Offer support to all group members both physically (spotting) and emotionally (supporting and contributing.)
Be aware of the strength and body size of all group members, and agree not to have members lifting, supporting, or being supported in a manner in which they are not comfortable.
Commit to spotting all members of the group who are off the ground, including those who are on the beam.
Participants agree that all movements (up to and down from the beam) must be controlled and physically supported by other team members.
Agree to remain alert for the prospect of kicking or moving feet when participants are climbing onto and off the beam.
The climbing participant will only commence their ascent (or descent) after all safety and check-in protocols have been performed.
Practical Leadership Tips
There is no particular group size for this event. Naturally, the size of your group will influence the length of the activity as well as the number of people actively involved. Anywhere from 6 to 15 people is ideal.
Often, this challenge is presented as a timed event. That said, do not excuse poor planning and overly-rigorous moves to achieve a world’s record, lest someone gets hurt.
Do you wonder why jumping from the top of the beam is not permitted? Research indicates that one of the most prevalent injuries incurred on this activity is rolled ankles sustained by those who jump from heights.
May I just reinforce the advice in regards to remaining alert for the presence of kicking feet as people attempt to climb over or down from the beam? These feet are often dangling at the eye-height of spotters and, therefore, are ideally situated to cause a lot of surprising harm.
You could integrate The Beam as part of a well-designed SEL program to help your group make caring and constructive choices about personal behaviour and social interactions across different situations.
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
The dynamics of this simple, yet not easy group initiative will invite your group to interact and engage with each other in a manner that would necessarily speak to the benefits of having developed a set of supportive and healthy behavioural norms in advance. Or, if not, you could focus on any less-than-desired interactions or outcomes to explore what sorts of behaviours your group would prefer to see and commit to in the future.
For example, in addition to those described in the Reflection Tips tab, you could invite your group to reflect on the following questions to explore a variety of full value behaviours such as:
How did the group demonstrate its ability to care for self and others?
Generally speaking, how did the group make decisions? How were all members involved?
Describe your group’s goal-setting process?
What types of leadership were demonstrated during the exercise? Were they effective?
Was adaptability a key component of the group’s success? How?
Were there moments of safety that concerned you? Why?
Did you observe any emotional or social cues during the exercise? If yes, what did you do with this information?
Off-Side Rule: Your group starts on one side of the beam and no one is permitted to physically assist others on the other side until they have passed over the beam themselves. For safety purposes, you may permit spotters from any side to assist on the other but they are not entitled to physically assist the person being passed.
Rope Assist: If you perceive that some members of your group may have difficulty with height or arm strength, allow a rope to be used for the first, last or all participants.
Immobile Limb: Introduce the handicap of an immobilised limb to simulate a broken arm, leg, etc, for one or more of your group members, ie these appendages can not be used at any time.
Can’t Hear You: Challenge your group to complete the task non-verbally.
Individual Challenge: Invite one person, supported only by spotters (no lifting or other assistance,) to climb over the beam on their own. It looks easier than it is.
Take a look at The Wall for a similar team-based challenge.
Thought-provoking variation of traditional baseball.
Group Compass Walk
Fun, trust-building navigation exercise for small groups.
Classic group initiative to strengthen communication skills.
Useful Framing Ideas
Perhaps you’ve watched army and commando training videos where the officers in training are led through a series of very difficult and physical challenges, such as scaling a tall wall or a beam. Well, guess what…?
When you stand here looking up at this wooden beam suspended between these two trees, I am certain you have already figured out what is about to happen…
Our next exercise will present you with two very different challenges. One will be the task itself, and the other will be the process by which your group chooses to solve it. Task and process, I wonder which dimension will feature more prominently in your minds…
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 were the most difficult challenges of this task?
Where and when did you feel the least and most comfortable? Why?
How did your group manage these challenges? Were you successful?
What types of support were offered during the exercise?
Are these forms of support demonstrated in other areas of your group’s experience?
What is an example of a challenge you or your group have overcome?
What strengths did you call on to help you succeed?
The inspiration for The Beam is generally unknown but was popularised during the development of Project Adventure‘s Challenge Course curriculum in the early 1970s.