This is the classic group communication and decision-making activity with many variations. It works well with any age group and can be used both indoors and outdoors.
The situation described is based on over 2000 actual cases in which men and women have lived or died according to the survival decisions they have made. Your team’s “own survival” will depend upon how well the group can share its present knowledge of a relatively unfamiliar problem so that they can make decisions leading to their survival.
It is approximately 10am on mid-July morning and your team has just crash landed in the Kalahari Desert. Your light twin engine plane, containing the bodies of the pilot and co-pilot, has completely burnt out with only the frame remaining. There is not even a panel of metal on the plane which remains intact. Nobody else in the party has been injured.
The pilot was unable to notify anyone of your position before you crashed, apart from sending out a general mayday call. However, ground sightings taken shortly before the crash suggested that you are about 65 miles off course from your originally filed flight plan. A few moments before the crash the pilot indicated that the nearest known habitation in the vicinity was a mining camp based almost 70 miles away in a northeast direction.
The immediate area is quite flat and appears to be rather barren except for the occasional shrub. The last weather report indicated that temperatures would reach almost 44°C (111.2°F), which means that the temperature within a foot of the surface will be around 54°C (129.2°F).
Your team are dressed in lightweight clothing – short sleeved shirts, shorts, socks and leather shoes. Everyone has a handkerchief and a hat. Collectively your pockets contain £2.53 in loose change, £650 in notes, a packet of cigarettes with a lighter and a ballpoint pen.
Consensus, for the team, can be hard to reach, however, set the aim for all participants to at least partially agree to each ranking on their final list. The tutor needs to encourage the group to complete the task without the use of tactics such as voting, trading in or averaging.
Watch for participants avoiding conflict or changing their minds simply to come to agreement. Highlight these kinds of behaviours in the debrief after the exercise – there is also a list of possible questions in the pack. An important outcome of this exercise can be learning that sometimes a bit of give and take is necessary in order to move forwards to a solution.
Watch for over emphasis by some participants on needing 100% accurate answers. Steer the group towards the aim of the exercise, which is heightening awareness of communication and decision-making processes, rather than over emphasis on 'getting the answers exactly right'. Display of this need is a point of observation and another area to debrief.
The desert survival team building activity pack includes:
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