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Knot your average pioneer

Be dope with rope and build to your heart's content with these smashing knots and lashings.
Plan a session with this activity

You will need

  • Device to show photos, videos, or slides
  • Access to the internet
  • Rope
  • Spars, poles, broom handles or staves to practise lashings

Before you begin

  • Decide how best to run this activity for your group. Larger groups could set up bases and work in small groups, with a particular knot or lashing at each base and groups rotating between them throughout the session. Smaller groups could work on the knots and lashings all together.
  • Before starting any pioneering projects, take a look at the safety guidance on pioneering.
  • Have a look through the suggested knots and lashings below and try them out, if you’re going to use these ones in your session. Learn how to tie them properly and see what they’re used for in practice. If you can find any video tutorials online to share with your group, even better.
  • Set up areas for everyone to try the knots and lashings. Make sure there’s enough spars or similar objects, and enough suitable rope for everyone to use.

Run the activity

  1. Start by demonstrating each knot or lashing. Play an online video or tutorial that everyone can see if this is easier. We’ve provided some suggestions for knots, some instructions and weblinks to animations online below.
  2. Work through each knot or lashing slowly, explaining each move as it’s done. Repeat moves (or rewind the video) if anyone needs to see a move again.
  3. Give everyone some rope and something to knot or lash. They could start by tying the knot on a small object, like a pencil, then move on to tying it on a spar that you’d use in a pioneering project.
  4. Check that everyone understands the basic knots or lashing you’ve covered. Everyone should now try to tie one of the knots or lashings again with a partner. Their partner should try to guess which knot or lashing they’re tying as they’re doing it. See who can guess first.
  1. When you’re done with the rope and spars, explain how important it is to tidy everything away. Have everyone unknot their ropes and coil them neatly to be put away, and collect up the spars.
  1. Have a quick look over all the ropes and spars. They’ll need to be in good condition if they’re to be used safely for any pioneering projects.


This activity gave you a chance to practise lashings and knots used in pioneering. Learning a new knot takes perseverance, as you might not get it right the first time, but as with all things the more you practise, the better you’ll get at it. Did anyone find a particular knot or lashing especially difficult? Was it easier to see someone else next to you doing it, so you could watch how they did it? If you watched a video or animation, was that more or less helpful than watching a person knotting?

Once you’ve learnt to use these knots and lashings, you can build almost anything you can imagine. It might be tough at first, but the results will almost certainly be worth the effort.


All activities must be safely managed. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Outdoor activities

You must have permission to use the location. Always check the weather forecast and inform parents and carers of any change in venue.

Heavy and awkward objects

Don’t lift or move heavy or awkward items without help. Break them down into smaller parts if possible.

Poles and long objects

Be careful when moving poles or long items. Take care if the ends are sharp. Have appropriate supervision for this activity.