(Be sure to scroll down to watch the in-action video.)
I've been wanting to start posting some BIG activities for those of you who work with challenge course programs (and those looking to start one), so here we go. I learned Double Whale Watch years ago from my Dallas/Fort Worth friends at Group Dynamix. I like the versatility of the small (somewhat) portable construction and the wonderful opportunity to provide a collaborative experience for a small or larger group.
If you've ever used a Whale Watch you know the basic challenge is to get everyone from your group onto the element and balance it for a certain amount of time. Then of course there are a number of additional challenges that can be presented. (More on the way, I'm sure, at this FUNdoing blog.)
Whale Watch Set Up You want to place the Whale Watch platforms about 12 to 24 inches apart from each other in a linier formation. (For additional challenge, you can work with offset and angles as well, but they will require a bit more physical effort and/or coordination to solve - a nice upper-level challenge. It's also important to know that the fulcrums "tip" a lot easier when used inside on a solid floor, as opposed to when they are set up outside on the ground - there is a little more friction on the fulcrums outside, making it a bit easier to balance on the Whale Watches.
The Double Whale Watch Challenge Ask your group to divide themselves in half (or close to it). Each half will be asked to carefully step onto their assigned Whale Watch platform (I always have everyone enter at the center area of the Watch). Then, when everyone is aboard, the challenge is to balance both Whale Watches, at the same time, for 10 seconds.
Whale Watch Safety Points As you may know, or can see from the picture and video action below, there is some fair potential for participants to lose their balance and fall of off the structure. I like to have as many facilitators spotting as I can get - two minimum, one at each of the far ends of the platforms. I also tell my participants that as soon as there are two people on a platform everyone must be connected to someone on their platform. This most often looks like hand-holding, but hands on shoulders can work for them as well. As with any challenge course element, inform your group of the potential risk and ask them to keep each other safe during the action. AND, always stop the action if needed.
Two other safety notes. Ask your participants to never walk through the gap between the two platforms. And, I always require everyone to exit their platform the way they entered, off the sides at the center of the platforms. SUPER PRETTY PLEASE, "do not jump off the ends of the platforms - you know this will cause problems for people at the other ends."
I will assume you will add additional safety instructions related to your program operating procedures. For this post I wanted to make sure I covered the basics.
Why I like the Double Whale Watch As mentioned above, I like the (somewhat) portable aspect of this construction (however, it does take a bit of effort, from at least two people, to move one). I like the smaller surface area of the platforms because the micro-movements of each person have more impact on the balance. It also takes less time for everyone to access two separate platforms and get to the action part.
But mostly, I love to watch attempt after attempt as each group of Whale Watchers tries to balance out their platform on their own - it's not impossible for one of the two groups to balance for 10 seconds, but I've yet to see both balance at the same time for 10 seconds without "crossing the gap" for support from the other group. I've seen a few groups bridge the gap quickly, but more often than not it takes some time for that "shift" in thinking to realize they can help each other. Good stuff.
Again, thanks to my incredibly creative friends at Group Dynamix for sharing this activity with us. If you venture to build yourself a set, let us know how it goes - leave a comment below.
Have fun out there.
Chris Cavert, Ed.D.
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This blog is a space for hands-on programable fun - energetic activities and ideas that can be used as a means to bring people together; activities and ideas we as educators can add to our social development curriculums.
Dr. Chris Cavert is an internationally known author, speaker, and trainer in the area of adventure-based activity programming and its relation to community and pro-social behavior development.