7. Tangen college project

This project was about organizing an outdoor activities for the third year students of local Tangen college. Three groups of around 30-60 students would overnight at the area of “Friluftsparken i Søgne”, which is a beautiful nature area in Søgne (a municipality close to Kristiansand). The area has seaside, lakes, beautiful paths in the woods and cliffs and rock descending into water. Especially, this time of a year when the leafs are getting greener and the nature is “awaking” it was an experience just to walk in the forest in this area. The Midt-Agder Friluftsråd (http://www.midt-agderfriluft.no/Wiki.jsp?page=Forsiden) has built gapahukas, as in wooden shelters, around the area and has canoes that can be rented.

Our class was assigned to organize eight different activities to the college students. We would be working with the students in the mornings and evenings, and sleeping and living ourselves in gapahukas in the area. This was a good experience for us, and allowed us to observe both the college students’ group dynamics and cooperations skills, as well as our own. Especially, our group dynamics had taken a surprising turn as it had been a while since we were on a trip with the whole group.

Group dynamics observations

For our group, development of the time factor had clearly shown its effect. I think that the multiple trips with smaller groups, and with mixed people, had a huge effect for the development of our group cohesiveness. Clearly, people had got to known each other better in smaller compositions versus being on a trip as a whole group.

Now that we were working together again, it felt like people were more relaxed and liberated, both in terms of showing positive and negative emotions. This was interesting to see, especially with those people who had been a little bit more reserved and introverted before. For me this shows increase in trust that people have for the group, hence they weren’t afraid to show their emotions. These two again reflect the stages of “norming and storming” in group development stages of Tuckman’s theory.

According to the same theory, this was also definitely a performing phase for our group. Especially, when carrying out the activities to the college students, in my opinion, our cohesiveness affected our performance in a good way. Further, we got some good feedback from the teachers, and the students which indicated this too.

Another observation about our group in general is, that in my opinion we have many strong personalities, with quite strong opinions, and at times this causes a lot of discussion and indecisiveness, and sometimes it takes time for us to come up with a decision. Especially, a sort of division and some challenge I have noticed between the people who like to plan things well, and the people who rely on things to work out as we go. This occurs especially when we have to make decisions and organize ourselves as a whole group of 18 students.

In terms of group dynamics amongst the college students, there was a lot of variation between the sub-groups, as well as with the classes. In my opinion, majority of the students were quite motivated to execute the tasks as well as throw themselves into the tasks. The last group of students on a third day, was probably the least motivated one, and it showed also from the fact that half of their group (circa 30 students) did not even show up for the trip. This again, was most likely due to the “Russtid” which is a celebration time for the Norwegian students on their third year of high school. We have something similar in Finland, and therefore I understand that it is a very special time for them.

Something that was interesting was that especially in group dynamic games the students had many interpretations and creativeness in solving the problems or finding a way to execute the missions. For example, I was in a group dynamic games- station, where the task was to pick up objects by moving the whole group as one chain while being blindfolded (except for one person). We gave some instructions to the groups, and I noticed that for some groups the less advice you would give the more creative they would get. Whereas some groups clearly required more instruction. These were the ones who struggled finding group leaders and/ or lacked initiative behavior.

Observations about the organized activities

I think for our class organizing the activities were quite routine, but to test our veiledning skills in different situations and activities was more of the topic for this trip.

We had eight stations/activities:
Two different group dynamic stations
First aid
Making fire

The college students were in groups of 5-7. At nearly each station the emphasis was on working as a group, or the activity was to be conducted as a group to get points. I was myself working in four different stations which were the group dynamic stations, canoeing and orienteering.

As said the stations were pretty easy to carry out but some observations about the different groups at different stations can be mentioned. For example, in canoeing stations most of the groups could canoe without problems. However, as I was running the station a group came that had some less experienced students. This was a good thing and made me and the other organizing student to adjust the level of the canoeing and competition for the less experienced students.

For example, there was a boy who had clear lack of physical abilities (balance being the most obvious) and he was a little reluctant to canoe. In fact, his partner had some problems too and their paddling just didn’t work out, plus the wind was quite strong at that point. We didn’t have much time per group, and I didn’t want the boy to be left with a lousy experience in canoeing. Therefore, I suggested that me and the other organizing student would take both boys on each of our canoes for a short tour. That way the boys got a decent experience, and didn’t have to just stand on the shore.

One more meaningful observation occurred when we were instructing the activities that required problem solving from the group. A great example was a station “Amazing maze” where a group was given many items that they could use to pick up an object, which couldn’t just be reached by one person. After a while of testing the different items, and discussing and us posing them questions, they found a way to pick the object up without using, in fact, any of the equipment. So they really managed to think outside the box. I think us posing the “right type of questions” had an impact on the result. And by “right questions” I mean the ones that don’t give too much away, but in fact open a new ways to think.

I think in general the days the day were run smoothly. Some adjustments needed to be made with time and rotation of the activities when less students showed up than we expected. This was not a problem, and whenever some stations weren’t used, the organizing students of those stations could have a look at how the other stations were run and observe. In fact, a suggestion for organizing these days in general, would be to keep one station empty on purpose, and for those students a task would be to observe other students’ veiledning skills, and give feedback afterwards.