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Cooperative Adventure Games

… “With heart, hand and understanding”
(Kurt Hahn)

Cooperative Adventure Games offer the possibility of combining educational experiences through activities with social learning in the group. In the foreground are the shared experiences of tensions and the appropriate action and the mutual support and cooperation to meet joint challenges.
Cooperative Adventure Games

Cooperative Adventure Games – what are these?

Have you never before dreamed of:

  • To bring silence to speech
  • To convey responsibility to the troublemakers
  • Wanting to integrate outsiders into the group
  • Of having the opportunity to try new things

Cooperative Adventure Games will nurture self-confidence, courage and skillfulness, but also to use one’s wits and the ability to communicate with one and other. It has happened that one or another group member has “bloomed”, that ability is recognized and a fully new group feeling has developed. Cooperation instead of competition.

Cooperative Adventure Games offer the possibility of combining educational experiences through activities with social learning in the group. In the foreground are the shared experiences of tensions and the appropriate action and the mutual support and cooperation to meet joint challenges.

Cooperative Adventure Games / Bild Nr. 39230939
Cooperative Adventure Games ©: Alexander Rochau - Fotolia

The group dynamic can in various games be quite different. Strengths and weaknesses, not only in individuals, but also the group as a whole will be apparent and experienced. Not every member will have learned to be cooperative, recognize his own weaknesses or accept those of other members of the group, or to offer their services to the group. From this, can cooperative adventure games become the basis to further social behavior in sport, ecological and pedagogical aspects.

The group’s self-awareness becomes, in a playful way, transparent and are conveyed through enthusiasm and motivation, the acquisition of the ability to work as a team, and the exposure to conflicts. For the implementation of this, the are many possibilities depending on the group situation, locality and experiences.

In the following sections, a few ideas aspects and references on the theme cooperative adventure games and experience pedagogy, as well as tips for play pedagogy and group pedagogy. The discussion of the mutually experienced play adventure is an important component of cooperative adventure games and follows in the so-called feedback round. The review of the experiences makes aware to all or the individual, their strengths and weaknesses and shows how decisions were met and how the individual performed in the group. But the risks of cooperative adventure games and adventure trips should not be kept secret. It is therefore necessary to make aware to the group the possible risks, thus ruling out these dangers.

Cooperative adventure games and respectively the term “educational experiences” are at the present time in fashion. The limitations of educational experiences and a few comments about adventure games should inspire thought provoking ideas.

Conception Ideas and Goals

Concept ideas – short and to the point:

  • Encourage the learning process in a playful manner

The Goals at the same time:

  • Joint action
  • Mutual support and encouragement
  • Cooperation and competition

The following list names the most important learning processes and goal thoughts.

  • Important single experience (learning process for the individual)
  • Learning appreciation
  • Learning tolerance
  • Develop considerateness
  • Learn patience
  • Active listening
  • To deal with closeness and body contact with others
  • Assume personal responsibility
  • Demonstrate leadership abilities and as the case may be, initiative instead of passivity
  • Discover the ability to assert oneself
  • Accepting and supporting the majority decision even when ones own opinion differs
  • Strengthen self-confidence
  • To get to know your own strengths and realistic self evaluation
  • To recognize your own experiences and behavior patterns
  • Important group experiences (Learning process for the group itself):
  • Candidness with one another
  • Creativity and presentation (everyone realizes his abilities and all abilities are used)
  • Develop trust of one another
  • The capacity to act in stressful and borderline situations
  • Exposure to risk ( in the group, one takes the risk of being called weak due the fear a situation might present/showing fear is ignored
  • Behavior during accidents and emergency situations
  • Joint planning
  • Experience and adventure (experience challenges in unfamiliar surroundings)
  • Experience fun in mutual discoveries
  • Develop problem solving strategies (how will a problem be approached and how does the group meet it’s decision?)
  • Readiness to make compromises in decisions

Goal Thoughts

  • Apply experiences to everyday living
  • Encourage working together and teamwork (it only works together – one for all and all for one)
  • Exposure to conflicts
  • Acceptance of weaknesses
  • Encourage and challenge cooperation and communication abilities
  • Compensate and reduce fears and weaknesses through mutual help and support

Important for the Group Leader

  • Observe and recognize diverse actions in the group
  • Create a positive group dynamic
  • Learn to encourage and challenge group dynamic processes

Experience Pedagogy

Cooperative adventure games contain games and exercises out of the experience pedagogy. The experience pedagogy is therefore an important ingredient of cooperative adventure games.

Kurt Hahn, the father of experience pedagogy, said once: “ with heart, hand and understanding” one should approach and solve problems. Through direct experience of experience pedagogic activities is it possible for one to relate to events and establish a transfer. The experience of stress enhances one’s own possible actions and enables him with the help of new people, in unfamiliar surroundings, to deal with practiced challenges.

Every youth will gain from the experience (what was experienced? How was it dealt with? How did I conduct myself?) knowledge for himself. Out of this experience and knowledge will result in self-confidence, a feeling of self-worth and lastly, also an independence, which leads to positive decision-making and responsibility.

some more thoughts abaout Experience Pedagogy

Play Pedagogy

When games are played together in the youth group, play processes are put into gear. Interaction, communication, and socialism determine the course of play.

Whoever knows this can better guide and deal with the group and the group games. In addition, play takes many forms of concepts of creative discussions/dealings and means joy and an enrichment of life.

The play pedagogy concerns itself with the knowledge of play situations and game categories, with specific games choices for a certain group and taking into account the obtainable goal.

The play pedagogy should bind fun and play theories. Play is a “helping agent” that the “work” with people simplifies, contributes to personal development and eases the relations between people.

Group Processes

Dealing with adolescents in a youth group requires also knowledge about group processes and group pedagogy. In this chapter, this theme will not be dealt with.


Play and respectively the execution of cooperative adventure games alone would be too little und would possibly leave important learning processes totally unconsidered. From this, is the discussion with the whole group about experienced “adventures” an important part in the concept of cooperative adventure games. The reflection shows quite plainly and makes known decisions, behavior, strengths and weaknesses to be met. Many adolescents find it difficult to recognize and admit their own strengths and weaknesses and to talk about them. Therefore it is so important to have an open reflection with the participants of the group and the group leaders. It is important to give an open, positive feedback without offending or wanting to “tear apart” any group member.

  • For the Group Leader – to prepare

    • Through which questions can I enhance the learning processes of the participants?
    • How can I bring to the point the group results?
  • Quick Thinking for Answers Session

    A quick thinking for answers session can help and show how one another can come together for a discussion. Everyone keeps their eyes closed as various questions are asked. Each question will be answered through a show of fingers. If a answer to a question is 100 %, then 10 fingers will be held up. 50%, then 5 fingers are held up, etc..

    • Did you enjoy the games? (general question for feedback, fun factor, experience)
    • How did you feel? (own feelings, fears, strengths, weaknesses, self-confidence)
    • Did the group work well together? (cooperation)
    • Did you find the games good/bad? (self-evaluation, own contributions for success)
    • Can the lessons learned from the games be applied to everyday life? Did you learn something important? (self-recognition, make own important experiences)

    Through this the group leader receives an overview about the experiences made by the individual and the individuals evaluation. Are all the questions posed, then the participants may open their eyes again. The discussion leader can report the results and tries to lead the most possible open discussion of the results.

    These questions can be included in subsequent discussion:

    • What worked well?
    • What wasn’t good?
    • Where and how did the group work together?
    • Where were weaknesses compensated?
    • Where was the cooperation especially good?
    • Were there borderline situations?
    • How were the problems approached?
    • How were decisions accepted?
    • How did the individual participate and contribute to the group?
    • How did the group results arrive?
    • How did the individual feel by the activity?
    • Why did the individual feel the way the stated?
    • What did the individual bring to the activity /to continue to participate?
    • What impressions does the participant have?
    • How can I further use the experiences in everyday life?
    • What did I (about me/ about the group/ about Nature/ for living/ …/…) learn?
    • What should be done differently next time?

Risks and Proper Guidance

The risks that might occur during cooperative adventure games should not be kept quiet. It is important to create a sensitization to eliminate any possible dangers.

Risks are to found in the set up of, as well as in the execution of experience pedagogy programs. The group or the group leader can become physically over taxed rather quickly. The dynamics of the game, the group dynamic, but also unforeseen circumstances or improperly evaluated situations can lead to risks developing and harm possibly occurring to your guests.

Relaxing Carefulness

Enough care can not be attended to in certain situations. This can especially happen when the group leader or even when the group is also of the opinion that in the current game there are no especially difficult tasks to deal with. Nevertheless a fall from only one meter can lead to a sprained ankle or lacerations. There are of course worse injuries, but every accident is one accident too many.

Excessive Demands

It can also occur that an adolescent does not want to be seen as a weakling and will not admit one or another task is too difficult for himself. The group leader should develop the intuition to recognize this and as soon as he senses that the child is overtaxed, he should preferably then end the action for the group/ or only for that child.


In certain activities (i.e. rappelling and rope bridges) there is always only one adolescent currently in action and the group leaders are, where necessary, occupied with safety. It can happen with such activities, that the rest of the on looking adolescents are unsupervised, fool around and then find themselves in danger as is usually the case near cliffs and ravines.

High Spirits

Wanton stunts could be performed as the youth is incited and as well, fired up by the on lookers. If the group leader does not step in when such dangers occur, or can not assert his authority, such tests of courage can quickly become tragic events.

Lack of Experience

The group leader has not seen, experienced or led the game/activity by himself. Then he is surprised that one or another situation arises. If he knew the game, or maybe learned to evaluate the possible risk(s), he could correctly prepare the group to play it. Likewise, a lack of experience with groups and games can lead to a negative outcome.

Incorrect Materials

The materials used to implement the activity are not suitable, inadequate, or no longer hold up to safety standards or the material is old and brittle.

Overestimation of One’s Own Capabilities

The group leader overestimates his abilities and physical capabilities. The wrong decision is made in borderline situations. The group leader is overtaxed and no longer controls the situation.

Questions to be asked by those planning and leading adventure games:

  • What can happen in the worst case scenario?
  • Always count on the foolishness of others and consider that children falsely evaluate and often are not aware of danger
  • What do I do when danger situation 1, 2 or 3 appears?
  • Which additional safety measures can I use?
  • How do I evaluate each individual adolescent?
  • Are there some individuals that are overtaxed?
  • Are there some individuals who may endanger the group or himself?
  • Am I experienced in the instructions of this game?
  • Have I tried it myself?
  • Have I already seen it somewhere?

Limits and Review of Experience Pedagogy

Limits of Experience Pedagogy

When cooperative adventure games are no longer able to be calculated or controllable, when a specific level of danger is reached (question: when is this too much?), when levity (bravery demonstrations, group pressure, inexperience, …) gets out of hand, as well as the psychological limits of the persons responsible or the participants are reached, then the limits are reached or are exceeded.

  • The games and their requirements can not contain anything to pressure the participants to attempt acts of bravery.
  • Nonsensical games are not games that fall into the area of cooperative adventure games.
  • Extreme sports and survival training similarly do not belong, as one or another organizer would include them under the name of experience pedagogy or cooperative adventure games.


“In Fashion” Perception

The terms “experience pedagogy” and “cooperative adventure games” are at present in fashion. Many understand these to be “magic bullets” or “cure-alls” when “normal pedagogical methods” or “educational measures” in youth work no longer work out. And when more “Activity” than the pedagogical elements are looked at falsely, then are experience pedagogical methods and cooperative adventure games nothing more than every other game or normal camp methods. What is left over is just action and fun and the unceasing scurrying from one activity to the next. Since primeval times are playing and since decades amazing experience rich recreational activities occurred and nevertheless have experience pedagogy and cooperative games never been discussed.

Organizers often lack pedagogical experience and sure instinct as well as psychological know-how about implementing and managing cooperative adventure games to make them a positive experience for all.

Choices Taken

Whoever with the help of adventure games tries to bring up children the way they see fit, takes away the children’s freedom of choice to decide for themselves. The participant becomes an object.

Transfer Problem

The experience pedagogy assumes that cooperative adventure games and as the case may be, experience oriented arrangements bring important knowledge for living. The experiences made are easily transferred in everyday life. However, the ability to transfer these experiences into everyday life has it’s limits.

  • The situation with experience oriented events are similar, but may not be identical.
  • The arrangements are in part much too brief that important key experiences can be made.
  • Experiences alone can not enable transfers in everyday life. The made experiences should much more be worked (Reflection). This can be done in a “verbal discussion” or feedback following the experience. Thus, a connection from the experience to everyday life can be produced. The difficulty often lies therein and rightly so, that the organizer is technically qualified to implement the experience oriented arrangements, but lacks the social pedagogical training needed. The reflection under these circumstances leads more then to frustration.

Inadequate Supervision Abilities

In the experience pedagogy and respectively cooperative adventure games, the “experience” and the “adventure” take center stage. Through the further above named risks and also because every person perceives and experiences things and situations differently are “experiences” difficult to supervise, to plan and can under certain circumstances become incalculable.

Ultimately must everyone decide for himself, if he wants to use elements from experience pedagogy for his youth work or vacation camp.


Ultimately must everyone decide for himself, if he wants to use elements from experience pedagogy for his youth work or vacation camp. I have had over 75 recreational activities many experience oriented events, but I think, one should not overestimate experience pedagogy and cooperative adventure games. Inadequately lead cooperative adventure games and wrongly understood and practiced experience pedagogy make more damage (“higher”, “faster”, “farther” and one goes the distance) than he should bring about. It is not a cure-all and it is also not the key for successful youth work. As Kurt Hahn has said: With heart, hand and understanding…” to get on with business. A lot of truth stands behind this. Experience oriented undertakings and cooperative adventure games are important in Christian youth work, but what counts is the man, the child, the youth.

Page 2: Converting types of games and activities

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