This is a guest post by Tyler Hayden.

Staff orientation should build connectivity.

I remember those beautiful crisp days at YMCA Camp PineCrest. Our management team were as busy as the ice melting to get ready for the influx of counsellors. We hosted a weekend prior to camp to help work though some of the policy and learning needs for our staff, but more importantly build connectivity. What I realized is that staff teams that have that “magical” connectivity are the the teams that build the best experiences for campers.

Connectivity happens in a bunch of ways… could be nights out, summer romance, intense camper groups, or just that “ah ha” moment when you link with someone new. Building connectivity is essential. It allows us to weather those tough days or trying experiences. It enables us to build lifelong friendships. It secures our emotional readiness in a 24/7 work environment. Connectivity yields such great outcomes as support, stability, happiness and strength — to name just a few.

The question is how do you begin to build that? We know nights out and romance can help, but we don’t (and shouldn’t ) have influence on that (lol). So what can we do?

AMBULATORS
In my practice as a team designer, I have spent many hours building what I call “Ambulators”. These are quick activities that can be done moving from place to place. Their original application was hiking with kids from their cabin to a “nature spot” on camp… we would recite the alphabet one after another naming things we saw in the outdoors that started with the next letter (i.e. A – Alder, B – Bushes, C – Camouflage, etc.).

RESOURCES
Today, as a team designer I have taken the same technique and built some great connectivity tools for building teams. Team Building 20 and More Team Building 20 are great examples and can be found on the Patchwork Marketplace website. These quick tools allow you, as the supervisor, to frame an experience that enables staff (or junior leaders) to develop those commonalities that lead to connectivity.

Investing in these small 5 -15 minute experiences in connectivity yield long term results and the best experiences for our campers. Try one out at your staff orientation – you’ll be glad you did.

FOR CAMPERS, TOO
Ambulators are not only great for staff connectivity, they are perfect for campers, as well. Remember our definition.

Ambulator [am-byuh-leyt-or]
1. To move from one place to another while engaging in a game that develops learning connectivity.

The “Ambulator” is a great category of team building tools that help to generate camper connectivity at times that are often lost learning opportunities. They are not the fuel logs of team building, but rather the bellows that stoke team connectivity with small puffs.

A great Ambulator will typically divide off some of your camper group into smaller units. Then, the Ambulator has very simple rules as to limit the amount of time invested in “getting ready” to play. Typically, the time invested in the activity will be 5 to 15 minutes in total. The goal of the Ambulator is to create quick meaningful connections between people that will spur further engagement.

The “next level” of Ambulator is when gamification is added to your Ambulators. This takes a bit more work – but the results are amazing. You can structure a series of Ambulators and wrap them into your program so that learners are tasked (if they choose) to complete a series of these activities. Upon completion of the activities they receive points, badges, and prizes – in addition to the great camper development experiences derived along the way.

EXAMPLES OF AMBULATORS

  • Open ended questions, printed on cards, focused on learning outcomes or connectivity
  • A travel scavenger hunt for those carpooling or bussing to camp or while moving during the event
  • Scrabble tiles, give 5 to each person and have them make words with others on the walk per a theme – i.e. things in nature.

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Tyler Hayden, BRM (Outdoor and Environmental Education), is an Internationally recognized team building author and speaker with over 20 years of experience. You can find out more about him at www.teammover.com and www.tylerhayden.com.