A Guide to Cooperative, Challenge and Adventure Activities that Build Confidence, Cooperation, Teamwork, Creativity, Trust, Decision Making, Conflict Resolution, Resource Management, Communication, Effective Feedback and Problem Solving Skills


Jim Cain & Barry Jolliff

Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 1998, 419 pp.


According to Scott Bostick, this huge 8 ˝ by 11 paperback is the most authoritative and comprehensive guide book on challenge and adventure education.  Sections cover a review of adventure programming literature, how to plan an adventure activity, preparing for the activity, complete instructions for a series of activities using equipment you can easily purchase or build, building the equipment needed, techniques for processing the experiences, and enormous lists of literature and resources. 


The majority of the book is given to challenge and adventure activities, mostly outdoors.  Activity photos are filled with ropes and PVC tubing as well as wooden planks, and many other miscellaneous materials.  (“To a challenge education programmer, PVC tubing is worth its weight in gold!” p. 128)  But indoor activities, including ice-breakers and mental puzzles, are also included.  They are sorted by categories.


Coauthors Jim Cain and Barry Jollif and their staff at Teamplay are available for on-site wokrhops, conferences, leadership events, keynote and playnote speeches, staff development, and training events.  You can purchase the book from the publisher at 800-228-0810 or you can get it from your local library like I did.  See


“In the most basic of terms, challenge and adventure activities provide the opportunity for participants to push past their own comfort zones (physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually) and to enter a region of unknown outcome, which is often referred to as the growth zone.”  “Challenge activities provide the opportunity for individuals and groups to reach beyond the typical, the normal, and experience the unique as they attempt to utilize new skills, apply these skills to new problems and situations, and internalize how their efforts helped achieve their goals.” (1)


“Of all the elements in a challenge and adventure program, the facilitator has the greatest impact on the ultimate success or failure of the program.” (4)


Creative Techniques for Group Formation (37)

  1. Half the group writes their name on a paper airplane and sails it.  The person who picks up the plane is partner to the one who sailed it.
  2. Everyone clasp hands with the fingers and thumbs of both hands interlocking.  Those with the right thumb on top move to the right, those with the left thumb on top, move to the left.
  3. Deal cards and sort by color, number, etc.


Here are some of the simpler activities that were easy to describe without showing diagrams or equipment.


Have a drawstring stuff sack filled with 6 or 8 small unique objects.  Pass the bag once around the group without talking, while group members feel (but not look) inside the bag and guess what it contains.  (75)


A dozen or fewer participants standing in a large circle to reach across and take the hands of two different persons, and then to unwind this knotted mess, without letting go of hands, to create a single circle again.  (107)


You will need 11 pieces of blank paper.  Print just one of the following letters in bold print on each of the 11 pages: D, E, J, N, O, O, R, S, T, U, W.  The challenge for the group as a team is to use these letters to spell out just one word.  (110)


Challenge: To move an entire group from Point A to Point B, a distance of about 20 feet, with a decreasing number of contact points with the ground each time the journey is made.  All participants must be in contact with the rest of the group.  (It helps to see a photo!)  (144)


Challenge:  For groups of about 8 participants to make a flying object from two popsicle sticks using only the sticks and 12 inches of masking tape.  The goal is for this object to fly as far as possible.  Have groups line up behind a clearly defined line, and each throw their creation individually, with all the appropriate cheering and hoopla typically accompanying the launch of anew vessel. (148)


Challenge:  For blindfolded participants to assemble their wooden puzzle pieces in such a way that all pieces will fit into the specified shape.  (You obviously need more information to actually do this!)  (153)


Challenge:  To stack as many tennis balls as possible on a single person.  (181)