Working in a group can sometimes be challenging. How can one express himself/herself clearly but not excessively? How can a group observe opposite opinions and manage conflicts? Finding a solution can be hard and unanimity is not always possible. This challenging activity will support the participants in learning more about teamwork and communication in an interesting and fun way!
Name of the activity: NASA game
Duration: 45 minutes
Preferred location: outside, in a quiet place.
Working method: problem solving, individual and teamwork (groups of 2 to 4 people depending on the group size).
Purpose (expected impact, outcomes): learning how to cooperate and communicate in groups, while being under pressure.
Materials: pens and paper can be provided.
Instructions: you are part of the crew of a spaceship originally programmed to join a mother rocket at the center of the moon’s bright side. Due to mechanical problems, you had to land about 320 km from the meeting point. During the moon landing, most of the on-board equipment was damaged, except for the 15 objects below. It is vital for your crew to join the mother rocket and you must choose the equipment that is essential for this long journey. Your mission is to classify the 15 items in order of necessity. Put the number 1 in front of the one you think is the most important, 2 in front of the next, and so on, up to 15 for the one you think is least useful.
Objects: a box of matches, concentrated food, 50 meters of nylon rope, a silk parachute, a solar-powered heater, two 45-calibre pistols, a case of powdered milk, two tanks of 50 kg of oxygen each, a celestial map of the lunar constellations, a self-inflatable lifeboat, a magnetic compass, 25 liters of water, a medical kit with hypodermic syringes, light signals, a transceiver operating on solar energy (medium frequency).
This will be done in three phases:
– step 1: make the ranking on an individual basis (8 min);
– step 2: depending on the number of participants, make groups of 3 or 4 people to discuss the ranking together (7 min); it is necessary to start reminding the groups of the time left;
– step 3: decide the ranking of the objects with the whole groups (5 min); the facilitator should put pressure, the challenge is to be able to take collective decisions under pressure and to observe the interactions between the members of the group.
After the debriefing, you can reveal the correct answer to the participants.
Solution: to establish their ranking, the NASA experts used two alternating criteria: – what ensures biological life and which ensures the possibility of joining the mother rocket. These two criteria mean, by their association, survival.
Nº15: box of matches (the absence of oxygen does not allow them to be ignited);
Nº14: magnetic compass (no use on the moon, as the magnetic field is not exploited there);
Nº13: solar-powered heater (no need: the suits are heated);
Nº12: case of powdered milk (nutritional trap: more bulky than concentrated food);
Nº11: two 45-calibre pistols (can be used to speed up propulsion; at the very least, to end one’s life);
Nº10: light signals (useful when the mother rocket is in sight);
Nº9: self-inflatable lifeboat (can be used as a sled to pull objects; the gas (CO ) used for this vehicle can be used for propulsion);
Nº8: silk parachute (can be used to protect against the sun’s rays);
Nº7: medical kit with hypodermic syringes (bites of vitamins, serum, etc. require a special opening (provided for by NASA) in the suit;
Nº6: 50 meters of nylon rope (useful for roping, climbing rocks, possibly hoisting the wounded);
Nº5: a transceiver operating on solar energy (useful to try to communicate with the mother rocket but this device does not have a long range);
Nº4: concentrated food (efficient way to repair energy losses);
Nº3: celestial map of the lunar constellations (essential for orientation);
Nº2: 25 liters of water (indispensable to compensate for strong dehydration due to the very high heat on the lit side of the moon);
Nº1: two tanks of 50 kg of oxygen each (first element of survival: essential).
Debriefing: After the activity is completed, have a short debriefing to reflect on the whole process and close the activity together with all the participants. As a facilitator you can question the group on certain interactions that you observed and ask them questions such as:
– how did you make decisions together?
– was it easy or difficult; were there tensions?
– did everyone feel like they were heard?
– did some people feel like they weren’t being listened to?
– was there something that slowed down the group’s decision making process?
– was there a person in charge of time management?
– what could you have done differently?
Possible alternatives, changes for different circumstances: based on the principles of this activity, you can use any other text, even texts that are directly related to the topic you would like to work on (employability, inclusion, active participation, etc.).