3 x 1m x 1m wooden platforms positioned approx 2 to 3 metres apart
1 or 2 boards (at least 5cm x 20cm thick)
The size of the platforms, and the number of participants, will determine the level of challenge. A platform measuring 1m x 1m will support approx 12 to 15 people snugly. For safety purposes, the top surface of the platforms should be no more than 150mm (6”) off the ground.
The length of the board(s) must be shorter than the distance between any two platforms.
Be an active spotter at all times, ie this is generally regarded as a self-spotting exercise.
Offer support to all group members both physically (spotting) and emotionally (supporting and contributing.)
Agree not to jump from one platform to another.
Agree to only step off (not jump) from a board towards a platform.
Agree to always ensure there is sufficient counter-weight on the board(s) before a participant steps onto it.
Be aware of the strength and body size of all group members, and agree not to have members lifting or supporting the board in a manner that they are not comfortable with.
Practical Leadership Tips
Caution your group that the boards may move or swing sideways on occasions.
FYI, the distance between each platform and the lengths of the board(s) will offer multiple ways to traverse the platforms. If only one board is supplied, the group will typically stand on one end of it as it extends over the ground towards the next platform. Then, one of their team will walk across and step off the end of it (over the gap) to the next platform. When more than half of the group has successfully traversed, the board is passed to them to stand on and extended towards the first platform to bring everyone else over. If two boards are used, the smaller board may be used to bridge the gap between the first longer board and the next platform.
If possible, make the board(s) just slightly shorter than the distance between any two platforms. This will give your group the illusion that the board can be expected to bridge the distance only to discover that it does not, often causing the board to touch the ground in the process. Too funny!
There is a slight chance that some people may topple off the platform. To this end, be sure to clear the area of all obstructions at least 3 metres around the platform.
Typically, most groups do not require spotters to support those who are traversing the board, but introduce them as required. Note, as facilitator, you can serve this role if necessary.
Do not allow a participant to walk across a board while it is being held (in their hands) by other participants.
Alternative penalties include:
Inviting the person who touched the ground to return to the first (or previous) island.
Inviting a specific number of people to return to the first (or previous) island.
All those who were involved in moving the board (before it touched the ground) must return to the first or previous platform.
You could integrate Islands as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your groups’ ability to make caring and constructive choices about personal behaviour and social interactions across different scenarios.
Specifically, this activity offers ample opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
As a challenging group initiative, Islands is a terrific activity to explore a range of interpersonal and social skills in the context of developing positive and supportive relationships. You are recommended to initially frame this challenge and invite your group to reflect on the following full value attributes including Be Safe, Be Honest and Care for Self & Others.
For example, managing to keep everyone safe and comfortable within a limited space (on the islands) will require patience, perseverance and common goals. Your group will need to agree on a plan to traverse each of the islands as well as a process for leadership, safety and generating, acknowledging and trialling ideas. These are all essential behavioural norms that can be discussed in advance, during and/or at the end of the activity and then, importantly, applied to other areas of your group’s life and work.
Rope Leverage: Supply a long rope in addition to the boards. Challenge your group to consider how it may be used to support their traverse, ie the rope is often used to help the group lower the board gently so that it does not hit the ground. Do not allow the rope to be tied to any person.
Triangle Islands: Position the three platforms in a triangle, ensuring that the gap between all platforms (in all directions) is greater than the length of the board(s.)
Non-Verbal: Complete the entire task without verbal forms of communication.
Take a look at All Aboard to challenge your group with a non-traversing problem.
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Useful Framing Ideas
The dream of many international travellers is to holiday in the Greek islands. Ahhh, wouldn’t that be nice? Spend a bit of time on one island, before hopping over to the next. Well, we may not be in Greece, but I still invite you to luxuriate in the prospect of hopping between these three islands…
In this next challenge, I’m going to give you limited resources to solve the problem. At first, it will seem that you do not have enough to solve the problem, but I assure you, that you do…
Leverage is a word that will come in very handy for you in this next group initiative. Consider yourselves to be top class engineers and work together to construct a bridge that will help your group to get from here to there…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after leading this challenging group initiative:
What did you notice about your planning process? Was there any planning conducted?
What surprised you during the exercise? What was the consequence?
At what point did your group realise you could complete this task?
What types of support were offered during the exercise?
In what ways was leverage used to help you succeed?
What else was necessary to help your group succeed?
The inspiration for Islands is generally unknown but was popularised during the development of Project Adventure‘s adventure-based curriculum in the early 1970s.