In advance, scatter at least a dozen ropes in a random criss-cross pattern with a clear start and finish line.
Announce a series of challenges in which every person will cross the space without touching the rope.
To start, cross the space as individuals, then connected to a partner, and finally, connected as a whole team.
The group must be connected (as pairs, quads, or a whole team) at all times, otherwise, they are required to start over.
Invite everyone to cross again – as individuals, pairs, and a whole team – with more challenging parameters, such as:
– Each person may only contact the ground with his or her hands and feet;
– Both hands and feet (per person) must be used before repeating the use of either hand or foot;
– Only one hand or foot may occupy a space defined by the rope.
Allow ample time for problem-solving, trial and error and processing (as appropriate.)
Video Transcript for Watch Your Step
presented by Nate Folan
We want to engage in an activity here that might push some of our boundaries both physically, socially, emotionally in certain ways. The first part requires a bit of a setup. And there’s two setups that I want to demonstrate, one with ropes, so there’s two bags of different lengths of ropes here, and one with hula-hoops.
What I’ll ask is that the hula-hoops stay generally in that space over there and the ropes down in this space here on the grass.
And the first invitation is to place the hoops or the ropes in a way that they create essentially a grid. And it doesn’t need to be a grid like perfect squares or… I mean the hula-hoops because they are formed are going to be relatively even if you butt them up against each other, but create essentially a grid with lines crisscrossing one another and use a pretty large space. And I might coach you on that as that setup is happening. So half the group work with this, the ropes in the bags, and the other group with the hula-hoops. And hula-hoops we’ll just put right next to each other. So we’re going to set that up and I’ll explain what happens next.
And probably longer ropes would work, I guess short ropes would work as well. Those are about 10-footers. And feel free to make them random shaped, so hopefully I’m not messing you up. But imagine someone just took a stick and drew a crazy line right through all of this.
So the first invitation here is everyone will start on this side of the line, and you’re going to try to make your way going this direction and simply passing as an individual from this side to that side without touching the ropes. So the invitation is for you is to start here. We will progress and add layers to this. So let’s warm up and just start moving around. Go when you’re ready.
(people walking Watch Your Step)
Your next way of going through is finding one other person to partner with, to be in physical contact with them. That can be holding hands, shoulder to shoulder, elbow to elbow, whatever it might be for you. You can even change that in the course of your flow through but trying to move through without contacting the ropes yet again.
(people going through Watch Your Step)
So moving forward with that I want to share truly the next level with this and what it is is we’re going to go through that flow again of moving first by yourself, solo, moving again with a partner, being in contact with them, and then moving in smaller groups of four to six people being in contact and again with that consequence.
This time though as you go across the grid, the movement is a little bit different. Certainly you have your feet as many of you are doing, and this time your feet and your hands are going to be involved. And at the same time your feet and hands cannot occupy the same spaces.
So if I have this somewhat of a triangle shape that my right foot is in, my left foot is in this longer rectangular shape, if I’m going across this way I can put my hand in this area, that’s okay, and another hand here, and then you need to think about moving a foot, moving another foot, maybe like this, and moving a hand and trying to make my way all the way across… Oh, can’t do that, right? So I’m going correct it, coming here and here, and now here, trying to make my way across as I go.
So the invitation for you is to try this again solo, paired… We’re going this way. It’s the longer way. Just for the demonstration right here so the group could see it in that motion. But try it first individually going down, try it with a partner, and then as a small group.
(people playing Watch Your Step)
How To Play Narrative
This initiative was inspired by one of my favourite scenes in the brilliant animated movie How To Train Your Dragon. If you’ve seen it, try to guess which one.
In advance, grab a bunch of rope segments ranging in length (a roll of tape will work if playing indoors.) Create a gridwork of rope (or tape) defining irregular shapes random in size. Indicate which side of this mish-mash of rope is the start and which is the finish.
