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Survival in the Desert is a cooperative groupwork task. I have used this task in the past as a first week of school activity.
I learned about this activity from reading Kagan’s Cooperative Learning book. I’ve seen the same activity featured in other books as well since then.
Today I want to share some free downloads I created to make it easier to implement the Survival in the Desert task.
I created a task card to give to each group to explain the rules of the survival in the desert activity.
To begin, groups are given a story to read. I had to slightly modify the story from its original published form due to mentions of vodka and cigarettes. Here’s my modified version of the survival in the desert story for classroom use:
It is approximately 10:00 a.m. in mid July, and you have just crash landed in the Sonora Desert in the southwestern United States. The light twin engine plane, containing the bodies of the pilot and the co-pilot, has completely burned. Only the air frame remains None of the rest of you have been injured.
The pilot was unable to notify anyone of your position before the crash. However, ground sightings, taken before you crashed, indicate that you are 65 miles off the course that was filed in your VFR Flight Plan. The pilot has indicated before you crashed that you were approximately 70 miles south-southwest from a mining camp which is the nearest known habitation.
The immediate area is quite flat and except for occasional barrel and saguaros cacti appears to be rather barren. The last weather report indicated that temperatures would reach 110° F which means that the temperature within a foot of the surface will hit 130° F. You are dressed in light-weight clothing—short sleeved shirts, pants, socks, and street shoes. Everyone has a handkerchief. Collectively, your pockets contain $2.83 in change, $85.00 in bills, and a ballpoint pen.
Before the plane caught fire, your group was able to salvage 14 items. Your task is to rank these items according to their importance for your survival, starting with “1” the most important to “14” the least important.
You may assume that the number of survivors is the same as the number on your team, and the team has agreed to stick together.
I printed and laminated the Survival in the Desert story so each group could have a copy to refer to throughout the activity.
MATH = LOVE RECOMMENDS…
A laminator is a MUST-HAVE for me as a math teacher! I spent my first six years as a teacher at a school with a broken laminator, so I had to find a way to laminate things myself.
I’ve had several laminators over the years. I currently use a Scotch laminator at home and a Swingline laminator at school.
I highly recommend splurging a bit on the actual laminator and buying the cheapest laminating pouches you can find!
After reading the story, the team must decide whether they will stay at the crash site or go for help. Groups should not move on until they have chosen one of these options.
Each member of the team is to individually rank each item in order of importance for survival. Groups should not discuss the situation or problem until each member has finished their individual ranking.
I printed the ranking sheets two to a page for students to do their individual rankings on.
Once group discussion begins, individual rankings should not be changed.
I printed a large ranking sheet for each group to complete as they work through the task as a team.
My intention for this task was to practice three of our groupwork norms:
- Listen to others’ ideas.
- Give reasons for your suggestions.
- Disagree with ideas, not people.
If you are looking for other activities to practice groupwork norms, I recommend checking out Broken Circles, Rainbow Logic, Guess My Rule, and the Two Buckets Puzzle.
After each group had made their rankings, I revealed the correct answers from a survival expert. This activity was apparently taken from the Air Force Survival Training Manual.
Thankfully, the book I got this activity from also included an explanation of why each item is helpful/harmful. This was very interesting for me to read through!
After discussing the proper plan for survival, I had each group complete a reflection sheet on the activity. The point of this reflection is to refocus students on the norms that we are trying to practice as a class.
Free Download of Survival in the Desert Groupwork Activity
Survival in the Desert Task Card (PDF) (7160 downloads)
Survival in the Desert Group Reflection Sheet (PDF) (4756 downloads)
Survival in the Desert Correct Ranking (PDF) (5398 downloads)
Survival in the Desert (Editable Publisher Files ZIP) (3255 downloads)
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- Survival in the Desert Groupwork Task
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Saturday 27th of August 2022
I would like to complete the Survival in the Desert activity with my classes when school starts. I am confused about the statement:
"After reading the story, the team must decide whether they will stay at the crash site or go for help. Groups should not move on until they have chosen one of these options."
How does the activity change if they decide to go for help or decide to stay at the crash site? Would it mean they could potentially pick a different order of importance for items if they stay vs go??
Sunday 14th of August 2022
Wait, I'm confused. What's the discussion about? After they decide to stay or go, then what? Do they share their rankings and argue about who ranked which items higher or lower? Other than practicing group work, what's the point of the activity?