The Road to Nowhere

June 24, 2021
Stephanie Reisch
Alison Caeiro


School: Spearwood Alternative School 

Year Group: 3/4

Teacher: Alison Caeiro

Creative Practitioner: Stephanie Reisch

Creative Practice: Visual Artist

We all feel like we need a destination to be moving towards, some clear objective that we can plan around and aspire to. However, the creative journey is notorious for having no clear terminus. In essence, it’s a journey to nowhere in particular and the experience itself is often fraught with unknowns, meandering paths, unexpected shifts in altitude and unpredictable weather.

As a creative practitioner entering into a collaborative working relationship with a teacher, the need for a plan that sets out clear milestones and outcomes, is considered pretty standard. Whether the focus area is creative or academic, there is an expectation that there will be some kind of measurable learning outcome; something to photograph, present, document, exhibit, or in this instance, blog about. So, we work with our teachers to create ingenious activities with the intention to excite and stimulate young people into learning. But what happens if you’re presented with a group of overstimulated students and have no fixed destination? What learning outcomes can be extracted from this scenario?

My time at Spearwood Alternative School prompted me to reassess the role I play as a co-facilitator of creative learning, as well as the value in process driven activities. It also forced me to question the validity of A to B journeys. For example, travelling from A to B is a predictable and measured route. Travelling from A to ‘nowhere’ on the other hand, is filled with possibilities. It can encompass every path and none.

Over two terms Ali and I worked with a group of Year 3 and 4 students in the curriculum area of Drama. We agreed to let the program evolve organically and that it would result in a class performance, but the students would be the ultimate deciders in how they got there and what it would look like. Even though we tried to give them some kind of framework from which to launch their imaginations, it became clear that they expected us to stimulate them and if we didn’t get them off the floor and moving around, then they quickly became bored and disengaged. By the end of term three, I began to seriously question whether stimulation was what they needed, and whether getting to destination B was really that important.

The breakthrough came when we gave them nothing. No stimulation and no further clues as to how to arrive at a purposeful outcome. Even considering meditation is stimulation of some kind, so we completely disengaged. From this point they were entirely on their own. Ali and I watched and observed the class dynamic, but we refused to engage. What happened next was that nearly every single student began to exercise their own brain. The safety harness was removed and they were thrown into the deepest point of their learning journey that year.

We saw students trying to problem-solve, rationalise, empathise, and create new learning pathways. They began to think for themselves and gave greater consideration for the role they had to play in the program. They confronted the unknown. It was the most constructive and satisfying Creative Schools session I have participated in thus far. Sometimes choosing to take the road to nowhere is selecting the road with the most rewarding learning journey.