An activity that challenges the team to work together. Highlighting the unspoken moods and behaviors that are unknown to the individual and are felt by the group. While individuals are all in contact, when one team member makes a slight move, the other people (without knowing) move to compensate for the change. This creates a chain reaction causing frustration and greater movement amongst the team.

  • Tent Pole – assemble, so it creates a long stick
  • Or a long stick, PVC pipe pieces, hula-hoops, foam pool noodles; if you have any other alternative material ideas, let me know.
  1. Lower the pole to the ground
  2. Focus on the group’s emotional intelligence – as one person tenses up and causes the pole to raise, others around them also raise the pole lacking conscious knowledge of what they are doing.

Assemble the pole and ensure that it is not broken.

Instructions and Facilitator Script:

Lay the tent pole on the ground.

Ask the people to line up so that one-half of the group is on one side of the pole and the second half is standing on the other side of the pole, facing a partner.

Now ask all the players to point their index and middle fingers straight in front of them. Thumbs up, index and middle finger straight out, and the rest curled in. Hold your hands about chest high.

Then place the tent pole across the top of each player’s index finger.

There should be all fingers on the underside touching the pole. Now they are ready for a little Descend-Sion.

Ask the group to lower the tent pole to the ground and set it down. All team members must have their index finger in contact with the pole at all times. If a finger un-touches the pole, the team must start again. Also, people may not pinch the pole with their thumbs to hold it down. The pole is meant to lie upon the top of the index fingers.

Facilitator Notes:

Pay careful attention to the group’s fingers and the contacts of the fingers. This activity is deceptively challenging many teams are unable to complete it.

Potential Processing Questions:
  • Did you notice that the pole kept rising?
  • What caused that to happen?
  • Describe the teams’ communication?
  • What parts of this activity were frustrating?
  • What factors led to success? Or failure?
  • Do these successes / failures happen in the office / classroom / home / etc…?
  • What causes those to happen?
  • How is Descend-sion like the team / classroom / etc…?
  • In what ways did you add to the success/frustration of the team?
  • What did we learn, and how can it be applied?

The name of this team-building activity is also Helium Stick. The name Descend-sion comes from Chris Cavert’s book Affordable Portables.

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