Ask your group to spread evenly throughout a large, open area.
Invite everyone to walk aimlessly and silently about the area.
Loudly announce that you would like everyone to secretly identify one other person who is presently situated on the other side of the area.
Each person aims to follow behind this ‘secret’ person as closely as possible, without being noticed.
After 10 to 20 seconds, ask the group to resume their aimless mingling.
Repeat the process with a new secret admirer, and/or introduce a variation.
Video Transcript for Fill the Space
presented by Mark Collard
Fill all the spaces no talking, no touching, moving about.
And as you’re moving about be aware of other people in the group. In fact, secretly identify one person in the group, they won’t know that you’ve picked them.
I’d like you know to secretly walk behind that person without them knowing. You’ll be right behind them and they’ll never know that you’re behind them.
(Group is moving around the room playing Fill The Space. It becomes a circle.)
Alright, before we all get dizzy break out of that and go back to walking. Forget about that person. Great, keep filling the spaces.
Again secretly identify a new person, someone who maybe who is close to you right now, secretly identify them.
Now keep as far away from that person as is possible. Anytime they come close to you move away from them. Keep as far away from them as possible.
(Group continues to move around the room playing Fill The Space.)
Keep walking, but try to keep as far away from them as possible.
(Group starts to spread out more.)
Alright, go back to walking. Forget about that person. Very good. Excellent, keep walking, walking, walking.
Again secretly identify a new person. I’d like you to imagine that this person is like the kid at school who was the coolest, was always in the ‘in-crowd’ but just was never…
You can choose whoever you want. I’d like you to imagine that this person never noticed you at school. I’d like you now to walk in front of that person and this time will be for sure know that you are there.
(Group continues to walk around the room laughing.)
Alright, stop, freeze, hold it there. Good job.
Excellent, now this next piece takes a little bit more cognitive energy to grasp so I invite people to stop, but I am going to go back to walking in just a second.
But this time extending the theme of being let’s say at school, let’s say it’s you high school reunion twenty years later. All these people turn up at the party, it’s all about like catching up with different people, and what they’re up to, blah, blah, blah.
And having a great time and then suddenly the door to the party creaks open (makes creaking sound) and in comes the person that sends terror through every person there. And you immediately put your hands into your pockets to protect your lunch money because the schoolyard bully has just arrived, and they still to this day still scare you.
Here is what’s going to happen you need to in a moment pick who your school yard bully is going to be. Okay, they don’t need to be the schoolyard bully it’s just the person you’ve chosen to become the schoolyard bully.
You don’t want this person to know you’re at the party. Let’s say for example I’ve pick Jim as my schoolyard bully. He doesn’t know that I’ve picked him, alright. You reckon he could have been a bully?
Now I want to be sure that he doesn’t know that I’m here, and I pick a second person, Bree in this case, as someone I will always keep between me and my bully at all times.
So if I stand here, the bully won’t ever see me because Bree is in my way, but of course if anyone of them should move I need to also move. Okay, you are going to pick two people your bully and a decoy, basically.
Do your best to try and keep that line as strong as possible. Okay move around, pick your bully, and pick your second person, and GO.
(Group runs back and forth around the room playing Fill The Space.)
How To Play Narrative
Invite your group to spread out randomly, but evenly, inside a large, wide open designated area.
Ask each person to slowly and aimlessly mingle about the area and attempt to ‘fill the (empty) spaces’ as they are created here and there with people moving in and out. Suggest that there is no need for talking or touching.
Encourage people to simply move and observe all that is around them. Indeed, with a very large group, it is important that they refrain from chitter-chatter.
As your group has started to mill about (notice, how funny your group will think this is already,) call out to ask each person to secretly identify someone on the other side of the space. The key is secret – the other person won’t know that they have been chosen.
Then ask each individual to follow as closely behind that secret person as is possible – so that each time he or she moves, they must follow.
Obviously (and you don’t need to say this,) this is a set-up because everyone is following a different person. They frantically move about to catch up with their ever-moving targets.
After 10 to 20 seconds, ask the group to resume their aimless mingling, and repeat the process with a new secret admirer. And/or move on to one of the variations below (see Variations tab.)
Practical Leadership Tips
Maintaining a walking pace is important – there are always one or two who insist on mingling ‘briskly,’ otherwise known as running.
The larger your group, the more you will need to stress the no talking rule, otherwise, not everyone will hear your announcements.
In terms of your sequence, keep an eye out for those folks (ie adolescent boys in particular) who intentionally enjoy walking into the path of others. Even if this is fun (and harmless to those involved,) it may send a message to others who observe this behaviour that this is not a safe place. More often, this behaviour reflects how the group looks after itself, or not! To this end, some meaningful processing or debriefing could be drawn from the exercise.
You could integrate Fill The Space as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to make caring and constructive choices about personal behaviour and social interactions across different situations.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
I frequently use this exercise – together with Freeze Frame – to prepare a forthcoming conversation about cultural or group norms. Characteristics such as setting common goals, willingness to comply and take a risk are all useful themes to explore when discussing behavioural norms or the development of a full value agreement.
In addition to those described in the Reflection Tips tab, consider asking the following questions to reflect on what helps to form positive relationships:
What range of social cues did you observe and/or navigate during the exercise?
What did you make these signals mean? How did they influence you, if at all?
How did it feel when everyone was behaving the same way?
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, at what level did you willingly comply with the guidelines?
Describe one or more examples of certain group behaviours that do not comply with the group’s expectations?
In a small way, you could lead this activity to focus on the benefits of being mindful, insofar as leveraging the skill of being aware of or present to what’s going on in one’s environment.
Keep Away: For each individual, identify a secret person close by, and then aim to keep as far away as possible (within the boundaries) from this person.
Lead The Follower: For each individual, identify a secret person on the other side of the area, then aim to keep an equal distance in front of this person at all times. As a further twist, encourage everyone to ensure that their secret person notices them.
Terrific energising group game with many side-benefits.
People to People
Anatomical pairing game with lots of fun movements.
Train Station Greetings
Zany, interactive game to inspire slow-motion moves.
Useful Framing Ideas
In the context of our busy lives, it’s not hard to get completely consumed by our own stuff, that we often miss what’s going on around us. This exercise invites us to look beyond ourselves, connect with others and have fun…
Have you ever felt that someone was following you? I don’t mean in a sinister way, but you sense that someone is walking right behind you? You may recognise this feeling in the next activity…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this fun, active energiser:
What feelings did you experience during the activity?
What emotions did you observe expressed by other people?
How difficult was it to go ‘un-noticed?’
How hard was it to achieve your personal objectives?
What did this exercise remind you of in ‘real-life?’