Issue #3 - The Chocolate River of Life

The second game in our Standard Games Triangle focuses on one of our core mantras: "Support your Team." I am sure that many of you reading this are aware that collaboration is essential to life. That's also the case in theatre, where collaboration truly is the only necessary ingredient. Now, I don't want to drag you sports fans down, but I think that if we're comparing sports and fine arts as a method for teaching collaboration, the performing arts do a better job. This is partially due to the fact that the competitive part of theatre comes before the show begins. Once cast, everyone should be working toward one goal, not working toward a goal and competing against opponent(s).

I don't know a lot about the sociological or biological human need for competition, but it seems as though we are coded to compete. It is hard work to push back against that programming. I wholeheartedly believe that we could accomplish more as a collective species if we decided that achieving a goal together was more important than being better than other people. But then again, I'm not scientist, and maybe I'm missing out on a chunk of the equation.

There is also another illusive piece of the collaborative code and that is the actual chemical make up of teamwork...

In the previous issue, a story was recounted about the Middle School Enrichment class I work with. We are going to revisit the answer of "teamwork" briefly. That is an answer that young people know will satisfy a lot of teachers, but I challenge you to dig deeper. I don't usually take the time to tell them what my components are unless they are really floundering, but it doesn't hurt to have your own list. I just like students to set their own definitions for things. It is nice to see where they go when forced to think a little harder on the subject.

If you want a list to get started, here is what I've compiled as the basic necessities of teamwork. I don't keep this written down, I just put this list together for this issue.

Andy's Teamwork List:
1. Common group goal - What needs to be accomplished?
2. Communication - Can be broken down into "Who is putting out info?" & "Who is receiving the info?"
3. At least one leader- But remember someone has to take the responsibility to clean up after the horses at the end of the parade.
4. Followers - These are not mindless sheep, but you need people willing to cooperate and follow the leader to accomplish what is best for the group.
5. Patience - I know it's #5 in the list, but I tend to think that the correct amount of patience is enough to conquer any goal.
6. Listening - This could be covered in communication, but listening is such an important skill that it gets its own place. Everyone needs to be on the same page, everyone needs to hear each other, and leaders NEED to listen to the rest of the group to be the best leader they can be.
7. Honest Feedback - It is important to know when something is not working. It's okay to regroup, and people have to be willing to speak up honestly and directly about a situation. (This is hard, I don't know if constructive criticism is as prevalent a thing in today's world)

Maybe I missed something critical here, maybe there are things that aren't necessary, and maybe you disagree entirely. That is why I suggest you know what your chemical equation for teamwork is.

...Once you have decided what teamwork means to you, you will be ahead in the Game of Life -- wait maybe we shouldn't use sports analogies -- you will be ahead in the Production of Life, or at least putting into place a significant cornerstone of your Theatre Camp.

Speaking of cornerstones, we will move into the game that we use to test enrichment classes and theatre camps alike in their collaborative abilities:

GAME!

Chocolate River

Generic Brand Name: That lava game you played growing up in your house that ended with "Andrew! Get off the furniture and play outside!"

Goals:

  1. Build collaboration skills
  2. Build problem solving skills
Chocolate River.jpg

Explanation: A defined group of campers must use their "marshmallows" to cross the chocolate river. They may only stand on their marshmallows (not drag, surf, etc.), and if a player touches the river, that player must go back to the beginning. The game cannot be completed unless the entire group finishes together -- unlike the Rapture, no one can be left behind.

Materials:

  • Playing space with defined beginning and end points. This is the Chocolate River.
  • Marshmallows - These are what your group uses to cross the river. Many different materials can make good marshmallows, but I suggest not using actual marshmallows.
    • Chairs -  A great intro marshmallow. Usually, I give out enough chairs so two people need to be on a chair to cross the river.
    • Paper - Paper is great if you want to give a greater challenge and a great leg workout. I give one sheet of 8x11 paper per player, and they may rip them to get more pieces, but there is no way to put them back together.
    • Cardboard pieces - If you want more foot-space than paper, but the awkwardness of maneuvering cardboard about.
    • Rehearsal blocks - A great test in balance and teamwork.

Group Size: 2+

Activity:

  1. Assign groups to their starting places and hand out the marshmallows (We will be using chairs for this example.).
  2. Facilitate directions
    1. "Your group needs to use these chairs to cross the chocolate river. You may not touch the chocolate river, so you must use your marshmallows to cross. You may not slide on the chairs, you may not hop across the space on your chairs, and you must finish together. Meaning: If someone touches the river they must go back to the beginning. The group may not finish unless everyone is on the marshmallows. You will have to go back to rescue your lost team member."
    2. Chocodile (optional mechanic) - "Don't leave your marshmallows unguarded. If you aren't touching one with your feet or hands, it will be eaten up by the terrifying Chocodile!" You're assistant can be the chocodile, and you can be as nice or as "mean" with this as you'd like.
  3. Turn them loose! See what happens. As a judge, keep an eye on how well the team is working. This is where you're looking to see how they are checking off the teamwork list.

Debrief:
 

  1. What were your thoughts? Easy? Hard? Somewhere in between?
  2. Were you successful? What made you successful?
  3. Why would we do this? What is the point?

Make it more challenging!

  • Add a time limit!
  • Use more than one team with extra resources in the middle of the river. It is always interesting to see if groups will share resources or not.
  • Instead of players restarting put them in different places of the space so the group has to go out of their way to rescue them.
  • Use fewer marshmallows.

Other versions of this game:

  • Frozen Chocolate River - Chocolate River/Barricade: Place marshmallows in the center of the chocolate river. Groups must collect them by moving across the river, Barricade style (no noise - Issue 1). Then, get the marshmallows back to the start and Chocolate River across. Experiment with these rules! Sometimes I'll let them stay in Barricade rules until they make a noise. Then, they have "broken the ice" and need to hop onto a marshmallow to finish the game.
  • Lost at Sea - Groups start in the center of the space and must get to the shore. They start on their marshmallows and need to maneuver to get to dry land.
  • Chocolate River is also a game variant to apply to other games. It is easy to change the rules by tacking on the Chocolate River Challenge to different games. Basically, the group must complete the game/challenge without feet touching the floor.