2.3 Facilitating a Design Challenge Through Studio Experience

Many youth librarians have provided their community with studio experience, workshops, or makerspace experiences centered around interest-driven themes, or production-centered activities. These sessions can be open-ended or more structured depending on the design challenge or activity. Project or studio experience should focus on participants “doing or creating” with youth librarians playing the role of a facilitator.

You can use different design thinking techniques and research methods that encourage making and problem solving (see our section on Core Research Methods). Within a studio setting, the project team might consist of a single young person or a group. Whatever the situation, consider the role of mentors in the facilitation process.1, 2 Mentors can be adults or even older teens who are interested in working with youth and may be experienced in the design challenge. Mentors can assist you in the areas where you may need additional expertise. For more information on mentors, please visit our Mentorship module.

Here are a few basic tips for facilitating a studio experience:

  • Configure your space. Plan out an arrangement that encourages activity and allows participants to move around comfortably.
  • Gather your tools. Materials and supplies for such techniques as brainstorming and prototyping should be gathered beforehand. Think about how you can use simple or everyday materials like: paper, pens, popsicle sticks, sticky notes, and pipe cleaners.
  • Structure an unstructured experience. You can scaffold more unstructured sessions with a brief introduction or examples of possible outcomes prior to the hands-on experience. During most of the studio and making time, you can assist, monitor, and keep youth engaged. Think about including a short period of “closing out” time that encourages reflection or assessment of the design experience.
  • Think in themes. In more open-ended studio experiences, try a “themes to explore” approach rather than focusing on a specific goal.3 For example, in a theme-based workshop around Music Makers, participants can create new types of programmable musical instruments in a Storybook Scenes workshop, they create robotic characters based on a book or movie.
  • Use two people. Facilitators should aim to run more complex or structured studio sessions with at least two people. One person takes the lead on communicating the instructions and timing, and the other person can provide encouragement, follow up, and useful tips as youth are designing.4

1: MakerED Playbook

2: Design Thinking in Education: Empathy, Challenge, Discovery, and Sharing, by Susan Wise.

3: Resnick, M., & Rosenbaum, E. (2013). Designing for tinkerability. Design, make, play: Growing the next generation of STEM innovators, 163-181.

4: d.school Wallet project facilitator’s guide