We have been playing around with team challenges at Triskele Rivers ALC. Last week the children had to stack 10 cups into a pyramid without touching the cups with their hands, while only using a rubber band and 6 strings. Watching them organize, communicate, work through frustration, and experience the satisfaction of completing the task- are all incredible lessons for becoming successful in life. When the children would fend for themselves and not listen to one another, the cups would come tumbling down-instant feedback on why their communication and method was not proving to be productive. Upon reflection, they realized when they slowed down, communicated, and focused on the process and not speeding toward the goal, they were much more successful.
The team challenge this week proved to be just as educational. The task was for the children to be divided into groups of three. The person in the middle was the “brain” and had their wrists tied to the other two participants, with each serving as either the “right” or “left” hand. The challenge was for the brain to direct the two hands to wrap a gift. The hands were not allowed to talk, but had to listen to the instruction and could not do anything without the brain telling them what to do next. The first group that went had some pretty big challenges, the hands kept on forging forward without waiting for the brain to instruct, the brain finally became somewhat less intentional and assertive after not feeling listened to. This brought up some great reflections on how it feels to not be heard, the difficulty of “followers” not being able to give feedback, and the challenge of maintaining leadership when you don’t feel respected or heard. Through more dialogue there was a realization that it’s really a loop. When someone stops leading withe clarity and intention, the group starts to take over, when the group starts to take over, the leader feels less and less in command and begins to stop leading. What a dance! The second group was a little older in age, and after watching the first group go was able to take away a few lessons. It’s always hard being the first to pave the way! The second “brain” had very attentive “left” and “right’ hand that waited patiently for their instructions, thus the leader was able to think clearly and take his time in giving thoughtful instruction. The challenges were great in that the kids were able to physically and mentally experience some of the concepts we are often bringing up- intentional leadership, active listening, cooperation, respect, and team work. The children also reflected on the feelings of responsibility that go along with being a leader, and how sometimes it’s much easier to just be told what to do, however in a true partnership leaders need feedback from their group in order to lead thoughtfully, followers sometimes need to step us at the leaders, and the leader needs to be aware of when they need to step down for a bit and be the follower. One of the reasons we are drawn to the ALC model, is that yes the facilitators are the “leaders” but the children are listened to, often get to lead, and are always participating in the creation of the culture and their own learning. Being a leader and follower is not always black and white and why learning in this type of environment is so dynamic and exciting when everyone is aware.
Through these experiences, reflections and dialogue we now have something to reference, which we were able to do during a closing meeting and people were not being respectful in listening to the facilitator. We were also able to further wrap the experience around the work with the horses. In wild herds the horses choose their leader, rather than the leader choosing their herd. It is usually a lead mare, and one that is thoughtful, respectful, inclusive, makes fair decisions, and creates a harmonious energy that spreads throughout the herd. She is constantly in a state of relaxed awareness, responding to the energy of her herd, and always taking into consideration where everyone is at. In return the herd also watches out for their leader. Horses only relinquish leadership to humans if they have these same qualities. So in the end, there are lessons for us all in these team challenges. It’s exciting to watch the children progress with each one they see through, and to witness them transfer what they have learned to their group projects.