Design Club at the BMJ

Notes and learnings from a hosted pop-up workshop

A couple of weeks ago, the BMJ (formerly British Medical Journal) hosted a Design Club workshop. One our of mentors, Jonathan, organised everything. He brought along two colleagues. We supported the event and added more mentors.

Why we ran this pop-up

We’ve been helping mentors to run Design Club tracks at CoderDojos for the past few months. These have been working really well. A core team has been delivering Design Club regularly at the monthly Kingston Dojo.

We love partnering with Dojos, but we wanted to see what it’s like to run a standalone workshop focused on design. We also want to learn how we might support others to run Design Club workshops like this.

How was it?

It was fabulous. We had 15 children designing apps, then prototype using Marvel App. The challenges were themed around health and wellbeing. See the challenge worksheet below. See photos from event the bottom of this post.

We borrowed the format of the workshop from our friends at CoderDojo. We did some making, had a break, did more making, then a did show-and-tell.

The children had fun, and parents were delighted that their children were being introduced to design thinking and app design.

Themed challenge worksheet

Things we learned

It’s a lot of work putting on a workshop like this, both ahead of the event and on the day. Kudos to Jonathan, who did the lion’s share.

Design Club needs to provide practical information for hosts, to help things run smoothly. See notes below on what we learned, plus actions to remedy.

Notes on specifics

  • Security — It was a bit of work (for Jonathan) getting security organised for BMJ. This is something we need to make future hosts aware of.
  • Safeguarding — Linked to above, there was a bit of early work in showing the facilities people that we had risk assessment and safeguarding covered for bringing children into the building. Future hosts may need help here.
  • Way finding — BMJ is at BMA House. It’s a beautiful Grade II listed building. Navigating it is tricky. Jonathan prepared makeshift signage. We need to create signage and add it to our resources.
  • Chaperoning — Parents and kids had to be escorted to the workshop space. Hosts need to be made aware of this, as it may require more volunteers.
  • Setting expectations — Our Eventbrite page was a bit lean. We should have (1) made the structure of the day clearer, (2) added a note about bringing a water bottle and snacks (little people like to eat), (3) encouraged children to bring their own pencil cases, (4) asked children/parents to pre-install Marvel App on their phones and devices, and (5) clearly stated that we want parents to stay in the workshop space throughout the event. We plan to create a comprehensive event template for hosts to use and adapt.
  • Tech usage— Linked to above, we asked the children to install Marvel on their phones when they arrived. Bad idea. They got distracted by their phones and devices, and it was hard to refocus them. We recommend making Design Club workshops tech-free for the first hour.
  • Warm-up activities — Downloading Marvel *seemed* like a good use of time (while all the children arrived and waited to get started). We should have prepared some warm-up activities instead. We plan to create and include a list of suitable warm-up activities (for different ages).

What next for hosted pop-up workshops?

We have two things to do:

  1. Support the delivery of some more pop-up workshops, to refine the format and resources. Get in touch if you’re interested in hosting.
  2. Update the resources based on our learning and add them to the resources area of our website. We have a “run your own workshop” section on the mentor page of our website. We plan to create a dedicated page to provide ideas, resources, and projects for people who want to run their own design thinking workshops for children.

Thank you to Jonathan, Elin, Julia (all from BMJ), plus Rachel, Steve and Jemima for being awesome mentors.