River Crossing


Different people have different attitudes. To motivate someone, the facilitators have a role, but the participants also have some responsibility. This “River Crossing” exercise explores the roles of facilitators and the roles of participants.


  1. To discuss whether to do things for or with people.


  • 45 minutes


  • Chalk
  • Pieces of writing paper
  • Big piece of paper (newsprint or poster)


  1. Before the session, brief three volunteers to play a role play.
  2. Two lines wide apart are drawn on the floor in chalk to represent the banks of a river. Pieces of writing paper are used to represent stepping stones in the river and an island (the newsprint/poster paper) is put in the middle.
  3. Two men come to the river and look for a place to cross. The current is very strong and they are both afraid to cross. A third man comes along and sees their difficulty. He leads them up the river and shows them the stepping stones. He encourages them to step on them but both are afraid, so he agrees to take one on his back. By the time he gets to the middle of the river, the man on his back seems very heavy and he has become very tired, so he puts him on the little island.
  4. The third man goes back to fetch the second who also wants to climb on this back. But the third man refuses. Instead he takes his hand and encourages him to step on the stones himself. Halfway across the second man manages alone. They both cross the river.
  5. When they get to the other side, they are extremely pleased with themselves and they walk off together, completely forgetting about the first man who is still sitting alone on the island. He tries to get their attention, but they don’t notice his frantic gestures for help.

Some guidelines for discussion

  1. What different types of behavior did the people show?
  2. Does this happen in real life?
  3. What happens when we work for people?
  4. What happens when we work with people?
  5. What does the game mean in terms of our awareness of others in the group?
  6. Are there members of the groups who need to be carried across the river? How can we help them?
  7. Are there members of the group whose hands just need to be held as they use the stepping stones? How can we help them?
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