Life trees

This is an intensive and time consuming method for getting to know each other; therefore, it is only useful in situations where participants will spend a longer period of time together. It promotes bonding and trust among participants.

< 16 pers.

60 - 90 min.

Flipchart paper, felt-tipped markers

Outline

Each participant draws on a sheet of paper his/her life tree complete with roots, trunk, and branches. The roots represent the past, the trunk the present, and the branches the future. The participants add key words to each respective section: by the roots they add events that have influenced or shaped them in the past, by the trunk they write things that characterise their current situation, and by the branches they add things they want to do or achieve in the future. Each participant then presents his/her tree to the group.

Comment

The presenters should not be rushed and the group should be encouraged to show respect towards their colleagues' presentations because life stories can be rather emotional.

Variations

To make the process quicker and less intensive, the trainer can ask a group of people to draw a common tree in which they present all of their experiences and expectations together.

A tree is a good metaphor through which a variety of questions can be introduced. The life tree can therefore be used for different purposes during the course, for example, in an evaluation exercise the following questions could be linked to the tree:

  • Roots = What were your expectations before the course?
  • Trunk = What did you learn in the course?
  • Branches = How will you apply what you have learned?