Student Engagement

Stepping Stones

Material Needed: Two different colors of carpet squares (the stepping stones), tape
Time required: 20-25 minutes
Group Size: 10-20
Purpose:  Team building, process vs. goal oriented

  1. Before beginning the activity, mark off with tape or rope where the lava bed will be. The bed should be approximately 15-20 feet long depending on the number of participants you have.

  2. Explain to participants that their goal is to get all of their team members across the lava bed safely.

  3. The group gets half+1 as many stepping-stones as people in their group (i.e., group of 12 or 13 gets 7 stones, 14 gets 8, etc.).

  4. The parameters are as follows:

    • The _______ colored stones can only move forward, the ________ colored stones can move both forward and backward.

    • There can be no piggybacking on top of group members.

    • Once the squares cross the line where the lava bed begins, they must be touched by a body part at all times or they will be lost FOREVER.

    • Everyone must reach the other side safely, using only the stepping-stones.

      • You have 20 minutes to complete this activity.


  1. The facilitator can make penalties for anyone who dips in the lava bed (i.e. the whole group starts over, that person is muted/blindfolded or needs to choose another person to be mute/blindfold), but you can assign these as the activity goes on and don't need to explain them before the activity starts.

  2. Watch the first stepping-stone VERY carefully. It if very likely that they will forget about the rule that a body part needs to be touching it at all times and will throw it on the lava bed and then put their foot down. If this happens, take away that carpet square away immediately.

  3. If the group loses too many carpet squares to make it across the lava bed successfully, you can offer the chance to "buy" back a square by everyone or one person doing something ridiculous. Suggestions are to sing and dance to Brittany Spears, I'm a little teapot, or anything else you can think of.

Debrief/ Discussion Questions:

  • How did it feel to be successful/ unsuccessful in completing this activity?

  • How did it feel to have to start over?

  • How did it feel to have stepping stones taken away (to get them back)?

  • How did your team come to consensus during this activity? Did you come to consensus at all?

  • How did it feel to be muted/ blind? (to have to mute/ blind another person)?

  • Why did you choose to follow _______'s strategy to cross the lava bed?

  • How well do you feel your team communicated during this activity?

  • How concerned were you with completing the goal?

  • How much time did your team spend planning your strategy vs. actually attempting to complete the goal? Was there too much planning? Not enough?

  • How did your team react to the time restrictions? Were they helpful or a hindrance?

Source: Holden Leadership Center. (2009) University of Oregon.

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