River Crossing


To focus on sharing ideas, creating and following through on a plan, and being responsible for one’s role in a group. In addition, River Crossing can have multiple rounds to draw out or focus on key terms. This activity is often used to help frame the ideas around planning a service learning project.

Author: Urban EdVenture Faculty

Print30 to 45 minutes

Students will successfully get across the river together using river rocks and retain as many resources (rocks) as possible. 


Polyspots,* carpet squares or paper plates (one per person depending on the group’s age) and a few extras

Cones, rope or tape to designate the river boundaries

* Polyspots are colorful place markers made of soft material, available in different sizes (often round), and used in sports and experiential activities.



Teacher Preparation 

Gather needed materials for the activity.

Lay out start and finish lines on the ground with masking tape or rope about 20-30 feet apart.

If you have decided to use River Crossing to focus on specific key terms, determine how you will add this to the activity and instructions. For example: If you want to focus on problem solving, you could have each student write a component of problem solving on their polyspot* and think about and discuss: as they lose their polyspots, what happens to their problem solving?



Debrief as a group or have students quietly reflect on the experience through writing about the following questions:

  • What did the group do well?
  • How did you contribute to the group’s success?
  • What specifically caused your group to lose their polyspots?
  • Did your group stick to its original plan? Why or why not?
  • What role did you play?


  1. Hand out one polyspot to each member of the group. If the group is older or more advanced you can hand out one or two less than the group’s number of participants.

  2. Explain to students that their challenge is to get all members of the group across the river, from the start line to the finish line by using the polyspots as rocks on which they must walk. The group must work together to get the entire group across the river. The challenge is not over until EVERYONE makes it safely to the other side.

  3. Share the rules for crossing the river with the students. They are:

    • The rocks (polyspots, etc.) must always remain in contact with the students, or they will lose them.
    • If a student touches the ground or steps off the polyspots, the entire group must start over.
    • The polyspots cannot be slid across the ground. Once they are on the floor, they must remain where they are until picked up by a student.
    • If the group loses too many resources (their "rocks") to continue, they should be given the opportunity to restart with all the resources after they have created a new plan and can clearly articulate what they are going to do differently.
  4. Give the group some time to come up with a plan and encourage them to listen to all members.

  5. Now, cross the river!

  6. Note: If you are doing this with two groups at the same time, the same start and finish lines can be used, but have the groups start at opposite ends and begin at the same time.