Team-building may be the true heart of the FLL challenge. When we began coaching FLL teams in 2004,we thought the technical aspects were going to be hardest for the kids. We were WRONG!
Getting ten (or in our case 55) 8 to 14 year olds to collaborate on a complex, unexplained and small robot proved to be the greater challenge. So, our teams work on team-building every single meeting. We play games. We have scheduled sharing times. We party and have regular play dates. We suggest incorporating team-building activities into every gathering.
- Have members sign a Code of Conduct agreement at first session and hold them to it
- Build time into each meeting to share:
- What each person learned
- Problems/issues that arose and possible solutions
- Congratulations and recognition for what each person/the team has accomplished
- Goals for next week
- Regularly challenge the kids to stop, think, communicate and THEN act
- Encourage and reward failed experiments
- Play together – in class and out
The following sites offer great tips, techniques and games for building strong teams.
- Team-Building Activities for Every Group, Alanna Jones
- Team Challenges: 170+ Group Activities to Build Cooperation, Communication, and Creativity, Kris Bordessa
- Great Group Games: 175 Boredom-Busting, Zero-Prep Team Builders for All Ages, Susan Ragsdale
- 104 Activities that Build Self-Esteem, Teamwork, Communication, Anger Management, Self-Discovery and Coping Skills, Alanna Jones
The following are some of the games our Club has played over the years. All challenge the kids to think, work and play as a team.
- Warp Speed - Have kids toss a ball to each member of group faster and faster.
- Human Knot – Have kids stand in a circle, reach their hands out to those across from them and lock hands. They must hold two people’s hands. Have them untangle themselves WITHOUT letting go of hands.
- Balloon Races – Group the kids into teams and have teams stand in rows next to each other. Send half of each row to opposite side of room and have them face their teammates. Give each team a large spoon and a balloon. They must relay the balloon back and forth between the two halves of their team WITHOUT touching the balloon or letting the balloon touch the floor. If they touch the balloon or allow it to touch the floor, that member of their team must return to his/her starting point and try again. The team that has had all of its team members carry the balloon back and forth successfully first wins.
- Hula-Hoop Pass – Have the kids stand in a circle, join hands & pass a hoola-hoop all the way around WITHOUT letting go of each other.
- Islands/Foot Bridge – Divide the kids into groups of four or five. Have half the groups stand in rows on one side of a long room. Have the other half of the groups stand opposite them in rows. Give each group two or three large pieces of cardboard or carpet. Tell them these serve as floating rafts to help them cross shark-infested waters (the floor). They may only cross by stepping on the cardboard. Everyone must cross the room. If anyone steps/falls on a team into the water, that team loses. [NOTE: The real objective of this game is to get the kids to collaborate with the folks at the other end of the room, sharing their "stepping stones." However, they often don’t figure this out. Remind them that the ONLY rules are that everyone must cross and no one may step/fall into the water.]
- Chair Sit – Have the group stand front-to-back in a circle and try to sit on each other’s laps. (This is a quick and hilarious game. It takes a lot of collaboration for large groups to figure out how to balance, etc.}
- Shrinking Platform – Have all the kids gather in a defined space. (You could mark concentric circles/squares on the floor, lay down a certain number of tiles, etc.) Then, start reducing the space and have the kids figure out how they can still fit in that space.
- Program Your Robot – Set-up an obstacle course for every ten or so kids. The course should be a mix of barriers the kids must navigate and tasks they must do (like put a ball into a cup, step over a string, etc. Assign one child to act as "robot," and blindfold him/her. [NOTE: It may help to have an adult act as the first robot.] Position four or five "programmers" along the course to direct the "robot." Arm the robot with treats, such as candy, to give the programmers who do a good job. Tell the robot to do EXACTLY as the programmer tells him/her. The objective of this game is to teach the kids the importance of clearly, exactly communicating what the robot must do.
- Jailbreak – Set-up an obstacle course. The course should be a mix of barriers the kids must navigate and tasks they must do. Divide the group into pairs. Bind each pair at the ankle and blindfold one person in each set. They must travel through an obstacle course together.
- Helium Stick – Using a long, light rod, participants rest the rod on their index fingers only and attempt to lower it to the ground together without dropping it.
- Human Machine – Divide the kids into groups of four or five. Have them brainstorm about a moving machine they could form with their bodies. Have them perform for the group and let the others guess what they are/are doing.
- Team Musical Chairs – Have the kids set-up as if they were going to play musical chairs. Tell them the objective of this game is to get everyone on the chairs as soon as the music stops. Have enough chairs for everyone at the beginning. Remove a chair each round. If someone is NOT on a chair at the end of a round, everyone loses. [NOTE: This is meant to be a collaborative game, but the kids often jump to the conclusion that they already know how to play the game. They must listen to the exact instructions and get everyone on the chairs.]
Engineering Games for Teams
NOTE: Set time restrictions for each of these projects to encourage teams to communicate and work together under pressure.
- Egg Drop – Create a protective "package" using straws, toothpicks, tape, etc. that will enable a raw egg to survive a 10 to 100 ft drop. [NOTE: To avoid a mess, put the eggs in Ziploc bags.]
- Egg Bungee Jump – Give the kids elastic cord, rubber bands, yard sticks and tape. Have them design a bungee jump so the egg stops within 2 inches of the floor. [NOTE: To avoid a mess, put the eggs in Ziploc bags.]
- Straw Bridge – Give the kids newspaper and straws. Challenge them to build a bridge that spans a 2 foot gap. Their bridge must be sturdy enough to support ever increasing weight (such as stacks of pennies).
- Puff Mobile – Give the kids straw, paper, cotton balls, etc. Challenge them to make a vehicle that will roll when blown.
- Cup Stack – Give the kids paper cups, string and rubber bands. Ask them to build the tallest possible tower without using their hands.
- Build a Teepee – Give the kids newspaper, paper plates, staples and tape to build a teepee big enough to fit at least one person and to stand without support.
- Build a Catapult – Give the kids Legos. Challenge them to construct a catapult that can throw a marshmallow the farthest.
- Move Marbles – Give the kids newspaper, tape, paper clips, marbles and a bucket. Challenge them to create a maze to carry marbles 3 or more from table to bucket.