The Blank Plan

Change the "filled-in" aspect of the start of school by purposefully creating blankness to prompt creativity and calm.

Photo of Dominic Randolph
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The Why:

At the start of the school year there is a tendency in all of us to fill up paper with plans, to plaster walls with posters, to fill up every moment with activities, to believe that we can only think well when our minds are ticking away furiously.

Overview: (What’s this idea about?)

Inspired by many others and different ideas, we propose that we all create some blank space and "habits of blankness" in our schedules, on our walls, in our planning, in our school lives and in our minds. This can take the form of a space for an open-ended project during the semester, a blank area of wall that can be painted as a white board or a place where students and teachers can post ideas using Post-Its, 2 minutes of silence at the beginning of the day or at the start of a class, "pause time" during a class discussion,  or a moment of reflection at the end of a class to write down what was learned. The Blank Plan is a simple toolkit that can be used in lots of different settings. It is very flexible and can be hacked in many different ways. 

Often when there is a spirit of "filling up", there is also a lack of feeling of agency.

Potential For Impact: (Why is this an idea that creates a culture of innovation?)

This short toolkit will help inspire students and teachers to feel more agency, more creativity, more of an investment in the generation of school culture, and create more possibility and calm in their lives.

Value Prop/Pitch: (How would you pitch this to other teachers in your school? Your principal? etc.)

We have found in some of our design thinking work that students do not feel empowered to participate in the construction of the lessons and courses that they take, in the life of the school. That much of school is out of their control. Some blank areas that are their own would make them feel more part of the constructive soul of our schools.

Our lives our overly filled and in the excitement of the new academic year we all like to feel prepared and organized. In the midst of our routines of planning, organizing and getting started, let us carve out some space that will inspire independence, creativity and participation in our school cultures.

Sometimes we view quiet moments of blanks as moments needing filling as though nothing is going on in those "blank moments". I would like to see us reframe "blanks" in our school lives as similar to "negative space" in a drawing. That we actively create blank moments that are energized with potential meaning. So, as we are beginning the school year, let us think of the most dynamic, energizing and productive blank spaces we can create in our routines to help everyone have some space in our learning communities.

How’d we get this idea off the ground?

Practice what you preach! Look over the toolkit and try to bring the Blank Plan and blank habits into every day in school. There are seven easily used ideas in the toolkit and room for some "blank ideas" of your own. Try it out and see if it does create possibility, creative space, more investment, and a calmer balance in the school day. 

How you can get started?

Download the attached Blank Plan pdf and bring blankness into your lives!


Join the conversation:

Photo of Jyoti Gopal

This is BRILLIANT Dominic -I love how you laid the whole thing out! 2 things I thought of as I read through.
Blank time at the beginning of the day - yes! How about at the end of the day as well? To bring some quiet and blankness to the end of what was probably a very rushed day - we do this in kindergarten with a morning meditation in the beginning of the day but also at the end before dismissal - it brings a lovely peaceful energy to the room and seriously, we could all use some of that!
Also, how about a blank page for each student at the start of a class (or at the end!) - similar to the idea of a blank wall but this would be individual to each student. they can use it for whatever (it doesn't have to be for writing thoughts, although it could be a journal page, or for drawing or working out an idea , it could become a paper sculpture, who knows? or it could stay blank ) - do they put it away? do they collect it? do they take it
I have blank mini books (made out of xerox paper) that the children can write in all year - and they can either save them, share them, take them home or recycle them once they are done with them.

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