Top 3 Experiential Activities Every Facilitator Needs to Know: Activity #3 “Mine Field”/”Search and Rescue”/”The Road of Life”

Over the last couple of posts we have covered two other key activities that have lots of applications and variations. I want to end this series with an activity first saw run with the name “The Road of Life.” I include several variations, including a variation below called “Search and Rescue,” as way of accomplishing some of the same goals with less required set up.

This activity, like others already discussed, has a ton of flexibility. It is a communication activity and has some application as a trust activity.  It can also be set up as a basic problem solving initiative with some minor adjustments. The basic set-up involves a blind (or blindfolded) participant being guided across a specific area, sometimes with a range of obstacles (and sometimes good things to pick up) by sighted helpers.

Safety alert: Because participants are blind or blindfolded, it is important that facilitators be available, on the play area to spot, guide and assist if necessary.

(Note: I do not use blindfolds any more. This is about  choice and choosing the level of challenge within activities. In my opinion, blindfolds remove that choice and have the risk of putting some participants into panic or threat mode. Contact me directly if you would like more information on this. How do you do it? Why?)

 

Basic Set-up: My favorite way to set this activity up is to have a roped off play area 6-8 feet wide and about 15 feet long. I may designate an entrance and exit spot, and arrange a number of obstacles from chairs and mousetraps to stuffed animals around the play area. The goal can either be to guide the blind participant through the “maze” (usually without touching the objects) and out the exit, OR to retrieve an object of some kind and return it to the group.

Alternative set-up models:

  • Each “blind” participant in the maze has a partner outside the maze. That partner can be:
    • Along any part of the outside area surrounding the maze
    • Only at the entrance end of the maze
    • At the exit end of the maze

Options for people entering the maze:

  • One person at a time with the whole group guiding
  • One partnership at a time (one blind person inside the maze and their partner outside in one of the positions mentioned above)
  • All participants go at the same time with their guiding partners in established positions

 

Other questions to consider:

  • Are participants able to speak? Options:
    • Use an agreed upon communication system only
    • Guiding partner can only whisper
  • Are partnerships, or the group as a whole, able to plan prior to beginning the activity?

Mistakes and Missteps: Typically any misstep on the part of the blind “searcher” involves a penalty ranging from returning to the starting point, to something like being turned around in place 3-5 times and restarted.

Additional set up options:

  1. Group challenge option:
  • The group chooses:
    • A blind participant who will the person being guided on the play area
    • A speaker: They can speak, but they stand on the entrance end of the play area with their back to the play area and the blind “searcher.”
    • The other participants are in front of “the speaker” facing the play area. They can see the play area, but…they can not talk. All communication to the blind “seeker” must come through the speaker. The speaker, in turn, is dependent on these sighted, but mute participants to convey all information necessary for success to the “searcher.”

Note: I like doing this with groups no larger than 8-10, giving them a practice round, and time to plan a strategy before selecting a new searcher and playing another round.

  1. Communication challenge option:
  • Have participants find a partner and decide who will be blind first and who will function as the helper.
  • Partners either negotiate the maze one team  at a time or with all teams going at once.

Variations:

  • “Search and Rescue:” This is the most simple variation on this activity, and most of the time it does not involve a maze and “obstacles.” Designate a specific play area though and usually establish a line on one end of the play area that can not be crossed by the sighted participants. Set the group up with the process described above in the “Group challenge option.” I then toss a stuffed animal or some other object onto the play area and the speaker and the other muted participants must guide the searcher to that object and then back to the starting line. As with the original version of this activity, you can set it up as a basic problem solving initiative by giving the group planning time after an initial test run and requiring that all participants be involved in some way. Groups come up with tremendously creative ways of communicating distance and direction to the speaker using a range of props, signals and signs when given the opportunity.
  • “The Road of Life” (original version) How I first saw this activity used as a life metaphor for a group of participants in a AODA program. A play area was set up with a range of obstacles and also a number of “good things” that included fun toys, candy, etc. Participants worked in partnerships as described above. I initially saw the activity run with the supporting partner able to move along the outside of the play area helping as a guide to the blind partner in the maze. Everyone also went at the same time. In this situation it is imperative that the facilitator is the maze, giving consequences and functioning as a “spotter.

Along the way, the guides would help participants move around problems and pitfalls (represented by the obstacles) and to pick up “the good stuff” along the way. There is obviously lots of confusion, miscommunication, occasional tension and successes. There are many ways to adapt this version for many applications, situations and groups as needs and outcomes dictate.

These are by no means is this the only way to run this activity. As usual, send me your ideas and comments. I’d love to hear about ways you use this activity or similar ones.

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Please send along your success stories. We’d love to feature your program in future posts. Contact me directly at: mark.zanoni@manito-wish.org. We’d also love to hear your feedback and ideas. Thanks so much!

Mark Zanoni, Camp Manito-wish YMCA