Gather your group behind the start and explain that their objective is to cross the space without touching the ropes. As a warm-up, invite everyone to cross as individuals first. Easy enough.
Now, invite your group to cross while physically connected to a partner, and then again as quads, and then ultimately as one whole group. Encourage creativity, style, and playfulness drawing inspiration from the How to Train Your Dragon scene or Funny Walk as needed.
Now that your group is appropriately warmed up, step up the challenge. Explain that the next few crossings are likely to be more challenging and require even more communication, coordination, and creativity.
Direct everyone to cross again – as individuals, pairs, and the whole team – this time with progressively more challenging guidelines:
Each person may only contact the ground with his or her hands and feet;
Both hands and feet (per person) must be used before repeating the use of either hand or foot;
Only one hand or foot may occupy a space defined by the rope (or whatever was used);
The group must remain connected (as pairs, quads, or the whole team) at all times.
Naturally, when one of these guidelines is infringed, the individual, pair, or group must start over.
As the challenge progresses, your group will likely explore a mess of creative ideas and strategies.
Encourage them, cheer them on, and monitor their safety-consciousness.
Practical Leadership Tips
Join the fun. Play along and as the challenge becomes more difficult, invite your group to direct you, rather than you offering suggestions or leading.
Flowing through all rounds and every challenge scenario can be time-consuming. Choose what is appropriate for the goals and interest of the group as well as the time frame you have to work with
If presenting this exercise outdoors, ensure that the ground is free of harmful objects, such as glass, prickles, ants, etc because your group is very likely to be using their hands to cross the area at some point.
To inspire more creativity and empower your group, try something new from the Variations tab.
You could integrate Watch Your Step 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:
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
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 fun 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 your partner or the group demonstrate its ability to care for self and others?
Generally speaking, how did your team make decisions? How were all members involved?
Describe your group’s goal-setting process?
Was everyone fully aware of the group’s goal? If not, why not?
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 accountability that concerned you? When and why?
In what ways did you have to be mindful of your own or the actions of others?
No Limits: Allow as many hands and feet to occupy a space defined by rope as necessary. This changes the challenge significantly, yet still offers value.
Don’t Watch Your Step: During paired and whole group crossings, consider inviting one or more members to be blindfolded accompanied by sighted guides.
Create Your Own Challenge 1: Enable your group to disregard a rule infringement. For example, after reaching a certain distance or for every 10 successful steps, your group may overlook one rope touch or disconnection rather than starting over.
Create Your Own Challenge 2: Invite your group – as individuals, pairs, and quads – to offer a creative crossing challenge to others. The challenge should be playful, unique, and possible to complete.
Dynamic group initiative to focus on trust & support.
Quick-movement energiser to teach safety consciousness.
Playful variation of the Stepping Stones initiative.
Useful Framing Ideas
There’s a brilliant animated movie titled How to Train Your Dragon. Have you seen it? The main character, Hiccup (a boy destined to experience many failures before finding success) befriends a notorious dragon named Night Fury or Toothless depending on how you see him. There are many wonderful lessons – never leave a friend behind, success comes with failure, and be true to who you are – yes, all of you! Some of these lessons and others might even pop up in this activity, which by now you are probably wondering what it is or have your own ideas…
Before you is the artwork of a fire-breathing dragon. Your task is to cross from one side to the other without stepping on the artwork and ultimately upsetting the dragon. Good luck and watch your step…
Communication, coordination, and creativity will surely be needed as you journey through life. You will have an opportunity to practice these skills as your experience becomes more and more challenging…
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 challenging group initiative:
What did you notice about crossing individually, in pairs and as a whole group?
How did you support each other or as a whole group?
What were the similarities and differences, in terms of support, during each crossing?
How did you like to be supported? How did others like to be supported?
Do these examples hold true in your life? What examples of support would you like to experience in your life?
The inspiration for Watch Your Step, and many more challenging team-building activities, was sourced from the following publication: