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A guide to running your own after-school Design Club

A guide to running your own after school Design Club

Founded in 2017, Design Club is on a mission to get children doing design thinking. The London-based social enterprise approaches design thinking as a life skill, one that they believe nurtures empathy, collaboration, and creative problem solving. 

Design Club’s online resource hub is a growing library of worksheets and guides, all available for free. Projects challenge students to come up with ideas for apps that can teach people how to recycle or help them find a good book to read. 

A guide to running your own after school Design Club

In a typical Design Club session, students write profiles of imaginary and real users and draw ideas in workbooks printed on our digital mini newspapers. We’ve loved seeing illustrations for apps that do things like help people relax before bed with late night shopping for dinosaur accessories (see above).

Below, founder Noam Sohachevsky tells us more about how Design Club works and how you can set up a club yourself.

A guide to running your own after school Design Club

How Design Club works

We do two things. We’re growing a network of volunteer mentors. Through Meetups and Slack, we provide support to mentors who want to run Design Clubs. And we're creating design thinking resources to help mentors deliver a modern, engaging and learner-led experience.

Our workbooks – printed as digital minis by the delightful Newspaper Club – encourage children to design a helpful mobile app for a user of their choice. Children work through 5 phases of the design thinking process:

  1. Frame a design challenge
  2. Empathise with their target user
  3. Generate ideas
  4. Prototype a solution
  5. Test that solution for real-world feedback

If you have 2 minutes, watch the Introduction to Design Club video on our homepage.

We’re also making an online shop, so that people can purchase workbooks and other items to help them run design thinking projects with children. As we’re a non-profit, all our funds go into developing content and supporting volunteers to run new Design Clubs.

A guide to running your own after school Design Club

How an after-school Design Club works

After school Design Clubs typically run for a term, for 1 hour a week. Mentors reach out to a school directly and arrange logistics, such as what day and time the club will happen. We recommend about 10-12 children to a club, led by the mentor, assisted by a teacher or member of staff.

Getting your club started

To get a club started, there are a few things to do, such as finding a school, applying for a DBS certificate, requesting your free Design Club kit and, if you want to, joining our Slack channel for support.

Our website contains a page about how to start an after school Design Club. We also have a Helpdesk with practical advice and resources to help you get your club up and running, including template emails to send to schools.

A guide to running your own after school Design Club

Running your club

Once the club has started, mentors use our delivery guides, slides, workbooks and handouts to ensure that sessions run smoothly.

In terms of structure, we recommend a session is broken down into three parts:

  1.  warm-up game
  2.  working through activities in a project
  3.  a show-and-tell or wrap up

At the end of term, the mentor hands out certificates to the children. The last session should be fun. (Cake is also recommended.)

Our Helpdesk contains handy how-to guides to help run an after school club.

A guide to running your own after school Design Club

How to get involved

If you’re interested in running a club, check out the Design Club website.

We’re always looking for mentors who share our values (curiosity, inclusivity, empathy, making and play) and are keen to nurture the next generation of design thinkers. Our mentors love running clubs. You can read about some of them in our Meet the Mentor blog posts.

The Service Design Academy in Scotland recently started a Design Club. They’re blogging about their experience in their own Design Club Journal. Katie, one of the mentors, wrote this in her first post:

“All in all, one of the most refreshing teaching experiences I have had in a while. Which reminds me, to keep pushing myself and not to be scared of new opportunities, to grab them with both hands and be as enthusiastic (and as appreciative) about it as the young people are! I’d recommend running a Design Club to anyone.”

This is exactly how we hope mentors feel when starting a club - it’s exciting, challenging and rewarding in equal measure. Let us know if you’d like to get involved.


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