Invite your group outside on a bright, sunny day within a wide open space.
Challenge your group to work together to position themselves in a manner that casts the longest shadow possible.
Each group starts their shadow touching a common starting line.
To heighten the challenge and govern fair-play:
– The shadow must be one continuous line, ie all shadows must be connected; and
– Only bodies may be used to cast a shadow, ie no clothing or other props.
Allow the group to have as many attempts as possible within 10 minutes.
Measure and record the longest shadow.
Video Transcript for Longest Shadow
presented by Mark Collard
In this exercise, I plan to place this red line just over there. Because the way the sun is, it’s pointed over there at the moment and it’s facing this way all shadows are extended this direction.
Your objective is starting with one person from your team behind this red line, is to form the longest possible shadow. There are only two parameters for your group of six people to form the longest shadow.
Starting with one person behind the line, the line must be continuous. The shadow must be a continuous line. It cannot be broken between you and maybe another member of your group.
And you cannot use clothing as a way to extend your shadow. It is a people problem.
So with one of your six people standing at least some part of your body behind this red line, naturally you’re going to probably go this direction because the sun will be directly behind you that way, you want to form whatever you need to do with your bodies so that the shadow left on the ground creates the longest possible shadow.
And no clothing can be used. Please keep your clothing on. That would be very handy. Mind you it wouldn’t make any difference to the shadow. So keep the clothing on.
(people planning together)
Alright. I’m going to record the furthest… Here. Alright. To the edge of the concrete so far. You may continue to solve the problem. You may even get further than that.
(people solving the problem)
You want to get a sense of your shadow.
(You don’t actually have to touch.)
(people working together)
(The shadow shortens when you go down too low. Stay up higher.)
So it’s one continuous shadow.
Okay. New record. Let me just check that you’re a continuous line. I’m seeing a gap there. Okay, got it. Fantastic.
Alright, new record.
How To Play Narrative
Often the simplest activities are the best, and this one is right up there.
You’ll have to wait for a bright sunny day, but when you get one, invite your group outside onto a wide, open playing space. A playing field or parking lot work perfectly.
Marking a line on the ground, challenge your group to work together to position themselves in such a way that their collective bodies cast the longest possible shadow from this starting point.
In the interests of fair-play, and to heighten the inherent challenge, explain that the shadow must adhere to the following two parameters:
The shadow must be one continuous, unbroken shadow, ie the shadow of each individual must overlap or connect to another; and
Only shadows cast by a human body are permitted, therefore, no clothing or other props are permitted to be used.
It won’t take much for the group to start positioning themselves and then re-positioning their bodies to start casting longer and longer shadows.
Allow ample time for planning, testing and execution. Ten to fifteen minutes is normally sufficient.
Note the progressive results as a gradually longer series of shadows are produced, eventually settling for and recording the longest shadow.
If time permits and the sun is still shining, try a variation (see Variations tab.)
Either way, as a simple yet dynamic group initiative, it is highly recommended that you help your group at the end to reflect on what they achieved and learned during the exercise (see Reflection Tips tab.)
Practical Leadership Tips
It would seem logical that you would need a bright, sunny day to make this exercise work. However, a powerful spotlight, set up indoors, or anywhere at night will certainly work too.
Avoid partly cloudy days. Often the shadow created by such conditions produces fuzzy or hazy shadows, making it difficult to know where one shadow stops and another one starts.
Limit the size of smaller teams to no more than 10 or 12 people. Many more, and you may run out of room on your field to adequately host the potential shadow.
You could integrate the Longest Shadow as part of a well-designed SEL program to promote and maintain supportive and healthy relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse people.
Specifically, this activity offers ample opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Demonstrating Self-Discipline & Self-Motivation
Setting Personal & Group Goals
Use Planning & Organisational Skills
Taking Other’s Perspectives
Communicate & Listen Effectively
Seeking and/or Offering Support
Build Positive Relationships
Resolving Conflict Constructively
Demonstrating Curiosity & Open-Mindedness
Making Reasoned Judgements
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
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of working with others to solve a simple problem.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to interact, be creative and solve problems with others may speak to the benefits of having developed a set of supportive and healthy behavioural norms in advance. Or, if not, you could use these less-than-desired interactions or outcomes to explore what sorts of behaviours your group would prefer to embrace. For example, you could invite your group to reflect on the effectiveness of its leadership and creative process in which it generated and acknowledged various ideas to extend the group’s shadow.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Longest Shadow could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Individual & Partner Shadows: Challenge the group to discover the longest shadow produced by any one individual or a pair.
Shadow Competition: Break your large group into two or more smaller teams, and engage them all in a competition to record the longest shadow.
Longest Shadow Plus: Allow your group to use anything they have on or with them, as well as anything they can find in the general vicinity, in addition to their bodies, to create the longest shadow possible.
Biggest Shadow Shape: Challenge your group to create the biggest or longest perimeter of a nominated shape (eg square, rectangle, triangle, pentagon, etc) created by the shadows cast by their bodies.
Novelty Units of Measurement: Ask your group to create their own unit of measure to add a sense of novelty to this experience. For example, many groups find humour in referring to the length of their shadow in units that are not commonly used, eg shoes, drink cans, books, etc.
Shadow Fun: Take a look at Elusive Shadow for another fun exercise to leverage the sun’s rays.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Like casting a shadow on a bright sunny day, we leave behind a legacy, a story about ourselves, our family, our communities, and our organisations everywhere we go and as a result of anything we do. Can you recall a legacy about someone you admire? Who are some of the people you highly regard and what aspects of their legacies do you admire? A legacy is essentially a story that exists after a person or group moves on. Let’s explore the legacy that our team is creating as we make our mark in the form of a shadow…
Simply by looking at the length of the shadows cast in a photograph, I can generally tell what time of year the photograph was taken. Winter time shadows tend to be longer because the sun sits lower in the sky, whereas summer-time shadows are shorter because the sun sits higher. Regardless of the season, this next exercise invites you play with your shadow to solve a p articular problem…
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 team-building exercise:
How do you feel about your shadow?
What were some positive qualities of teamwork demonstrated while creating your shadow?
Using a Fist to Five, showing zero to five fingers, rate the quality of:
– Sharing of ideas
– Listening to each other
– Providing feedback in a way that was helpful and heard
– Assertive communication
What legacy or story about your team might be left behind? Are there any aspects that you might consider to be positive? Any aspects that you might consider negative?
What is one thing you can do to reduce a negative aspect of this legacy? What is one thing you can do to maintain the positive aspects of this legacy?
The inspiration for Longest Shadow, and many more team-building exercises, can be found in the following publication: