An interesting history of the word symbol can be found in Clare Gibson’s book, Signs and Symbols. She writes that the word symbol “derives from the ancient Greek custom of breaking a clay slate into pieces and giving a piece to each member of a group before their dispersal; when they reconvened, the pieces would be re-assembled- sumballerin, “to throw together”- like a jigsaw puzzle, and the individual’s group identity would thus be confirmed. So it was that the Greek word sumbolon, “a mark of recognition” came into being, from which the Latin, symbolum evolved.” You can find more of Clare’s on-going work with symbols at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mrs-Symbols/155840131135411
This sparks the idea that our boat making workshops can be very effective for team building on many levels. People are introduced to ideas around the theme of boats and navigation with the intention that this symbol can represent transition to a desired state of being. “Clay” is the metaphor of the the boat being formed as a physical structure. Individual’s break off a hunk of this “clay” to work on their own boat making process imbuing this with what has importance for them. After they have made their boat, they bring it to the dock, the common meeting place, where they are reaffirmed as fellow boat makers who find new purpose to guide future actions. Their boat also arouses an emotional response as a trigger and reminder of the intention: to move towards what is desired, and feel supported by the group.
Our boat programs began as a way to turn the symbol of a little boat into a tool for staying the course. The way the Ancient Greeks used this as a group exercise carries over into today in that the group’s identity is enhanced by each piece being important and contributing to the whole.