Helium Pole

Type of Activity: Problem Solving

Props Needed: One Tent Pole

Set Up: Have the team line up in two lines, facing each other, with their index finger extended from the hip.

Process: With groups fingers prepped explain to the group that you are going to lay the tent pole on their extended index fingers.  The only thing that can touch the tent pole is the top of the index finger, and that they must remain in contact with the pole AT ALL TIMES!

Instruct the group that the object of the activity is to lower the pole to the ground.  Sounds easy, but it will challenge them beyond belief.  It is a hard activity because it sounds very easy, and groups go into it with that assumption.

You may want to demonstrate 'proper form' (finger straight out no bending or curling under or around the pole) for the pole laying on the TOP of the index finger, otherwise some folks may cheat.

It's called Helium Pole because usually the pole will end up above the participants heads before it will end up on the ground.  The pole is light enough that any amount of pressure will raise the pole, which is the opposite direction of where they want to go.  Groups really have to focus and work together to get the pole to do what they want it to.

Facilitate this one carefully as some groups will get so frustrated that they may want to give up.  Often times you will see people blaming others for not going down, and while they are blaming their fingers are not touching the pole.  Great example of being worried about what others are doing and not taking care of your own responsibilities.

Variations: Using a Hula Hoop will make the activity a little easier as the group can see everyone in the group but the Hula Hoop will act very similar to that of the pole or stick.  If you have a large group either split your group in half or if you have a large hoop have each person use only one finger instead of 2.

Debriefing Topics:

  • How did the group communicate during this activity?
  • Did you find yourself blaming others when the pole would not go down?
  • What was frustrating about this activity?
  • What were the steps you took to eventually make this a successful activity?
  • What would you do differently if we were to do this again?
  • What do you want to remember about this experience?

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