Treacherous Tarp Fold

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Treacherous Tarp Fold
Topic Teamwork, Communication, Leadership
Group Size Any
Prep Time 0-20 min
Setting Anywhere
Age Group Youth
The Point How to work together to solve a simple, but difficult problem

Back to Experiential Learning

Supplies Needed

  • 1 Tarp or sheet (that you don't care if it gets dirty) for about every 10 people. You'll have to guesstimate the size of the team per a tarp because it's not an exact science. Basically, if the Tarp/Sheet is completely laid out on the floor unfolded, then each group should only take up about half of their tarp when they are all standing on it.

How to Set Up

  • If you have a small group of 15 or less, you can use the whole group on 1 tarp. Otherwise, divide up them up into groups of around 10 or so. This game will force your participants to be scrunched together physically, so you may consider dividing the teams by gender. Place each team on their own tarp or sheet.
  • There is only 1 rule for this experience: no one can touch the ground off the tarp in anyway. You may think of an appropriate punishment, like they have to start over, or that person loses the use of whatever touches the ground outside of the tarp.

Possible variations:

  • Assign 1 person in the group who can talk and everyone else must be silent. Possibly pick someone who's not used to leading so that they can learn how to lead, while others learn how to follow.
  • Blindfold or Mute some or all of the participants (always fun with any game).

What Happens Then

  • Each team has to fold their tarp in half without, of course, getting off the tarp.
  • If they are successful then they can fold the tarp in half again, and again, etc until it is impossible. The first time it is hard to fold the tarp, but easy to fit the team onto the half of the tarp. After that first fold, it becomes very difficult to not only fold the tarp in half again, but also to even fit the team on the 1/4 or 1/8 of the tarp.
  • If it's 1 group total then I suggest the group sets a goal to try and accomplish. If it's multiple Teams, then I would suggest either ranking them by speed, or by eliminating teams that are last or touch the ground and the last surviving team wins. You can also come up with a point system, with rewards for folding the tarp like 100pts for getting the whole team on the whole tarp, 200pts the first fold 400pts the second fold and 800pts the third fold etc to reflect the increased difficulty, while punishing them 50pts for each touch off the tarp.

Debrief (very important for THEM to actually process what they've learned):

  • Was it hard? Why or why not?
  • Was leading or following difficult for you? Why?
  • What makes a good leader?
  • What makes a good teammate?
  • Do you struggle with solving problems?
  • Do you solve problems better or worse in a group setting?
  • What are things this group did well in this activity?
  • Without picking on any one person, what are things this group could do to improve their teamwork?

Possible Problems

Again, this game forces the teams to be close physically. This isn't bad, but you should consider how to avoid any possible problems that might occur with your particular group.

Also participants might get some "bright ideas" that could be dangerous. I mitigate this by making them talk out loud as they problem solve so I can guide them away from the less than intelligent ideas. At any rate there is a physical risk with falling, or getting pushed into nearby objects or onto the ground.

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