Locate a wide area between two points, such as two opposing walls, two trees, etc.
Instruct your group to physically span the space between these two points using their bodies, forming a continuous connection between all people and the two ends.
To record an official attempt, the connection must be established for five seconds.
Over several consecutive rounds, challenge your group by progressively limiting the number and type of body parts which may touch the ground between the two points, eg five feet, two hands and one bottom.
Continue until your group is ultimately challenged.
Video Transcript for Span the Room
presented by Mark Collard
See these two trees? Your object, for this next exercise, is to span this space, and that is to do that physically.
So one person will have one part of their anatomy touching that tree, and that particular trunk, and another person will be touching this tree with some other part of their anatomy, their foot, their hand, their nose, I don’t really care what it is, but that’ll be there.
So whatever it is the number of people we have in our group, the object is to be able to span that space, but the key is that every single person is connected to that line or that group. So somehow you’re physically connected to that group.
It does not mean you have to be holding hands. You’re welcome to hold hands if you want to, but find some way. So that’ll be a really easy start to this. Go.
(people spanning themselves as part of Span The Room)
Okay, great. So we’ve got a group of seven, ideally suited. So are you able to touch that side there?
Beautiful. Sorry, I forgot your name now.
Thank you, Donna. So great, so we’ve made that successful.
Here’s your next step. So presently you have all access to feet and hands and all parts of your body, and all limbs. I’m going to now continue to challenge you, limiting the number of things that can touch the floor.
So right now you’ve all got fourteen feet on the ground. So there’ll always be something connected to this tree, something connected to this tree, and a limited number of something on the ground.
So if I said to you right now can you do this with only seven points of contact on the ground, what would you immediately do? So only seven points of contact. Okay, great, so we’ve got that. So there’s seven feet. Fantastic.
I’m going to continue to give you scenarios. At some point I’m going to ask you to challenge your own level of how you might span this space.
So now I’m going to give you the ability to use three feet, one bum, and two hands. So repeat back what I’ve just said.
(Three feet, one bum, two hands.)
(Touching the ground.)
Touching the ground. That’s the only things that can touch the ground. Two hands, one bum…
(But anything can touch the trees?)
Yes, anything can touch the trees.
(people spanning to attempt Span The Room)
It’s got to be for a couple of seconds. Alright, so let’s go. I’m going to count them as we go. Is everyone in a good spot? One, two, three feet. What, this is technically a back but I’ll think it’s a bum…
(My bum is huge.)
Two feet… Alright, good job. Come on down. Excellent.
Over to you. We’re only going to spend a couple of minutes on it, but gather together… that was more challenging clearly than just simply standing on your feet. What can you now do that limits the limbs or otherwise on the ground but can still span the space with your seven people?
Over to you as a group. What could you take…
You’ll know whether it’s challenging you or not because it’ll come easy or not.
(Well, you could take away a foot. Or take away a butt.)
Yes. So what would you do now that would challenge you that little step further?
(people spanning as part of Span The Room)
So one back. A foot. Two feet.
(people spanning in their efforts to Span The Room)
You just have to be at the base of the tree. That’s still a tree. Are you ready?
(people spanning to achieve their Span The Room attempt)
Good job. Well done.
That was really good. It’s called ‘Span the Room’. It’s a great no-prop activity, just two points, I often do it inside so it’s between two walls, two doorways, something of that nature.
(Give them the challenge, how can you get the fewest number of touches on them.)
Exactly. The challenge is on them. But set it up, make it really easy to begin with. The next thing is take a foot off the ground, and then move it on from there. But then what’s interesting you see how far a group takes it. Do they want to challenge themselves? That’s going to give you information about how does that play out for the rest of your program…
How To Play Narrative
Locate a wide-ish area between two points where you can allow your group to comfortably fill the gap and not impede traffic, such as two trees, the walls of a room or two fence posts.
This is one of those gradually-get-harder type activities, so always pitch the first scenario at the lower end of the challenge scale.
Focusing on your chosen two points, instruct your group to use any part of their anatomies to span, or bridge the nominated gap so that a continuous physical link is formed from one to the other.
