Chapter 2 – Trip to the local forest – Team building

This trip was organized by the Norwegian class, as was the previous Monday trip. This time we headed out to local forest in Jegersberg with an aim to improve our group cohesion. We would be shown some examples of how the group cohesion could be enhanced and facilitated in the outdoors.

We already did some team building activities in my previous education of Sports and Leisure management so I had an idea what the day would be about, but it turned out I learned many new ways to facilitate tasks with utilizing outdoors especially. Particularly interesting was to see new sides and hidden abilities revealing in people that did not show in them before engaging in a group task.

The tasks

We were divided in groups of around five people, and our group consisted of four girls and one boy. The group did not have significantly dominant persons, and therefore the beginning of the first task took a while before we managed to decide what to do, and how to do it. Further, the age and the experience level of the group was relatively low (ca.aged 21-27), which i think had an influence on the indecisiveness in the beginning.

The task was to build a carrying tool/ rack for a person, and it had to have some structure on it, apart from the tarp and rope that we could also use. Then the task was to carry the tallest person from A to B, the distance at this point was not revealed to us. I instantly recognized/ thought that some groups did not consider this while building the rack, and tried to just pull something together quickly, as the winner would be the group that would be the fastest. Out of three pieces of wood we managed to built a triangle shaped rack, and each person grabbed a corner and one was holding the side of the rack. While carrying we had some difficulties balancing the weight of the person because of the triangle shape, and we had some stops and discussions on how to improve the weight distribution. The shape was possibly not the best for the task, but we had the guts to pull through, even if it was rather uncomfortable for everyone carrying. Especially, at this point we could see who took more leading role and who followed etc.

The next task was simply to boil an egg. This naturally included building a fire, and boiling the egg well-done. As a group we had almost least experience in building a fire, and the challenge grew as the ground was frozen, and majority of the wood was wet. We divided the group so that people had different tasks and responsibilities. I was picking up the wood for the fire, and being inexperienced, observed what others were doing, and took some example. I learned that bark teared off from a birch is great for ignition of the fire, and when tearing one should not ring the birch, so that it does not die.

The fires smoked heavily, which could be due to wet wood

We had some difficulties to get the fire started, and we maybe took too much time to figure out it by ourselves, and thinking afterwards we should have asked for help sooner. We got some help in terms of picking up the right kind of wood, and creating more space so that the fire could get some more air. Although struggling, we completed the task, and our group showed to have positive attitude, and nobody really showed frustration.

After lunch, a few more shorter tasks were executed. There was “a stone relay”, a memory game,  singing performance, and a “collecting” game. Especially, the singing performance had the “ice breaker” effect on the sub groups and on the whole group, because a lot of humor could be included in the performance. There was also a cultural aspect to it as the performance was to be sang in Norwegian.

Evaluating the tasks

In overall level, I found that the group cohesion tasks were well structured, and logically organized. Especially tasks one and two had an obvious and useful connection to the actual situations when living outdoors, like building the rack when somebody is injured, and rehearsing lighting the fire for warmth and cooking. Combining the singing, and the memory games then added some psychological and socio-emotional aspects to the tasks. It seemed like the Norwegians had done their homework in terms of organizing the group dynamic tasks.

Further, the tasks were challenging enough, and different people benefitted from different abilities while doing the tasks. Only thing I would have been interested to see is that in case of a change in weather (e.g. heavy rain) what would have been the plan B when for example conducting the fire task.

These are definitely tasks that I can use and interpret in the future when organizing outdoor activities to people, or breaking the ice in a group. Similar “real life connected” -approach can be utilized in other aspects of outdoor life, like for navigation, bunking, paddling etc.