Kids Make Great Designers: The Public Launch of Design Club
Today, MODA publicly announced Design Club, a free membership program for youth ages 0-17. It's a program that we've been prototyping quietly since April 2015. In the quiet phase of the program, some 1500 kids between 0 and 17 have become proud, card-carrying members of the museum.
What is Design Club?
Youth who become part of Design Club get free admission to the museum every time they visit, free admission for an accompanying adult, a monthly e-mail with design challenges they can undertake at home, invitations to kid-friendly MODA events, and an awesome membership card to carry in their wallets (we've heard stories of new Design Club members insisting that their parents buy them wallets so they have a place to keep their cards!). Soon, Design Club members will also be offered special in-museum activities every time they visit the museum.
Why Are We Doing This?
In the broadest sense, we started this program to help kids fall in love with the problem-solving power of design. We believe that that kids can change the world. They see through unique and fresh eyes, they love wacky ideas, and they are brave enough to think that anything is possible.
To this end, we've defined four specific goals for Design Club:
1. To Increase Access to Design Education
One aim of MODA’s Design Club is to provide design education to youth in Atlanta, regardless of social and economic status. Across our city, youth in selected schools are learning the process of design thinking. In doing so, they are building creative confidence and transforming their ideas into tangible creations and real-world applications. Equitable opportunity to acquire these real-world skills is essential to the well-being of our city, state, and country.
Design Club members are offered a wide-range of opportunities to acquire design and design-thinking skills through programs that challenge them to create something that does not yet exist. MODA’s programs teach youth to ask, “what if?” and to use inspiration, imagination, idea-development, and prototyping as ways of finding answers. In learning to use design and design thinking as problem-solving processes, kids develop important skills that will help them become exceptional, innovative members of society. Specifically, they develop attitudes such as:
- a resilient and productive relationship to failure
- risk-taking in the realm of ideas
- creative confidence
- the capacity for empathic observation
- agility and optimism in the face of conceptual blocks
- comfort with the discomfort of ambiguity
- an appetite for changing one’s frame of reference in order to gain new insights
- a willingness to take collective responsibility for idea improvement
- an iterative and collaborative mindset
- a belief in their own ability to effect change and have a positive impact on the world
2. To Remove Cost Barriers to Museum Entrance
A recent report from the National Endowment for the Arts showed that cost was a barrier for 27% of adults who were interested in arts exhibits but did not attend them (no statistics for children exist). We seek to remove that barrier for youth in Atlanta by providing free admission to MODA for kids and accompanying adults.
While we understand that providing admission-free access for youth does not in and of itself make it possible for every child in the city to visit MODA and become part of our design community as other perceptual and practical barriers exist as well, we believe that eliminating admission fees for youth is an important first step.
3. To Make the Museum a Welcoming Place for All
Studies show that museums are often perceived to be elite “keepers of culture” rather than engaging, relevant, and meaningful places where kids and adults can learn alongside one another. And, it is well known that visitors (or potential visitors) sometimes experience "threshold anxiety" because they perceive museums to be snobbish or because they think that they do not have the skills or knowledge necessary to enjoy a visit.
At MODA, we work consciously to relieve anxiety that museums are for "other people" by practicing radical friendliness, by warmly welcoming each visitor, and by helping to facilitate both informal and formal learning in our galleries and our lobby. Children respond well to this kind of interpersonal interaction between museum staff and visitors and quickly begin to feel that they belong at MODA. Since the soft launch of Design Club last year, we have heard dozens of stories of Design Club members regularly asking their parents to take them to MODA so that they can participate in on-demand activities at the museum or so that they can interact with staff with whom they are building friendly educator-student relationships.
As well, our design exhibitions and programs — which address real-life problems and the design processes that lead to their solutions — are immediately relevant to both youth and adults.
4. To Build the Arts Audience of the Future
In 2012, an NEA survey revealed that adults who attended visual or performing arts institutions as children were three to four times as likely to attend artistic and cultural events as adults. Exposure to the arts in childhood turns out to be a stronger predictor of adult arts participation than education, gender, age, or income.
By creating a no-cost membership for children that allows free entry to the museum (as well as the free entry of one accompanying adult), provides invitations to special educational programs, and access to monthly free family days, MODA invites families to become part of a museum community that prioritizes creative problem-solving processes and thereby increases the probability that children will continue to be active participants in the arts when they become adults.
By creating opportunities for children, we are building the future of the arts in Atlanta.
What Will We Learn and How Will We Measure Success?
Deep data dives are important to the success of this endeavor. Blair Banks, our Education Manager, is charged with collating data about Design Club in ways that will allow us to discover:
- Is the entire metro-Atlanta area represented by our Design Club membership? What areas are not represented and how can we do a better job of reaching youth in those areas?
- Does our educational programming meet the needs of the majority of Design Club members or are we programming for only a portion of the youth who want to be involved at MODA?
- Is Design Club an effective tool for encouraging frequent visits to MODA?
- Can an informal program like Design Club increase design and design-thinking literacy?
- Can we create lifelong museum-goers?
As we learn about our Design Club members and as our program grows, we're interested in having conversations with colleagues across the nation who run similar or programs, like LACMA's Next Gen program (see above) or the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa's MyMuseum program in order to discover how our findings compare with theirs and to improve our own practices.
For more about Design Club, visit the MODA website and read our blog entry about grassroots funding for this program.