In all cases, any part of one’s anatomy can press up against the two endpoints, and the span need only occur for about five seconds. However, it’s never as simple as just lying on tummies end to end. There’s more.
For each challenge, prescribe which anatomical parts can and cannot touch the ground. You will need to design each challenge specifically for the number of people you have in your group.
For example, if you have 10 people, and a distance of six metres (20′) to span, the parameters of using only five feet, two hands, two butts and a stomach that can touch the ground would be doable. Yet, with three more or fewer people in the group, you will need to adjust the number and type of permissible body parts.
As the group becomes more inventive, throw in a few curveballs, such as an elbow, a knee and a nose. In the beginning, you’ll never know what your group can achieve – that’s why it’s a good idea to start slow and easy.
After several progressively challenging rounds, chat about what it takes for a group to be inventive. What conditions are necessary to nurture creativity, and did the group manage to acknowledge all of its ideas? See the Reflection Tips tab for more process starting points.
Practical Leadership Tips
As a very general rule of thumb, allow for approx one metre (3′) for every person in your group. So, if you had a group of twelve people, look for an area which is approx 12 to 15 metres (40-50′) wide.
Start easy. Once you get a sense of how physically-able and creative your group is, introduce more and more challenging scenarios.
It’s OK if you set a challenge that is just too difficult to achieve. This experience can serve as a useful discussion point at the end, ie we can’t always succeed at everything.
If presenting this exercise outdoors, ensure that the ground is free of harmful objects, such as glass, prickles, ants, etc because your group is very likely to be touching or lying on this surface for a period of time.
You could integrate Span The Room as part of a well-designed SEL program to promote and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse people.
Specifically, this activity offers ample opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
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
The dynamic nature of this fun group initiative will invite your group to interact and engage with each other in a manner that will necessarily speak to the benefits of having developed a set of supportive and healthy behavioural norms in advance. Or, if not, you could focus on any less-than-desired interactions or outcomes to explore what sorts of behaviours your group would prefer to see and commit to in the future.
For example, in addition to those described in the Reflection Tips tab, you could invite your group to reflect on the following questions to explore a variety of full value behaviours such as:
How did the group demonstrate its ability to care for self and others?
Generally speaking, how did the group make decisions? How were all members involved?
Describe your group’s goal-setting process?
What types of leadership were demonstrated during the exercise? Were they effective?
Were there moments of accountability that concerned you? Why?
The progressive and increasing challenges of this group initiative require groups to adapt frequently. The nature of these adaptations will range from the strategies used to support the group off the ground to the manner in which they make decisions and leverage their various strengths and abilities. For example, it may be necessary for one or more individuals to change their roles based on the specifics of one successful configuration to another. Help your group to explore how these adaptations can be best accomplished and the most conducive environment within which these can occur.
Whole Bodies: Challenge your group to use as many different parts of their collective anatomical parts (which touch the ground) to span between two points, eg score a point for each different body part that is used.
Self-Appointed Challenge: Ask your group to nominate a limited number of anatomical parts (one per person,) and challenge them to create the longest span possible connecting these parts together. Mark spots on the ground to record their ever-expanding attempts.
Fewest Touches: Identify two opposing ends, and challenge your group to span the room between them with as few parts of the group’s anatomy touching the ground.
Four Point Span: Take a look at Four Pointer for a similar anatomically-limited initiative.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Sometimes, when we hear really large numbers, it’s hard to get your head around just how large it really is. Yet, when these same large numbers are put into more useful measurements, such as ‘the distance spanned when one hundred people are laid end to end on the ground’ the distance is suddenly easier to comprehend. This concept of spanning a distance using people will come in very handy in this next exercise…
Your next challenge will inspire you to be really creative. At its most simple, your group will be asked to span the distance between two points using your bodies, but I want you to put your whole body into this exercise…
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 dynamic, problem-solving exercise:
Were you ever surprised by what was possible in this exercise? Why?
Do you think your group was creative? In what ways?
What helped inspire and generate creative ideas? Provide examples.
How many ideas were generated? Did you try them all? Why or why not?
What’s the single most important lesson you have learned from this exercise?
The inspiration for Span The Room, and many more fun, no-prop, group initiatives, was sourced from the following publication: