The Dutchman's Rope

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Jim Cain
32 pages
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Anytime a group of people gather together there is an atavistic human instinct to draw closer. Closer to the speaker so to be able to hear what is being said. Closer to friends and family. Close enough to shake hands (if you still remember doing such things). Close enough to hug.

Hopefully we’ll be able to return to such things in the near future, but for the next year or so, maintaining physical distance and wearing appropriate face coverings is going to be the norm for many summer camps, conferences, and group gatherings.

The tendency of campers and staff to come within close proximity of each other has been an essential part of the camp experience for more than a hundred years and the strength of that tradition is being tested in the wake of the COVID-19 global pandemic and its aftermath. Maintaining physical distancing and following recommended guidelines and best practices are challenging but necessary. To do anything less would be socially irresponsible.

But physical distancing is neither simple nor automatic and in fact, it flies in the face of everything we know about creating connection and building positive relationships. Assemble any group of people and, as they get comfortable with each other, they are sure to violate several, if not all, of the currently established guidelines and best practices for physical distancing.

The Dutchman’s Rope offers a simple, but unique, way to maintain physical distancing during actual in-person gatherings. What is a Dutchman’s Rope? A Dutchman’s Rope is a length of rope, tied into a circle, with knots tied every seven feet. Why seven feet? Because current standards suggest a minimum of six feet of separation for proper physical distancing, and the preference is to exceed those minimum standards whenever possible. Group members locate themselves at each of these knot positions, which are a visual reminder to help them maintain appropriate physical distancing. In reality, the Dutchman’s Rope is such a basic idea that most camp professionals, facilitators, group leaders, teachers, and trainers of all kinds can make one themselves, using string, rope, or any kind of cordage in about five minutes.

The Dutchman’s Rope also features more than two dozen connection-building activities that are active, engaging, memorable, effective, and fun, while minimizing risk to anyone involved in the activity. Employing the Dutchman’s Rope, each of these physically distanced activities is appropriate anywhere and anytime kids gather to play and have fun.


About the Author

Teambuilding guru Dr. Jim Cain is the author of several of the most well-received books on teambuilding ever published, including: Teamwork & Teamplay, A Teachable Moment, The Book of Raccoon Circles, Teambuilding Puzzles, Essential Staff Training Activities, Teambuilding with Index Cards, 100 Activities That Build Unity, Community & Connection, Find Something To Do, The Learning Curve, Extraordinary Facilitation, and Connection Without Contact.