and Re-enacting Ropes Course Experiences
Roger Greenaway, Reviewing Skills
principles and practices described in this article
apply to the review of most physical activities. The reviewing
techniques are described in a way that applies to the particular
problems and opportunities found when using ropes course activities -
artificial outdoor challenges where people climb, balance, swing and
support each other while being safely belayed or closely monitored by a
partner. In this article, 'ground level' = on the ground, 'low level' =
about knee height, 'high level' = anything higher.
This article will help
the value of physically challenging activities for
participants' learning and development. You have followed
correct safety procedures and everyone is safely back at ground level
ready to review their experiences.
One of the most useful
tools for reviewing ropes course experiences is
replay without cameras). With so much sport on TV, most groups readily
understand the term 'action replay'. The benefits of 'action replay' as
a reviewing technique depend very much on how and why you choose to use
it. Some of the potential benefits are described below, followed by a
list of the different ways in which re-enactments can be staged for
A problem on some
ropes course activities is that it is not easy for
everyone to notice
what each other person is up to. Others nearby may be so wrapped up in
their own world that they may not notice what others are saying or
doing. Those on the ground may be getting stiff necks looking up at the
antics of those above. They can easily miss key moments when they look
down to give their necks a rest. Whatever the situation, it is likely
that all can learn more by re-enacting the event (or key parts of the
event) at ground level.
- Will you
now sit everyone down and have
a calm relaxing discussion?
- Or will
you facilitate a dynamic review
that creates new kinds of challenge?
- Maybe you
will make time for both?
BENEFITS OF ACTION REPLAY (RE-ENACTMENT)
with or without a camera?
Action Replay vs. Video
ACTION REPLAY has many advantages over video work:
[Video has many benefits too, but this article is not about video
- it is more fun
- it keeps
involvement and energy high
- it is more
- it is more
convenient and saves time
- it is cheaper
- you can do it
- you need no
equipment (although some 'props' might be
- it is an
exercise in memory, creativity, and teamwork
- it can provide
everyone with a chance of leadership
- it can be used
as a search technique to find
incidents or issues to review more thoroughly
- you don't need
it even develops acting skills!
Re-enacting helps everyone to recall,
reconstruct, synchronise and relive the event. Instead of someone
saying "When I was in the middle of that rope" (with no-one being very
sure which rope is being referred to) a re-enactment clarifies the
situation. This is a benefit both for re-en-actors and their audience.
The 're-en-actor' feels as if they are on the rope again and the
audience now get a close-up 'view' of what was happening.
- A CHANCE TO
If anyone wants to find out more
about what is (or was) happening, they can pause the re-enactment and
ask. If anyone saw the event differently, they can question the first
version by showing or directing their own version of the event.
Re-enactment helps to bring back
emotions and provides a second opportunity for understanding emotions
and learning from them. It is also much easier to control or step
outside emotions if 'walking through' the experience at ground level
rather than climbing back up to the same high place - where emotions
can be so strong that they take over again.
- A SECOND
CHANCE TO NOTICE
One of the values of adventure
in education is the intensity of the experience, but whenever people
are intensely involved, they may be much less aware of other important
things that they could or should be attending to. Re-enactment
increases awareness of dimensions and perspectives that were not
noticed first time round.
- BEING NOTICED
It is likely that the audience will be
paying far more attention to the individual during their re-enactment
than during the original event. Everyone in the group has an
opportunity to be the centre of attention.
- EXTRA POWER
The re-enactment can actually be more
powerful than the original event. For example, although the fear factor
may well be lower during the re-enactment, the depth and quality of
communication with others and the degree of mutual understanding may be
much higher 'second time round'. Re-enactment allows the actor to 'play
down' or 'play up' different aspects of the experience.
It is the quality of the whole process (activity
+ review) that produces experiential learning. ''Quality action and
quality reflection on that action are of fundamental equal importance''
writes Colin Mortlock in Beyond Adventure (2001:119).
A re-enactment helps to create a balance
between action and
reflection within the review process itself. The habit of re-enactment
also increases the chances that participants will become more aware and
reflective during future activities. In this way, activity includes
reflection, and reflection includes activity. This is the goal of most
WAYS OF STAGING ACTION REPLAYS (RE-ENACTMENTS)
Here are some ways in
which different kinds of activities can be staged for re-enactment.
journeys (such as climbing or abseiling). These
can be re-enacted at ground level by turning vertical movement into
horizontal movement. The Monty Python team famously (and even
humorously!) did this when crawling along a pavement in full climbing
gear - pretending they were doing a vertical climb. This method suits
'The Wall' and 'Jacob's Ladder'. For 'Jacob's Ladder' it is best to lie
an identical ladder on the ground.
- High level
journeys (such as crossing a rope bridge). Ask
those involved to re-enact the journey at ground level directly below
the bridge. If the bridge crosses dangerous ground or water, then
recreate the bridge in a safer location by laying a rope of a similar
length on flat ground.
balancing on a high pole (such as 'Leap of
Faith' ). Use a short log with a similar diameter. Alternatively, a
chair provides a suitable height but is less realistic. If the site has
a practice pole (less than half a metre high) you have the perfect
short pole on which a re-enactment can be staged. Take proper safety
precautions if the re-enactment could include jumping off.
balancing on a high platform (such as 'High All
Aboard'). Re-enactment at ground level can actually be more dangerous -
because of the danger of falling backwards onto the ground (instead of
dangling on a safety rope). So the re-enactment platform should not be
raised above the ground, the ground should be soft and clear of
obstacles, and all involved should be supported by at least one
'spotter' each. (A 'spotter' is a partner who is fully briefed on how
to safely catch or prevent a fall.)
- Launching off
(such as 'Big Swing' or 'Zip Wire'). A low
level rope swing (such as used for 'Low All Aboard') provides a perfect
venue for re-enacting launches at a higher level.
- Low level
activities (such as 'Mohawk Walk' or
'Criss-cross'). You can either re-enact the event at ground level right
beside the original location, or you can mark out the journey on the
ground (in a different place) using ropes of a similar length.
- Ground level
activities (such as 'Spiders Web'). Make a
line on the ground marking the position of the web. The re-enactment is
the same as the original event minus the actual web. A smooth-topped,
splinter-free, round-edged table is a useful addition for re-enacting
any moments that involved lifting. In the re-enactment, the person
passing through the web is slid across the table. This reduces the
physical effort for carriers (during the re-enactment) and allows the
action to be easily paused at any point - even in the middle of a
- Low level
traverse (or 'Low All Aboard'). Low level
activities are much easier to stop and start, so it less necessary to
complete the activity before reviewing it. Five minutes into the
activity, ask the group to stop and remember where they are. Their
extra challenge is to repeat the first five minutes word-for-word and
move-for-move before they can continue and complete the activity. This
is more 'real' than other re-enactments because there is less
'pretending' involved. You can still choose to pause the action if
there are moments that you (or they) want to explore further.
- Group balance
('Whale Watch' or 'Giant Seesaw'). Wedge the
seesaw with suitably strong wedges so that it will not move during the
re-enactment. This allows people to pay attention to each other without
being distracted by the seesaw seesawing.
re-enactments you will need a scale model of the ropes course. Perhaps
the ropes course designer made one for you at the design stage? It is
also handy to have suitably sized soft toys that are easily hooked (or
placed) onto different parts of the miniature ropes course. The group
sits around the model in a circle - making it easy for group discussion
to develop whenever appropriate. Miniaturisation lends itself to a
different kind of review in which the facilitator asks people to place
their personal icon (or puppet) at the point on the model where they
felt most comfortable, least comfortable, most wrapped up in their own
world, most aware of others, most wanting help, most impressed with
self, most disappointed in self, when thinking 'why am I doing this?',
when wanting to use a camera, when wanting (or not wanting) their own
photo taken, when making connections with something else, etc.
Miniature re-enactment is a good bad weather alternative - although
action replay can always happen indoors or in a shelter if enough space
is available. The use of icons, toys, dolls or puppets to represent
self also adds interest and results in a different kind of reflection
in which it is easier to switch between 'being me' and 'seeing me'.
COMMENTARY WITH PARTNER
This is reliving
rather than re-enactment. Participants retrace their steps at ground
level with a partner. While walking through their journey (directly
underneath the high level activities if it is safe to do so) the
re-en-actor provides a commentary on what was going through their mind
at the time. Alternatively they can provide a commentary in the third
person as if commentating on their own performance from an external
point of view ("This is the bit Roger said he was looking forward to,
but you wouldn't think so now from the look on his face. He can't quite
reach ... He's looking around for some advice. Or is he thinking of
cheating?") The partner may simply listen or may have been primed by
the facilitator to ask specific questions. At the end of the
walk-through, the listening partner can be asked to help the
commentator reduce their story into a few key words, or to help them
summarise their story in three sentences without making any direct
reference to the physical environment.
Why summarise in these
helps to bring out essences - but (unfortunately)
can also bring out superficial clichés.
summaries assist the transfer of learning
because any learning within the story is more readily generalised.
is more: succinct summaries make sharing within the
group more efficient and more interesting.
Naturally you will
want partners to switch roles at some point so that both can benefit
from each role. Paired work followed by group sharing can result in the
best of both worlds - time for individuals to reflect in depth on their
own experiences, time for pairs to get to know each other better, and
an opportunity for the group to learn about (and even learn from) each
ABOUT ACTION REPLAY
Simply doing a
re-enactment can be of value in itself, but in most situations it pays
to pause the action at critical points and bring out more sides of the
story - whether investigating success or failure or something of
interest. Once a group is used to replays, it is a small step to invite
them to take the replay into the future and explore future
You will find more
information and ideas about Action Replay in other sections of the
Active Reviewing Guide:
Re-enactment is a
useful and versatile tool for reviewing ropes course experiences, but
you will also want to mix in other reviewing methods - depending on the
issues arising or on the goals that groups or individuals are trying to
achieve. You can find many more methods in the Guide
to Active Reviewing
at http://reviewing.co.uk Using ropes as reviewing aids is particularly
Ropes are not only
good for swings, bridges and safety systems. They are also a highly
versatile reviewing tool. When reviewing ropes course activities it
makes even more sense to make use of ropes in reviews. For ideas about
how you can use ropes for reviewing (all kinds of activities) refer to
my earlier article Reviewing with Ropes
WAYS OF REVIEWING ROPES COURSE ACTIVITIES
What are your
I will be pleased to add your ideas to the end of this article - with
full credit to you (if that's what you would like to see).
|Copyright © Roger
Greenaway, Reviewing Skills Training, 2004
First published at
Enquiries about this article or
Roger's consultancy services: email@example.com
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