Sheep and Shepherd
By Becky Rice
Using only a whistle, shepherds guide their flock of blind sheep into the pen. This is a challenging team building activity where each team needs to come up with a very good plan to be able to communicate nonverbally.
Blindfolds for the ‘Sheep’, Whistle for the ‘Shepherd’
- Split the participants into sub groups of three to six
- Have each group select one person as a shepherd
- The remainder of the group will be sheep and will be blindfolded
- The sheep will be individually led (already blindfolded) to various points in the
- immediate area and left there
- Mark the ‘pen’ area (not necessarily near the shepherd) for the sheep
- The shepherds must guide the sheep into the pen.
- The shepherd cannot move and may not touch any sheep.
- The shepherd can only communicate with a whistle. The sheep can only return communications nonverbally.
- Sheep must not remove blindfolds until the end of the exercise.
- No verbal is allowed communication after the preparation phase.
- 10 minutes maximum for the briefing and preparation phase.
- 25 minutes in total for the planning and the retrieval/penning phase.
- Gather the whole group away from the pen area. Explain that the shepherds must direct their sheep into the pen using only a whistle. Give teams 10 minutes to prepare.
- Take the whole group to the edge of the pen. Blindfold the ‘sheep’ and lead them to various points around the pen area. Disorientate the sheep.
- Stand the shepherd away from the pen.
- Start a timer for 15 minutes and reiterate that verbal communication is not allowed
- Watch for safety and call “STOP” if difficulties arise
Trainers will oversee the activity and watch for participants who might be getting into difficulty. If a trainer shouts “STOP,” everyone must stop until the trainer has sorted out the situation.
What’s the take-away from this activity?
For each team to be able to complete this challenge successfully, they will need to be very creative to invent and agree on a plan together and execute it successfully. Help the group make parallels to their work as a team. What plan does the team have to enable their ‘shepherd’ to successfully guide them in their work? What do the limits of communication (no talking, using a whistle) have in common with team communication? What happened during the planning phase and how is that like what happens in the working environment? Did the group make a contingency plan? How often does the group plan for unforeseen events at work?
Becky Rice is currently Training and Development Manager for the White Castle Corporation. She has a BS in Biology from the University of Kentucky and a Master of Arts in Teaching degree from the University of Louisville. Becky has had an array of careers, including a bird trainer, a zookeeper, a museum educator, a quality control technician and a high school Biology teacher. She enjoys scuba diving, golfing, making people laugh and writing. She has a husband and one son who is almost 4. Becky believes that the key to making all learning successful is to MAKE IT FUN!