Team Building Activity: Arctic Adventure

Arctic Adventure

This team building activity is fantastic for groups who want an intense challenge with unusual creativity! Ideal for larger groups, participants are given an important task to complete with several barriers to work through that will require active participation, excellent communication and critical thinking.

Time Needed: 45 minutes

Group Size: 10-20 people

Materials: Ski goggles, blindfolds, Expedition Supply Bag (contains masking tape, ribbon, multiple plastic table cloths, aluminum foil, magazines and broken down cardboard boxes)

See below for optional set up materials.

Set Up: Ideal set up for this activity would be in a large room with arctic/winter decorations (to make it look like an arctic tundra) and box fans surrounding the perimeter (to add an arctic chill at the end). Facilitators and other supporters could even dress in winter or skiing gear to add another element of excitement for the theme!

Directions: If possible, meet the group outside the team building room and tell them that they are about to embark on an Arctic Adventure. (Your enthusiasm in explaining the activity will help increase participants’ excitement!) Explain that what awaits on this adventure will require the group to work together, think creatively, and demonstrate extreme perseverance… and if they do this successfully, they just might survive this adventure! Before you enter the team building room, ask the group to select people to serve as the group leaders. (The exact number of leaders will depend on your group size. Try 1 leader per every 6-7 participants, so a group of 20 would have 3 leaders.) Give each of the leaders a pair of ski goggles to wear so they can be easily identified.  Next, ask for a volunteer to be responsible for keeping up with the Expedition Supply Bag. Thank the leaders and the keeper of the Expedition Supply Bag for stepping up to volunteer for these tasks.

Take the group inside.  Once inside, give them the following instructions:

“You are now arctic explorers trekking across the frozen tundra! The leaders you selected outside are now your expedition leaders.  I regret to inform you that a sudden storm is soon to hit, a storm that they predict will produce such severe frozen winds that your team will not survive out in the open.  Therefore, in order to stay alive, your team must erect an emergency shelter to survive – in 25 minutes or less. At the end of that time, the weather experts are saying the winds will reach a treacherous point and all members of your team must be safely inside the shelter to survive. Unfortunately, temperatures are already dropping and all of the team leaders’ hands have frostbite, so they can no longer physically help construct the shelter.”

Let the leaders know that they can either put their hands in their pockets or hold them behind their backs, whichever is more comfortable.

Tell the group that how they construct the shelter is up to them, but it must provide protection from the sides and above, and that everyone in the group must be able to fit inside. Explain that they can use anything they find in the room to help build the shelter, as well as the materials in the Expedition Supply Bag.

Before they begin, say to them:

“I know you are eager to get started, however, I have one more, somewhat unfortunate, thing to tell you.  Remember how I told you that it was already cold enough that your team leaders have lost the use of their hands due to frostbite?  Well, the cold has also affected the rest of you as well, but in a different way. I am so sorry to tell you that the snow is already coming down like crazy, which has caused the rest of you to have snow blindness.  Luckily, the ski goggles protected your team leaders’ eyes (even though they lost the use of their hands). The rest of you were not so lucky. Unfortunately, you will no longer be able to see to build your shelter.”

Ask for a few volunteers to help you put blindfolds on everyone except the team leaders. If any of your team members don’t feel comfortable wearing blindfolds, ask them to simply close their eyes. While that is happening, say:

“I know I just threw a lot at you at once.  I assure you I will be here the whole time to make sure that everybody stays safe, but if anyone is too uncomfortable being blindfolded/having your eyes closed, please come tell me and I can make sure to give you a role you a comfortable with.  We certainly want to make it out of this Arctic Adventure with our ENTIRE team intact…. Well, minus frostbitten hands and snow blindness….”

Secure all the blindfolds.

“Ok, now that everybody is blindfolded, we are about to begin.  As a reminder, your task is to build a strong shelter that will withstand the frozen winds that are projected to start in 25 minutes.  You are permitted to use the materials in the Expedition Supply Bag as well as any furniture items in this room.  Your team leaders can still see because of their goggles, but they have lost the use of their hands due to frostbite.  The rest of the team cannot see due to snow blindness.  And remember, in 25 minutes you all need to be INSIDE the shelter in order to be protected from the winds.  I am here to support you as needed.  Are you ready for this adventure? OK, your time begins now.”

Give time updates throughout, and make sure that everyone stays safe.  When the time runs out, turn on the fans (arctic winds!) and to see if they successfully built a shelter that will keep them safe.  Hopefully, everyone will be inside the shelter and protected from the winds at that point. If they are not, make any needed adjustments (give them a little more time, give them more materials, etc.) if you are able.

Debrief Questions:

  • Did your group come up with a plan or just dive in and start working? If you had a plan, did you follow through with it? Why or why not?
  • If you didn’t come up with a plan, how might that have helped the process?
  • In what ways did you rely on teamwork and communication to complete the task?
  • What would you have done differently if you had the opportunity to do this activity again?
  • In your opinion, what did your group do the best? What could you use the most improvement on?
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