The Bridge over the big river

Type of tool: 
60-90 min
Topics addressed: 
Intercultural learning
Project management

A simulation game about ICL (Intercultural Learning) and project management.

Step by step process: 

Provisional structure and schedule:
The module is made of three parts:
- Introduction to the ICL module (5’)
- Simulation phase (45’)
Explaining the rules of the game and splitting up (10’)
Simulation phase (20’)
Test phase and first reactions (emotional feedback) (15’)
Break (30’)
- Evaluation & Theoretical Input (40’)
Split in two groups (25’)
Plenary final moment (15’)

So, in total 1h30'.

1. About the introduction to the module
The explanation will be used mainly to two purposes:
- To link the module with the previous ones (we as a Europeans, EU policy, etc…).
- To explain why the team chose to use a simulation game.
- To make the role of ICL explicit during the seminar.

2. About the simulation
The simulation is named “The Bridge”. Through it will be possible to have a common simulated experience to speak about with the group and – moreover – it will be possible to develop during the evaluation phase the discussion about the real world, starting from the analogies with the simulation.

Description of the activity
The simulation involves two groups of 6 people each. The facilitator explains that each of the “villages” has to build one half of a bridge over the big river separating the two communities, and those they have 20 weeks (20 minutes). The two villages will find further instructions in their own working rooms.
At this point the two groups are brought in their working rooms and they basically discover which material they have at their disposal and one document giving them some more information on the rules they have.

Each 5 minutes, and for 3 times, the facilitators will switch two people between the two groups. These people are the migrants and they have to follow special rules in order to simulate the linguistic difficulties in the interaction between different cultures.
The activity finishes with the assembly and test of the bridge (it has to be wide enough to cover the river and strong enough to support a glass of water).

- The document the groups will find in their working rooms:
You’re a village of 6 people living on one bank of the “big river” (50 cm wide).
(The specific rules for each of the villages have to be inserted here)
You agreed with the people of the village on the opposite side of the river to build a bridge. Each of the villages is in charge to build one half of the structure (thus covering a 25 cm gap!).
Communication between the two villages is very difficult, but you hope to be able to profit from any contact you could eventually have with the people from the other village.
For the moment you can’t do anything else than begin to build your half of the bridge...
In 20 minutes you are supposed to have your half of the bridge ready, and connect it with the other village one. When the bridge will be completed, an engineering commission will test the structure: the bridge has to be strong enough to support a glass of water placed in the centre of it.

- Specific rules for village A:
Your society is based on the trust towards the wisdom of your head. All and each of the decisions have to be finalised by your head.

- Specific rules for village B:
Your society is based on the agreement among the people. All of your choices have to be taken by unanimous decision by the inhabitants of your village.

- Rules to be told to the migrants by the facilitators when they pick them out:
Once in the new village, the migrants can’t say anything or reacting to other people’s sentences up to when a new migrant has joined the community. They can however express themselves by gestures and/or react to other people’s gestures (not to their sentences!!).
When another migrant has come into the village, the previous one is supposed to have got enough language skill to begin to verbally communicate with the hosting community.

In Documents/Handouts can be found the full description of the tool together with the activity sheets.

Materials and resources: 

A bunch of material to build a bridge: cardboard, paper, glue, cisors, recycled material, etc., enough for 2 groups.


The aim of the evaluation is to rework the experience in order to get learning and therefore to introduce some elements of the theory about culture and the way you can handle the meeting between two cultures (assimilation, multiculturalilty, interculturality, etc…).

Immediately after the test of the bridges, the facilitators will make this question to the plenary. (10’)
- How did you feel and why? What did you like the simulation?

After the break, the evaluation will proceed on a most analytical level, and during this phase the facilitators will provide some theoretical input. The questions the facilitators will use when they split participants into two groups of 12 people will be (25’):

- Do you think you reacted according to your personal background or not? Why? How is difficult to step out from your own “personal culture”?
(Take the picture of the “onion”.)

- How did you react when you first met the migrants? Why? Do you think there were alternatives? Which is the best option according to you?
(Define different possible approaches: assimilation, fight, multicultural, cultural relativism, intercultural….)

- Did this situation recall to you any situation you really lived in your life?
(This question helps the participants to step out from the simulation and refer the learning to the real world.)

- How do you think is possible to prepare yourself (or the youngsters you work with) in order to facilitate the contact with groups from other countries?
(The importance of IC preparation in International Youth Exchanges.)

The evaluation will finish with a plenary session in which the two groups will report the outcome of the last point: IC preparation for groups. (15’).

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