I love working with Raccoon Circles - a trade name used by Tom Smith (coined by Karl Rohnke) for a 15-foot piece of tubular webbing. (Get your free "Raccoon Circles" downloadable activity guide from Jim Cain. Also, check out the book by Tom Smith and Jim Cain called The Revised Book of Raccoon Circles: A Facilitators Guide to Building Unity, Community, Connection and Teamwork Through Active Learning - find the book at Training Wheels.)
Raccoon Circles help me scaffold a number of challenge course activities that will eventually involve higher risk. One such activity is All Aboard - the group stands atop a small box or platform without touching the ground. So, to prepared my groups for the "snuggle" challenge of All Aboard I introduce them to Everybody In (a slight change to the All Aboard Raccoon Circle challenge described in The Revised Book of Raccoon Circles).
SET UP: You'll need one 15-foot Raccoon circle for a group of 12 to 15 players and a tape measure. I set up the Raccoon Circle by tying one end of the webbing (using and overhand knot) near the other end of the webbing - essentially tying a slip knot so the knot can slide up the webbing. Using a 15-foot length of webbing and sliding the knot almost all the way to the free end I set down the webbing into a circle on the ground.
ACTION: Here's how I play. With my webbing circle on the ground and my group of 12 to 15 players ready to go, I ask them all to step into the webbing circle so that everyone has at least one foot touching the ground inside the circle and no other body part touching the ground outside of the circle (in this first round everyone should have room to place both feet on the ground - unless you are working with folks with larger frames). When everyone has made it inside I ask for a single round of "Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream," the I ask everyone to carefully step out of the circle.
Once everyone is out safely I grab the little tail of the webbing (sticking out from the knot) and I slide the knot up a few inches. Before anyone goes into the circle I measure the webbing tail to "quantify" the challenge. "Okay, your circle is now three inches smaller. Do you think you can all fit back inside the circle under the same rules presented at the beginning of the activity?" Most groups will be ready to take on this challenge. I continue this process until the group reaches the smallest possible circle of space for their group.
SAFETY: As the circle gets smaller the bodies get closer together and all sorts of grabbing and hanging on insures. Be sure you stick to the rule that all players must have one foot on the ground inside the circle at all times. Also, make them aware that personal (and overall group) safety is more important than a circle that is just too small. I do my best to spot the activity as well, looking for a place around the mass of people that has the most potential for tippage.
I like this version of measuring the tail because you can see the progress and the ultimate result of the group's accomplishment. It's also possible to return to the activity after some work together to see if the group can shave a few inches off of their previous attempt.
Let me know how you use this variation of All Aboard. Leave a comment below.
All the best,
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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.
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.