How might we create an engaging and inclusive educational experience for at-risk young people?

In New York City alone, thousands of children each year enter into the child welfare system. While in this system of care, there are minimal opportunities for creative expression, mentorship, and support. As a result many youth grow-up emotionally detached. In response to this need, workshops were developed to offer at-risk youth a chance to develop their creative abilities and learn the basics of design.

Gradually the concept involved a more people and evolved into supplementary activities appropriate for after-school and job-training programs. The goal is to provide a platform to teach participants how to generate, visualize, and prototype their ideas.


Eventually the audience grew to include professionals from the foster are community. As more workshops were conducted, the methodology moved beyond idea generation exercises to incorporate a co-creation process with both youth and their care providers with the purpose of using design thinking to identify opportunities for new services and create a more human-centered experience for everyone involved.

As the project continued to develop, the Design Time workshops were invited to Camp Felix, a summer program run by the New York Foundling (a foster care agency). Over the course of the four week program, I worked with youth from ages 8-15 who had a range of abilities and conditions. Together we explored drawing techniques, idea generation exercises, and learned how to make kites as a way of engaging in design, science, and math.