River Crossing

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Communication | Collaboration | Team Strategy

Group Size


  • 1’ x 1’ squares of cardboard or foam or rubber baseball bases work well also(half to two-thirds as many squares as people in the group)
  • You can also substitute 8.5" x 11" pieces of paper
  • 2 pieces of rope (or masking tape or 4 cones)
  • Several Blindfolds (optional)

Set Up

Create a river by marking two river banks with the rope. Make the river wide enough to be a challenge for the group to get from one side to the other (look at about 15 – 25 ft.). Distribute the cardboard squares – 1 piece for every 2 people.


The object of the activity is to get all members of the group safely across the river. They must go as one big group, not multiple smaller ones. Also stress that everyone must be on the river before anyone can get off the river, forcing the entire group to be engaged at once. Participants cannot touch the water (floor/grass) and therefore must use rafts (cardboard squares) to cross. The water is filled with piranhas. Therefore if someone loses their balance and touches a hand in the water it gets eaten(put behind the back). Same goes for a foot. If a person completely comes off the raft they are gone and since this is a team exercise everyone must start over. I recommend using this motto with the group, "start as a team end as a team." You can also be creative and add challenges in as the group crosses. For instance you can say a fish jumped up and tail slapped someone in the eyes so now they cannot see(blindfolded). Tell them the river is acidic and when two people share a raft it tipped and now their legs are fused together(tie ankles together). Use these tools to help take away the natural leaders or more outspoken participants and it forces the others to step up and take on more substantial roles. No scooting or sliding on the squares. This can be a safety issue and it emphasizes individual work versus teamwork. Rafts must be in contact with a human at all times or they will be swept away with the current. Once the group has started the process, your role is to take cardboard squares that are “swept away by the current” and to watch for safety issues. Use this to your advantage as well. The participants will invariably slip up and leave some rafts here or there with no one contacting them, those you should steal. When the first group members get to the other side immediately start to encourage them to hurry and get off the river. Nearly every time the first few people will rush off the rafts leaving them unattended for you to steal and stranding some of their team-mates. Work this into your debrief, when working with a team you can't forget about your mates. just because you have made it to the finish line someone else may not have.


  • Participants must stay in constant contact
  • Each raft represents a symbol named by participants
  • River Sections
  • The tiles can only go forward. They cannot move backwards
  • No one can finish until everyone has left the “bank” of the river
  • Choose to add challenges like muting individuals, using only 1 arm, eyes closed/blindfolded, no one can talk, others can be "gators" in the river and try to impede those crossing the river, stand in front of the group with arms outstretched to simulate tree they must go around.
  • Give group an object that they need to carry with them to safety and discuss what that might represent
  • Create situations for them to draw from that are connected directly to their group

Debrief Questions

  • What happened during the process? What worked? What didn’t or what hindered the process?
  • What leadership was demonstrated during the process? How so? What did you observe?
  • What were the individual roles people played? Were members comfortable with their roles?
  • Who knew what the process for crossing was? Who didn’t? How did you communicate the plans to group members?
  • What might the different aspects of the exercise represent in your group: the squares, the river, the loss of squares, the facilitator, etc?
  • When the first people rushed off the river and stranded some of you how did that feel?
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