Appendix B: Introduction to Leading Adventure-Based Experiential Teambuilding Games

The Three Key Components of a Successful Teambuilding Activity

Three Key Components of a Successful Teambuilding Activity


A great teambuilding activity is fun. It can still be fun if people are struggling and sweating and working hard. Fun means it engages the imagination.


Every great experiential teambuilding activity gets people moving and interacting with the space around them in a new or different way.


A skillful leader is able to create a supportive and nurturing environment that encourages risk-taking, and there must be a degree of risk or challenge involved in the activity. This could mean falling backward into the arms of the group, or it could mean sharing a thought or feeling with the group. Set things up so people have opportunities to step outside their comfort zones.

Key Concepts of Experiential Learning

“Traditional” Model of Teaching

In more traditional models of teaching and leading, the teacher is seen as the definitive source of all pertinent information. The teacher passes knowledge on, and the participants learn it. The participants are usually passive and are generally viewed as receivers rather than learners.

Experiential Learning Model of Teaching

A holistic educational philosophy carefully chooses experiences supported by reflection, critical analysis, and synthesis. The experiences are structured so the learner takes initiative, makes decisions, and is accountable for the result. This is done through actively posing questions, investigating, experimenting, solving problems, assuming responsibility, being creative, constructing meaning and integrating previous knowledge.

The Learner

Learners are engaged intellectually, emotionally, socially, politically, spiritually, and physically in an uncertain environment where the learner is free to experience success, “failure,” adventure and risk-taking. Learning usually involves interaction between learners, learner and educator, and learner and environment. The learner is challenged to explore issues of values, relationship, diversity, inclusion and community.

The Teacher

The primary difference between experiential learning and the traditional model of teaching is the teacher doesn’t provide all the answers to the group. The participants learn primarily from each other and through the experience or activity. The teacher’s primary roles include selecting suitable experiences, posing problems, setting boundaries, supporting learners, insuring physical and emotional safety, facilitating the learning process, guiding reflection and providing the necessary information.

The Primary Goal

The need for connection and love is the primary goal of all human beings. As a result, the primary goal of experiential learning is to help students connect at an even deeper level.

Dewey’s Model of Experiential Learning

As you prepare to lead experiential teambuilding activities, it is critical to understand the importance of Dewey’s Model of Experiential Learning (see diagram below). The sequence starts with the Concrete Experience.

Dewey’s Model of Experiential Learning

Concrete Experience

An action or interaction between the student and the environment, subject or teacher.


The action is considered either through observation, reflection, debriefing (discussion), or some combination of these.

Abstract Conceptualization

Deriving some meaning or knowing from the experience. Integrating previously generated knowledge with the new experience.


Testing the deductions made or applying what has been learned to new experiences.

Eight Tips to Presenting an Experiential Learning Activity

  1. Safety First!  When participants don’t feel physically and/or emotionally safe, learning is inhibited.
  2. Create a learning environment free of coercion.  One of the key ways to do this is to present the activity and allow people to participate at the level that is comfortable for them. Do not make it a requirement to participate. 
  3. Keep the rules simple and clear.  Know when and how to change the rules.
  4. Have lots of fun, and people will learn in spite of themselves.
  5. Stay flexible in your approach.
  6. Present the activity, and then step back and allow the group to work (and sometimes stumble) through the challenge. 
  7. Allow enough time for the activity and the debriefing process.
  8. Meet the group where they are and offer appropriate challenges.  Most people in our culture have participated on teams that produce win-lose and/or lose-lose situations.  The goal of adventure-based experiential learning is to produce sustainable and win-win thinking.

How NOT to Present an Experiential Teambuilding Activity

  1. Provide too much information at the beginning of the activity so that participants have little left to discover for themselves.
  2. Talk more than you listen.
  3. Lead participants to the “classic solution” instead of allowing them to reach the goal in their own manner.
  4. Process the experience in more detail than required.
  5. Stop the activity frequently and tell the group what you think every five or ten minutes instead of waiting for the best teachable moment.
  6. Encourage the group to be creative and then restrict their creativity with unnecessary rules or guidelines.