This desert island survival activity is based off the Lost at Sea team-building game with a little tweak to fit my students’ needs. This is in relation to the book Robinson Crusoe in my literature class.

In this lesson, students participate in an exciting journey from a lavish cruise ship to a deserted island. The objective is to have them work cooperatively in small groups of 5 or 6 and use their critical thinking to “survive” should they be stranded in a remote, isolated place (just like what happened to Robinson Crusoe).

Whether you teach life skills or literature, this will surely be a hit.


In this case, I used a PowerPoint presentation (I’m updating my resources, available soon) which contains images and sound effects to make the experience more realistic and to set the atmosphere. Here is an example adventure story:

deserted island survival activity
  • The voyage starts on a beautiful summer day when students decide to go on a cruise to the Caribbean.
  • However, the weather suddenly changes and turns out to be a thunderstorm.
  • And then, there is a loud explosion! The ship is hit by a lightning and it is now on fire!
  • Then more explosions! The ship is now sinking and the captain is losing control! (This time, I ask students to choose and take 3 items from their bag which they think are important).
  • After a long swim, their group arrive on a deserted island.

And the journey has just began!

  • Fast forward, students are now starving! (I then ask them how Robinson Crusoe managed to survive on the island; what food he eats, etc).
  • Then, I ask them to hunt for some food inside the classroom (I hid some fresh coconuts in the drawers/lockers). Once each group has found their coconut, I let them use the things they rescued from the ship to tear the coconut apart so they could eat the meat and drink the water. (They can be very resourceful!) So they now help each other to cut the coconut open.

A friendly warning: this will be very messy and the floor will get sticky. Remind them to be careful, and avoid smashing the coconut on the floor or tables.

Extension Activity

When the time is over (10 minutes or so), we move on to a follow up activity which is the aforementioned Lost at Sea activity. Because there is not enough food on the island,  they have a little chance of survival unless they succeed on this new task.

Their group found a treasure chest with 14 different items. Their chances of survival will depend upon their ability to rank the items they found in their relative order of importance. They will collaborate and agree on the list and record their ranking on the mini-whiteboards.

Later on, they will compare their ranking with that of the Coast Guard’s to see whether they got what it takes to survive on an island (ranking and score/ability level included in the ppt above).

I wrap up the lesson with Think-Pair-Share to have students reflect on the lessons about life that they have learned from the activity.

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Desert Island Survival Activity