see and they cannot communicate with each other, but they can hear the instructions from their colleagues in the mothership and the shuttle.
4. After 5 minutes the alarm clock rings and the last 2 astronauts on the shuttle now have to leave. From now on they depend on the instructions of the astronauts in the mother ship. During their trajectory they are also blindfolded and speechless.
5. After 15 minutes the alarm clock rings again. Did all astronauts manage to reach the mother ship?
In case the team does not manage to fulfil the task, an intervention by the teacher/facilitator might be helpful. Ask all participants to stand in a circle. Let them describe the process (do not do it for them, only if needed). What was difficult? What was helpful? What would you do differently if you tried again?
Questions for debriefing
- How did you like the activity?
- How did you manage to cooperate in teams (mother ship, shuttle, walking astronauts) and between teams to reach your goal?
- How did the 2 remaining astronauts in the shuttle feel and react in face of time pressure to reach the mother ship?
- Mother ship and shuttle: How easy/difficult was your job to guide your blindfolded colleagues by giving instructions?
- Walking astronauts: Did you receive clear and helpful instructions?
- What was particularly helpful? What would you do differently if you tried again?
- What do you guess, why did we do this exercise? What could we learn out of this activity? (Collect the learning on flipchart.)
Suggestions for adaptations and variations
Variation: Blind worm walk
All people in the group are blind and not allowed to talk. Only one person can see. This person has to stay at the very back of the group and help the navigation. The group has time to come up with ways of communication without talking.
Reference / original source of the method
This activity was facilitated by Katrin Lüth during her workshop "Travel Guide – Project Cycle" at the aces Kick-Off Meeting 2012 in Laško, Slovenia.