Survival for beginners

Survival for beginners

Having challenging tasks and a short amount of time to accomplish them? Creating something out of nothing while also searching for a helping hand? How to turn such a frame into a learning process?

Name of the activity: Survival for beginners
Duration: approximately one day.
Preferred location: in the forest, or in a place where the challenges that your participants need to accomplish are actually doable.
Working method: individual work and teamwork (in case you have a bigger group of participants, make sure there are maximum 4 people in a group).
Purpose (expected impact, outcomes): finding ways to improve leadership skills and to cope with stressful environments through basic survival challenges.
Materials: everything that you might need to collect for these challenges, still, you can also decide to leave some of them out, asking your participants to come up with alternatives, or you can ask them to find these materials through a paper-clip challenge or through a set of other assignments.
Instructions: bring your participants to the forest or to any other natural environment of your choice for one day, let each group choose an intention, a vision for this adventure and then let each group figure out the following assignments for themselves:
– having a hike, while only getting a map and a compass (with specific starting and ending points);
– preparing a sleeping place for themselves at the end of the hike (bivaque);
– preparing fire and food for themselves out of raw ingredients (such as vegetables, oil, meat, etc.);
– cleaning up afterwards;
– digging a toilet;
– spending the night outside and watching the fire in rounds;
– having breakfast in the morning and cleaning up;
– hiking back to the starting point.
Also, while designing these or similar challenges, make sure that you give opportunities for the little groups to work between themselves, but also for the big group to work together and support each other in having a great experience.
Debriefing: since this activity can turn into a quite difficult, challenging experience for many of the participants, make sure that you give time for a proper debriefing, for expressing emotions and for realizing learning points. The following questions can help you with this:
– how was the experience?
– which roles did you take and how were you managing these?
– how did your team work; and how did the big group work?
– did you manage to keep your intention and to have an adventure that you wanted to have?
– what did you learn about yourself and about your way of leading other people?
– what would you do differently in similar situations?
– how can you bring these learnings into your daily life? 
Possible alternatives, changes for different circumstances: these are some basic guidelines for the activity, still, you can become very creative with them. Based on the group of participants that you have, you can figure out different assignments as well, harder or easier ones, and you can also decide how much help you offer them. It’s also your choice whether you make them carry the equipment in their backpacks or you bring it always to a specific location. You can also give them possibilities to include other assignments that they would like to have (such as preparing a game for each other or a storytelling evening), this way they can truly create an experience that they envisioned. Depending on your group and on your goal, you can also have preparation workshops in the days before (such as workshops about how to create a sleeping place, how to navigate, etc.). You can also send the small groups on different hikes with a common ending point, where they all meet, prepare food and sleep together. Whatever you do, make sure that you also do a risk assessment, meaning that you prepare yourself and your team for possible dangers and that you are around for the safety of your participants!