Announce the goal for each person is to tag the head of their own shadow with their own physical hand.
Say “GO” and watch what happens.
How To Play Narrative
Gather your group outside on a bright, sunny day, and explain the simple goal – for each person to tag the head of their own shadow with their own actual or physical hand.
Then say “GO!” And that’s it.
At this point, many people will gleefully sprint off chasing their shadows. Others may laugh at their own or others’ ridiculous trials.
Still others will flash you a perplexed look as if to say “Is this even possible?” or “Are you tricking us, getting us to do something simply for your humour?” The answers of course are respectively, “Yes” and “No.”
Encourage each person to try different strategies, learning from their failures and the failures of others. To offer more humour and perhaps a clue, announce that they should keep playing and sharing their ideas with one another other, because they are bound to trip over the solution.
Allow people to experience a variety of bodily twists and tweaks, erratic stop-and-go attempts, and moments of thoughtful consideration. Eventually, someone will reach success, usually at his or her lowest moment, literally (another hint.)
Encourage everyone to continue playing until they achieve the stated goal, or just before your group’s energy and interest passes.
Practical Leadership Tips
Clearly, no equipment is necessary to enjoy this exercise, but a bright sunny day or a high-powered spotlight are very useful.
The sun and shadows have to be just right for this activity to be effective. Be on the look out for a brilliantly sunny day that casts long shadows (early morning, late afternoon) and go for it!
This activity was inspired by a curious three-year old, whom like many of us chasing after a goal or trying to solve a problem, discovered the solution only after what appears to be failure or our lowest moment. Turns out success is often found through failure or in this case, falling flat on your face!
Success is found when participants discover a way to reduce the length or size of their shadow. This usually occurs by crouching or laying on the ground making the head of the shadow reachable by the individual’s actual hand. No need to give this away. Allow the solution to emerge and take note of the reactions and comments that occur.
It helps if you play and play it up as well. So immediately after you announce “GO,” start running after your shadow. Others are bound to follow while others will find a different way be it watching first, sharing ideas with someone else, or analysing the problem.
Squeezing more than fun from this exercise, consider debriefing your group’s experience at the end – see Reflections tab.
Double Trouble: Invite two people to hold hands and introduce the same challenge. The difference is that each person now has a friend to play with.
Partner Elusive Shadow: Form pairs and challenge each person to tag the shadow of their partner’s head.
Team Shadow: Take a look at Longest Shadow for more fun with shadows. Collectively, they make for a brilliant sequence…on a sunny day of course!
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Useful Framing Ideas
I’ve got a challenge for you. It’s quick to introduce, yet not always quick to figure out. You game?…
Have you ever seen a dog chase it’s own tail? Or a cat pawing at the elusive red dot of a laser pointer? This game can be like that…
Okay, here’s a quick challenge. As you go for it, be aware of your reactions and feelings. We’ll check in after a bit…
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 playing this rapid-fire energiser:
How’d it go? What did you learn about yourself?
Describe the approach you used. What does this tell us about our group and ourselves?
Flash three faces that express how you felt when the task was first introduced, while attempting to figure it out, and the moment of success or failure.
What life lesson could you take from this nonsense?
What was your most successful strategy?
Can you think of another time in your life when a solution presented itself when you were at your lowest?
The inspiration for The Elusive Shadow, and many more fun energisers, was sourced from the following publication: