THINGS

To Do with

Ropes

Instructions and Materials List

Project Adventure, Inc.
Advancing Active Learning
Item #74034

Item # 71360 (guide only)

Mergers is a group initiative problem with a unique and unexpected solution requiring thinking out-of-the-box and breaking paradigms. 146) • to connect people for Traveling Moonball (Quicksilver.k. p. p.98) • extra obstacles for a 3-D Minefield set-up (Quicksilver. if two people are holding a rope section as a connector. decision-making and building consensus. paper-oriented puzzles balanced with some “hands-on” problems usually produces the best results. To Be Or Not To Be) is a small group initiative that focuses on observation. The ropes can also be used for: • marking spots for the initiative Traffic Jam (Silver Bullets. Spaghetti Junction (a. The Almost Infinite Circle is a challenging problem for two people. you change the problem to a physical task that requires teamwork and problem solving. When using Mastermind activities. 3 . Five Triangles. Eight Pieces of Pie. sometimes used in Mastermind (a kit that includes a variety of “brain teaser” types of activities). and you make the tasks bigger and more visible which enhances participation. These ideas are a starting point.a. p. Use your own creativity to find more uses for these props. presenting a combination of mental. 206) CAUTION: Due to the thin diameter of these ropes. By using the ropes. caution them to be careful of rope burns which may occur if they hold the rope tightly and allow it to slide through their hands. 6 From 9) are adaptations of Mastermind activities commonly done on paper. all using pieces of rope. Rope Tricks (Nine Lines. Squarely.THINGS To Do with Ropes overview This rope kit has multiple applications.

and twenty-foot pieces can be used for the final circle with larger groups.THINGS To Do with Ropes mergers Issues and Outcomes Typically the following issues can emerge with this activity: • • • • • Cooperation versus Competition Sharing Resources versus Looking Out for Yourself “Out of the Box” thinking What to do when a solution seems impossible. place the loop on the floor somewhere in the room.e. Rope can be cut to different lengths to adjust the difficulty of the activity.. i. fifteen. Now you’re ready to explain the rules and begin the activity. Each length of rope is a different color to aid in choosing which pieces to use for a specific group. how to get “unstuck” Focusing on how people respond to change the props Ropes Ideally. 4 . This kit contains: • • • • • 10 four-foot sections (good for most youth and adult feet) 15 five-foot sections (usable by almost any foot size) 1 ten-foot section 1 fifteen-foot section 1 twenty-foot section The longer ten-. SetUp Ask each person to take a rope. tie the ends together to form a loop. one rope per person works best and provides maximum participation. and stand with both feet inside the loop.

Example: working with an organization that is restructuring. As you call subsequent changes.e. The end result is to remove all the loops and have everyone fit inside the last remaining loop. at any point. 4. people may not stay in the same loop after a change occurs) [Note: Adapt the “Change” command to whatever works best for the group.” everyone must move to a new loop if another loop is available.) 5. People may walk on the floor freely as they move from one loop to another. someone is not safe. “Change. 1. Either option is acceptable but the challenge is very different depending on which rule you choose. Loops may not be moved. INSTRUCTOR’S NOTE: Specify feet must be “inside the loop” [the easier solution] OR “on the floor inside the loop” [the harder solution]. Observe and monitor if people are safe before giving the next command. the activity cannot move forward until all people are safe again.. 2. (i. The Action Start the activity by calling the first “Change. If. call out a specific change they have encountered each time they have to shift circles. This write-up outlines the rules – feet on the ground inside the loop. Whenever the instructor calls the command.” Allow sufficient time for people to move and find a new loop. remove one or more loops (as appropriate) with each command. (People may adjust the loops to fit better around their feet once they have stepped inside the loop.] 3.the rules The GOAL: To keep all members of the group safe at all times. All participants must start with both feet on the ground inside a loop. Safe means having both feet inside a rope loop. 5 . allow time for the group to devise a solution to create safety for all before giving the next command. untied or re-tied once they have been placed on the floor. Participants are safe only when they have both feet on the ground inside a loop. If anyone is unsafe at any time.

At that point. . • “ Feet inside the loop” variation – The solution with this rule allows people to have their feet inside the loop but not necessarily touching the floor. This interpretation allows stacking of feet in the air making the size of the last loop less of a concern. tie loops together as you pick them up to make one that works. Be careful not to give away the sitting strategy. Once the group discovers and uses the sitting strategy. the instructor can decide to remove multiple loops to hasten the conclusion or present the challenge: can the group manage to fit inside one remaining loop? Which loop do you choose? INSTRUCTOR’S NOTE: • “ Feet on the floor inside the loop” variation – The end solution with this rule requires a larger rope loop to accommodate all of the feet. Presenting the activity several times will allow you to develop a sense of how big the final loop needs to be. Variations To vary the challenge and allow for more creative thinking 6 • Don’t include the rules prohibiting moving or untying the loops. predictably each group will arrive at a point when it feels the problem becomes impossible. The group needs to find a new solution to overcome the situation. This shift in strategy produces a solution that will typically achieve the final result – everyone inside one circle. the group can sit on the floor and have only their toes or heels touching the floor inside the loop. Two feet on the ground inside a loop is seen at the start to mean standing up. • Allow the use of chairs and other materials for support. the activity moves forward more quickly.The Action – Helpful Hints As the activity unfolds. To maximize use of space. but it’s important that the group discovers its own solution. The group may struggle and have difficulty finding this technique. More people can usually fit into a smaller loop than with the rule above. If you’re unsure if the loops are big enough. The new paradigm involves shifting from the old interpretation of the rules. A 20-foot loop can often fit up to 20 adults who cooperate and work well together.

Briefing Sample briefing scenarios could be: SCHOOL: “ Each person starts in his/her own comfort zone. As we encounter changes in our environment. the activity will stop until all team members are safe.’ When you hear this command. If at any time an individual cannot find a loop or cannot put both feet inside the loop and be safe. In order to be successful. did the activity seemingly become impossible? What was the response of the group? • What did it take for the group to overcome this situation? • What can we learn from this activity about how we manage problems that seem to lack ready solutions? 7 .” BUSINESS: “ Each person starts in his/her job. we all need to remain safe in the workplace so our company cannot proceed unless all team members are safe inside a loop. inside an individual rope loop. we will encounter constant change and need to understand how to move quickly and easily into new positions and develop new relationships with one another. we need to become comfortable moving out of our comfort zones and taking risks.  henever you hear the change command or whenever someone calls out W an impending change from work. The following questions could frame a debrief: • Initially. i.” Debriefing Debriefing questions should always be connected to both the goals of the group and the briefing scenario. Only when everyone is safe can the school move effectively forward and make progress. As we move through the restructuring effort.e. yet we are all connected in achieving the company’s goals. you must leave your present circle and move to another loop if one is available. how did people respond to the changes? Was your focus on “me” or on “we”? • What motivated your behavior at the outset? What consequences did that behavior produce? • As the number of loops decreased. you must leave your current loop and find a new one if one is available. Each change we encounter will be signified by the command ‘Change.. what impact did that have on the group’s response? What impact did you see in others? • At any point.

How widely the ropes are spread out affects the challenge of the activity. The setup Untie one of the loops and string it through all the others so that it connects all the loops. 8 .THINGS To Do with Ropes SPAGHETTI JUNCTION a. seven or more are too challenging. this one loop becomes a center circle holding all the loops together. Jim Cain [published in Book of Metaphors -Vol. For larger group sizes. 6 – 10 people. offer two (or more) sets where each group can report out its decision and check for agreement with the larger team. This activity tends to work best with smaller groups.k. Err on the side of making it too difficult at first. but also don’t spread the ropes out so much that it is obvious one or more of the ropes is NOT connected to the others. Think in terms of layers – all the ropes should lay on top of or underneath the others.a. 2B OR NOT 2B created by Dr. 2] Issues and Outcomes Typically the following issues emerge with this activity: • Decision Making • Consensus Building • Observation and Testing Perceptions The props • Five pieces of rope or accessory cord Each rope is: – between four and five feet in length – different color (see Variations for other options) and – tied in a loop Three ropes are generally not enough. Don’t create a tangled mess that cannot be sorted through. Place the ropes on the floor so that the loops are tangled and bunched together. Five ropes seem to be the right number for most groups.

variiations To adjust the challenge level of this activity. watch and listen carefully.It is best to place the ropes on the floor. it may be worth asking one of these questions before checking the accuracy of the solution: – Is everyone committed to this solution? – Would you bet a paycheck (or something of value) on your answer? – If not. Some groups may focus on finding the one rope.e. find a solution by process of elimination. have three sets of ropes available. 2. some ropes are the same color) • Least difficult – all ropes are different colors. Once a rope has been selected by the group. the rules The GOAL: For the group to determine which rope links all the rest of the loops. The group must agree to selecting only one rope before the problem is completed. Other groups may attempt to disqualify ropes. to point and share their opinions. The group must choose only one rope and all the participants must agree on the rope chosen.. This technique insures that the ropes are laid out appropriately and no one can observe which rope is the connector during the setup. they verify the information whether all participants seem to be involved in the process how the group moves from gathering information to making a decision whether everyone seems to agree with the final solution Groups will proceed differently with this problem.. 3. or if. Participants are free to move around the ropes. why? What prevents you from committing to this solution? The Action As the group works on this problem. i. • Most difficult – ropes of all the same color • Less difficult – ropes in two or three colors (i. trying to verify which rope is the one they want to find. No one may touch or move the ropes during the activity. table or whatever work surface is available before the group arrives to do the activity. Make note of: • • • • • how they gather information and test its accuracy how. no color is repeated 9 .e. 1.

INSTRUCTOR’S NOTE: Please remember that the positioning of the ropes on the floor greatly affects the challenge level. that it be our best choice and that we all support the decision. a tight tangle of ropes will be difficult to solve. The equipment has been flown in but your ropes have become badly knotted together. Recognize that the choice we make has significant implications for our future success. Briefing Sample briefing scenarios could be: “Our team is facing a difficult dilemma. Speed is of the essence to insure your team’s success. Both variables should be considered when setting up this problem for the group. It’s imperative that we select one solution. a loose tangle with few layers will become significantly easier. Even with different colored ropes. Our organization lacks the necessary resources to implement more than one solution. was it checked and verified? Did people feel comfortable with the verification process? • How was one rope selected? What factors influenced the decision? • Did everyone feel comfortable with the decision? If not.” “Your rescue team has been called to a mountain for a rescue operation. why not? • Were you willing to bet your next paycheck on the answer chosen by the team? Why or why not? • Did the team manage to reach a consensus? Was this acceptable to all or did people give in just to move along without believing in the solution? • What can we learn from this experience about how we solve problems and make decisions? About how we influence people and achieve consensus? . listened to or rejected? • Once information was gathered. What knot would your team want to untie in order to disconnect all the other climbing ropes?” Debriefing Debriefing questions should always be connected to both the goals of the group and the briefing scenario. We have several solutions available to us. and with ropes of the same color. so be certain that our decision incorporates our best thinking and analysis. how were differing opinions dealt with? • Did everyone support the final decision? Was everyone committed to the decision? If not. The following questions could frame a debrief: 10 • How did the group gather information in order to make a decision? • How did people feel during this information gathering stage? Did people feel that their ideas were heard or ignored.

or it can be included as a very challenging task in a Mastermind sequence. after tying two shorter ropes together) using a slip knot so that the loop can be lengthened and shortened. This is for comfort but has nothing to do with the problem. 11 . NOTE: The loop should be loose enough that you can slide a flat hand under the loop while it is on your wrist. Achieving the solution is difficult and will not be achieved in a short time frame by most groups. It can work well as a stand-alone activity. INSTRUCTOR’S NOTE: With the ropes in this kit.THINGS To Do with Ropes almost infinite circle Issues and Outcomes This activity is usually presented as a two-person initiative problem. Each pair of people gets one set. The setup • Tie a loop at both ends of each long rope (i. this activity can produce very effective results and should not be dismissed simply because it is difficult. The following issues may emerge when using this activity: • • • • Out of the Box Thinking Dealing with and Managing Frustration Effective Coaching Problem Solving Skills and Thinking The props • Ropes in sets of two Each rope is approximately 6-10 feet long. you will need to tie two rope pieces together to make one piece long enough to do this activity easily. • Ask one person to slip both loops over their wrists and tighten them so that they will not fall off easily. each person has one rope. This activity has a high level of challenge and is probably not appropriate for individuals or groups who have a low frustration level..e. With this said.

The rules The GOAL: For the two people to separate People must achieve the solution without: 1. don’t be stymied if you don’t get it from this description. Before putting on the second loop. Take a bight in the center of your partner’s rope. slipping the knotted loop over their hands. 1. Pass this bight under either of your wrist loops so that the bight portion is closest to your fingers. The action It is predictable that most people will experience some. cutting the rope. of frustration during this activity. i. 6. The participants are free to ask questions during the activity and the instructor should freely answer them while giving encouragement that a solution exists. 2. Suggest that if people get too tangled. If you’re still stuck. read the solution again carefully and try it a second time. they take the loops off and start again. 2.. untying the knots. 4. Pass the bight over or under (depending on if you passed the bight from over or under your partner’s wrist) your partner’s hand and pull it back through the loop. if not a lot. People will try all sorts of contortions and gyrations. • Once the two are linked together. • Ask the second person to slip on one loop. call for a video. 3. the activity can begin. all with no results or making the knot even worse. 5.e. You’re free!! If NOT. pass your rope under the rope of the other person so that they are intertwined. 12 . Pull the bight through the loop and open it to a size that will pass over your partner’s hand. The solution It is helpful to “see” this solution. the ropes should be crossed and interconnected so that the pair cannot walk away from each other – the rope links them together. or 3.

During the action. This activity would lend itself well to coaching from individuals who know the solution. Briefing This activity is often presented as a problem that appears impossible. it can be very helpful to have a coach available to answer questions and provide some guidance without revealing the solution. providing encouragement and hints or tips may be appropriate. It is highly recommended that all participants be shown the solution before the program ends so that everyone knows that a solution exists. the following questions could frame a debrief: • How did participants try to solve the problem? What steps did people take? • Did participants experience frustration? What impact did it have on your pair? on you? • Did you reach a point of wanting to quit? What caused that feeling? • What did you do to move past that point? Did you seek help? • What can we learn from this activity about managing difficult problems and dealing with frustration? 13 . Ask them to share ideas and problem solving techniques to maximize the success of the group. Identify for the group that they have a very difficult problem to solve. If used as a stand-alone activity. Debriefing Debriefing questions should always be connected to both the goals of the group and the briefing scenario. INSTRUCTOR’S NOTE: If people reach a point of quitting.

e. 14 . Typically the following issues can emerge when using this activity: • • • • Out of the Box Thinking Dealing with and Managing Frustration Effective Use of Resources (i. A group must organize itself to solve as many problems as possible in the time frame. Briefing and Debriefing suggestions are then outlined collectively at the end of the write-up. divergent thinking). you will not be able to set up all of the activities at the same time. INSTRUCTOR’S NOTE: With the ropes in this kit... The setups Each activity is described separately. people’s ideas) Problem Solving Skills and Thinking The props • Ropes to construct the problems See each diagram/description for the appropriate Setup. all of which emphasize creative problem solving (i. Each setup indicates how many rope sections are necessary for that problem.e.THINGS To Do with Ropes rope tricks [adapted from Mastermind Kit] Issues and Outcomes Mastermind is typically presented as a combination of mental and physical challenges. Mastermind requires organization as well as creativity.

SQUARELY • • • Ten rope pieces needed All equal length Setup in square pattern as shown in diagram to right The rules OBJECTIVE: How many squares are contained in this figure? SOLUTION: 30 is the correct answer. • Grey lines illustrate the previous shape. SOLUTION: • Move the dotted lines to where the thin black lines are in the middle of the triangle creating four small triangles contained within a fifth larger one. • All ropes/lines must be straight. create five triangles. 15 .five triangles • • • Nine rope pieces needed All equal length Set up in triangular pattern as shown in diagram to right The rules OBJECTIVE: Moving only five of the nine rope pieces.

divide the circle into eight sections using only the three unconnected rope pieces. SOLUTION: Place the five un-used rope pieces in the positions marked by the dotted lines. The circle cannot be altered.nine lnes • Eleven pieces of rope • 6. SOLUTION: The key element is that one line is not straight. The circle ropes may not be untied.Four pieces tied in a circle • Three unconnected pieces available for the solution The rules OBJECTIVE: Making only three lines. four foot pieces 5. 16 . five foot pieces • Use the 6. four foot pieces to Setup the pattern shown in diagram The rules OBJECTIVE: Add five lines to the six on the floor to make a total of nine. EIGHT PIECES OF PIE • Six .Seven rope pieces needed • Three .

If a 17 .6 FROM 9 • Four rope pieces needed • Three pieces positioned to make the Roman Numeral IX (9).. The Master is testing your ability to think creatively. The Master of the Universe has set before you a complex set of tasks that must be solved before you can return to your daily lives. make the number 6 from the Roman Numeral IX (9). Briefing Mastermind-type activities lend themselves to a broad range of problemsolving scenarios. to work past feelings of frustration. a Spider’s Web). This application works well when there is a large group since it creates more roles and more opportunities for participation. They can be used as stand-alone activities similar to other initiatives.’ To be successful. SOLUTION: Use the extra rope to make the letter “S” as shown. Mastermind activities have been presented as the tasks that the management team must complete during the exercise. • One extra piece available for the solution The rules OBJECTIVE: Making only one line with the rope. They can be used as additional problems to be solved while a group is working on another initiative (e. Lastly in Site Central variations*. the team may ask the instructor for verification of the solutions. You must decide how to divide and use your resources effectively to solve these problems in the time allowed.g. At any time during the activity. This type of scenario adds complexity to the work of the group because they have multiple tasks to perform. Sample briefings could include: “Your team faces a daunting challenge. Refer to descriptions in QuickSilver for more Mastermind activity ideas (p. to set aside personal impressions of ‘I can’t do these type of problems. you will need to rely on the collective skills of your entire team. 171).

the team may continue to work on that problem to achieve a satisfactory answer. It is recommended that you experience this type of activity before leading one. Site Central setups usually divide the group into two smaller units: a Management Team of 3-6 people that is located away from the initiative site. They should be used only when managing multiple levels of communication and clarity of roles and responsibilities are relevant to the group’s goals. the smaller puzzles are viewed as equally important by your leader so it is important that your team not forget or neglect the other problems before you. and the group has demonstrated an ability to handle more complex scenarios. Site Central variations work well with large groups and when bringing multiple groups together to work on a final initiative. The team should focus not only on finding solutions but also on identifying ways to prevent or overcome people feeling “stuck” and unable to make progress. your team must also complete these tasks.solution is not correct or not acceptable. While you are solving the Spider’s Web. The group is responsible for monitoring its time and managing how it uses its resources to achieve solutions for all the activities. While the Web is bigger and more visible. The following questions could frame a debrief of Mastermind activities: 18 • How did the group go about solving the problem(s)? • Did anyone on the team feel “stuck” at any point during the exercise? What did you do at that point? • What type of support was present within the team to help people who were having difficulty? . Debriefing Debriefing questions should always be connected to both the goals of the group and the briefing scenario. and a Task Team that is actually solving the initiative. For each correct solution that you achieve. your team can earn extra time for completion of the Web.” *Note on Site Central Activities Site Central activities are complex and challenging scenarios for any group. The details of these scenarios are complex and demanding for both instructor and the team.

• How did this team use its creativity? What techniques did it use to seek “out-of-the-box” solutions? • What did the group learn from this exercise that would be helpful in solving future problems? INSTRUCTOR’S NOTE: With all these activities. based on the group’s and individual’s goals. other topics and issues may emerge as well and instructors need to adjust and focus on the topics that are important for that particular group at that time. the suggested topics and sample questions are intended as guidelines and suggestions. 19 . they offer a framework for structuring a briefing and a debrief. Obviously.

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