August 2002 // Volume 40 // Number 4 // Ideas at Work // 4IAW4

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Adventure Programming Is an Interactive Way to Improve Leadership Skills for Junior Fair Board Members

Adventure Programming Initiatives can provide an option for training Junior Fair Board members to become better leaders through having them actively participate in the learning process. Sequenced team building initiatives can develop trust, communication, problem-solving, and leadership skills. Fair involvement and the initiatives helped build these skills and many others in a fun-filled way.

Christopher D. Penrose
Extension Agent, Agriculture & Natural Resources and 4-H Youth Development
Internet Address:

Pamela M. Montgomery
Extension Agent, Family & Consumer Sciences and 4-H Youth Development
Internet Address:

Ohio State University Extension
Morgan County, Ohio


Developing ways to improve leadership roles and group dynamics for youth can be a challenge. The Morgan County Junior Fair Board plans and runs Junior Fair activities, so understanding their role and working together are critical. Members (age 14-19) need to learn or improve their skills in the areas of:

  • Communication,
  • Working in close proximity,
  • Problem solving,
  • Teamwork, and
  • Leadership.

This article presents an evaluation of how Adventure Programming initiatives helped youth improve their leadership skills.


Adventure Programming is based on the concept of experiential learning. Experiential learning is defined as a process of learning in which individuals actively participate in the learning process (Association of Experiential Education, 1995). One type of experiential learning is Adventure Programming, which is "teaching the basics of communication, cooperation and trust in a milieu of FUN" (Rohnke & Butler, 1995).

This is accomplished by putting a group in an unusual situation in which they work together to solve a unique problem. This gives them a feeling of accomplishment. Then followed the facilitator works with the group to process the experience and to generalize and transfer the lessons learned to future endeavors. This is the foundation to the Adventure Programming initiatives used throughout the year for the Junior Fair Board.


Initiatives were selected based on their appropriate sequence and identified group goals. Sequencing was the key to the initiatives, allowing time for trust and rapport to develop between the members and adult advisors. Without an appropriate sequence to the initiatives, the facilitator might present an activity that is not suited for the group, leading to a diminished feeling of trust, feelings of insecurity, lack of learning, and/or inability to transfer knowledge to future endeavors (Rohnke, 1989; Rohnke & Butler, 1995).

Sequencing is the skill of matching initiatives to the group and determining the best time to offer an initiative. Karl Rohnke (1989) outlines the basic sequencing steps:

  • Ice Breaker/Acquaintance,
  • De-inhibitizer,
  • Beginning Trust and Spotting, and
  • Team Building/Problem Solving.

Ice Breaker/Acquaintance initiatives are designed to give group members the opportunity to get to know each other and become comfortable with physical contact. De-inhibitzer initiatives allow participants to take some risks and to do something unusual or appear inept in front of others. Beginning Trust and Spotting initiatives provide an opportunity for group members to trust both their physical and emotional safety to others. The Team Building and Problem Solving initiatives focus on communication, decision-making, social responsibility or personal responsibility. The initiatives, whether simple or complex, provide participants the opportunity to communicate, cooperate, and compromise with one another and learn to deal with strengths and weaknesses of other individuals in the group.

There are over 600 initiatives available in the various Adventure Programming resources that describe the initiative, list props, and give details on how to conduct and process the initiative. Among the references used in planning the initiatives for Morgan County Junior Fair Board are: Funn Stuff (Volumes 1-4), Silver Bullets, and The Bottomless Bag Again by Karl Rohnke and Quicksilver by Steve Butler and Karl Rohnke.


The specific initiatives presented to the Morgan County Junior Fair Board were picked to match their goals and sequenced to provide time for members to get to know one another and build skills to be an effective team of leaders at the fair. The first initiative (ice breaker) involved each participant writing their name and one word (in cursive with their non-dominant hand) to describe how they felt writing in that manner. This made each participant feel awkward, providing a teachable moment, after which the facilitator related the experience to how new members would feel at the fair or other board meetings.

The communication initiative had one member look at a printed object and gave instruction on how to draw that object for another member who had not seen it.

The leadership development initiative required the group to stand close together on a small tarp and turn it over without stepping off.

In each case, the facilitator would use the uniqueness of the situation to relate the experience to situations that the group could face as fair board members.

Table 1 lists some of the initiatives in the order presented. Members were given a questionnaire at the end of the year on skill development from adventure programming initiatives. The table provides the results from the initiatives. The post-test was based on a Likert-type scale with 1 = no help to 5 = helped a lot.

Table 1.
Adventure Programming Initiatives



Skill: Getting to know your peers or Ice Breakers


Skill: Developing communication skills


Skill: Working physically close with others


Skill: Problem Solving


Skill: Team Building


Skill: Leadership Development


Adventure Programming initiatives provided some level of help in developing skills. Problem solving and leadership development scored the highest. Working in close physical proximity to others scored the lowest.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Skills were taught and youth were empowered to make decisions with adult advisor input and support. The youth took charge of the Junior Fair, which proved to be very successful. More initiatives will be provided with the next Junior Fair Board, and evaluations will continue.

The process an individual goes through following a well-sequenced set of initiatives can build a sense of self worth, greater understanding for others, and improved ability to work in a group. For educators working with committees or groups, youth or adults, Adventure Programming initiatives can build leadership, communication, problem-solving, and others skills in a fun way.


Association of Experiential Education (1995). The AEE Horizon, 15(1) p. 21.

Rohnke, K. (1989). Cowtails and cobras II. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hall Publishing Co.

Rohnke, K., & Butler, S. (1995). Quicksilver. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co.