Teaching Design Play to Kids in Extreme Environments

In the images of poverty from around the world often we see young children plastered against car windows begging for alms. For those that have experiences this in person, the hands raised, bleating voices, afflictions and affectations, it’s a difficult world to navigate with an untouched mind or body.

But there’s another here as well story as well. One that starts after the begging is done, after hours on moments captured before heading home. It’s that story I want to share.

I remember sitting in the backseat of a car in Liberty market, Lahore, Pakistan. I remember staring out, fifteen and curious, at a young beggar girl playing with her friends in the hustle of the market place as the stalls closed for the night. Oblivious of audience lost were the sad faces, instead focused were all her energy entirely in the act of play. She was was transformed through an act of childhood wonder.

I don’t remember what they were playing, if at all it was a game with any real rules or not, or just a made up game, created in the spur of the moment. What I do remember is the how drastically the tone of their bodies changed as they moved from a world of want to a world of creation. They were lost in play.

That moment has stayed with me for a long time. Lurking somewhere in the back of my mind I know that if we can keep creativity and play alive we have an amazing transformative power that every child has access to.

There’s someone amazing in being lost in play. It didn’t matter what your situation is or what walk of life you come from play and playful discovery is a transformative force for children. More than that I think it’s a right for every child. A right sadly we focus too little on. This is a shame because I can think of few things that can bring a powerful transformative change to a child’s life.

Design at it’s core is has many aspects similar to play. There’s many models and methods but at it’s very core are two basic concepts. Making and Empathy. You make and game and lose yourself in it. You make something for your friends and share it. That in it’s iterative form is the bases of much design methodology.

This is what we aim to do. How can we teach a design process to kids (5 to 9) in extreme environments.

Can we, by playing like designers, create a sense of hope and bring back the belief in ownership over their own future, for kids in flooded Pakistan, or war torn Somalia, or the ghettos of Oakland.

Link to presentation slideshow

Presentation for MBA in Design Strategy – Experience Studio
Project Team : Jonathan Fristad, Chirapat Vorratnchaiphan, Susan Huang, Eric Dorf

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