During the summer of 2022, Vince and Enrico joined The Glass-House team as student interns from The University of Sheffield’s Transforming and Activating Places (TAP) programme to develop The Glass-House workshop model, Empowering Children through Design in Gaming. This included prototyping a new iteration of our workshop at the National Videogame Museum in Sheffield.
Project date: June – August 2022
Setting out our collaborative work programme for Summer 2022
In order to bring focus to our collaboration, we set out a programme of activities which would see our interns work with us in a variety of ways, combining individual and collaborative tasks with regular co-design, touch-base and critical friend sessions with The Glass-House team. As neither Vince nor Rico was London based, we combined online and offline work sessions with periodical visits to The Glass-House office.
We began our collaboration by introducing Vince and Rico to our organisation, values and objectives, and to the background of the gaming workshop model. This approach, through which workshops are co-designed and co-facilitated with children, aims to create a new kind of space to introduce children to design and most importantly, to empower them to articulate their ideas about how we should be shaping the buildings and spaces around us.
These workshops also demonstrate the power of gaming as an empowerment tool for children not only as designers and contributors to a design conversation, but as technicians and enablers able to quickly model design concepts within the gaming environment. As well as activating their parents and others in the conversation, their role in helping to create the props and prompts for dialogue can help to bring them into placemaking as empowered active citizens.
The challenge we set to Vince and Rico, was to help us explore how we might move from using this approach opportunistically, as one-off workshops, to creating a more structured educational programme around this workshop model. Throughout the summer we zoomed in and out of the big picture of a formal programme and individual workshops, and considered how we could prototype some new aspects of this approach through delivering a workshop together over the summer.
Through this, we identified two key innovations we would like to test: delivering the workshops outside the school environment, and bringing parents into the workshop as participants alongside the children.
The State of Play Workshop and prototyping a new iteration of the workshop
In order to test these innovations, Vince and Enrico helped us develop a new iteration of the gaming workshop model, The State of Play, which focused on play as a catalyst for exploring the design of place and championing co-design processes through Roblox Studio. In keeping with our approach, we invited the young people who had helped design and facilitate the original workshop to join this work as critical friends and co-designers.
Another facet of this model contemplates how others might use this model to empower young people in the design of place and placemaking within their own spheres
To provide a space to test a new prototype of the gaming workshop model, we teamed up with the National Videogame Museum (NVGM) in Sheffield to deliver The State of Play workshop to local families. The National Videogame Museum is committed to using video games as a way to inspire communities, champion collaboration and transform lives. Their own theme for their summer programme was Playing Together, which seemed fitting considering our own focus on play. Through this collaboration, we were able to offer a free workshop to 12 children, aged 10 and 11, and their accompanying parents and guardians. The workshop was both co-designed and co-facilitated by The Glass-House team, our summer interns Vince and Enrico, and our young collaborator Dexter (aged 14).
The State of Play workshop explored how the world of play has evolved through the lens of both children and adults. Following an introduction to some of the basics of design, and an exploration of designing for play around the world, we introduced our participants to the design tools within Roblox Studio. The children then had a go at designing and building their ideal play spaces, using their newly acquired Roblox Studio skills, exploring the architectural concepts of form, function and feeling through play. While they did this, the parents looked back on the places where they used to play as children, using crafts and making to recreate their own play spaces reminiscent of their past. In the afternoon, we brought the visions of both adults and children together to co-design and build playable places and landscapes within different contexts of a ‘city or town’ (beach, forest, city park, and roof-tops).
TAP Symposium 2022
Our final collaboration with our interns was co-presenting at the TAP Symposium: Transform / Activate / SHAPE. The event was a culmination of the 2-year TAP programme and the various knowledge exchange projects that have been brought to fruition through it. The Symposium brought together and celebrated the many collaborations and a wide range of initiatives supported and delivered through TAP, their students and the many participating partners.
The day itself was a space to champion place-based knowledge exchange, sharing the insightful stories, projects and approaches in order to explore and showcase the potential of knowledge exchange to catalyse change. This considered impact within local contexts, working with and for communities, but also the innovative ways student-based knowledge exchange projects could begin to transform higher educational institutions.
What we learnt through this process in 2022
As the third iteration of the gaming workshop model, it was the first time we had tested the workshop outside the school environment, in this instance at the National Videogame Museum. It proved to be a success, with both children and parents appreciating the location within this more public-facing venue, and demonstrated that the model has the flexibility to work within different contexts.
A facet of partnering with NVGM, meant that parents and guardians had to accompany the young people attending our State of Play workshop. This was a new dynamic that we hadn’t explored, as previous iterations of the gaming workshop model had been offered in collaboration with local schools. This introduced a new lens, for thinking about how we empower children and families together, to galvanise and reciprocate generosity and learning between the two different age groups. It also created space for intergenerational conversations and interactions around design, placemaking and play, creating space to share realities between children and adults while celebrating the skills and talents of the children using these new technologies.
The workshop also reiterated the power of the workshop to empower children as part of an engaged collaborative design process. Introducing children to decision making processes (with strangers) but also continuing to build skills in design as well as their digital literacy skills in Roblox Studio.
Co-designed by many hands
The third iteration of this workshop was a collaborative effort between The Glass-House, our interns Vince and Enrico, and our young co-design champions, Dexter and Isabella, who had helped shape the original workshop model.
Vince and Enrico brought their own creativity to the development of the workshop and inspired the use of Google Earth as a method of exploration of different places and spaces around the world. This helped us explore the didactic role that Google Earth can play in creating space to inspire participants with global examples of design, placemaking and playful landscapes.
Our interns also brought their own design and gaming skills to the mix to help us create a rich landscape within the Roblox Studio environment. This gave participating children and parents a world to explore within the workshop gaming environment, introducing them to a range of physical contexts and helping to set the stage for a more realistic design experience. This work now remains a valuable resource for future workshops.
The benefits to The Glass-House as a host organisation
Working with Vince, Enrico and the TAP programme provided another opportunity for us to think about how The Glass-House can link with higher education to offer various learning opportunities for students in programme development, resources, facilitating, placemaking.
It also created a much-valued space for us to focus on this area of work with intent, setting time aside to consider directions of travel and to explore specific aspects of the methodology. Once we had decided to dedicate time and resources to supporting the internship, we also dedicated time and resources to our organisational research, development and innovation.
The fresh eyes, ideas and contribution that Vince and Enrico brought to our team were hugely appreciated and valued.
Impact for our 2022 TAP interns
For our interns, this created a space to develop confidence and skills within the workplace within a safe, experimental and nurturing environment and to make a meaningful contribution to research and development at our organisation. They gained a new appreciation for the value of life experiences alongside professional training and development within the workplace. They also gained a new understanding of the value of teamwork, co-design and of experimentation, reflecting and iterating.
The fact that the TAP programme funded paid internships, placed Vince and Enrico in the position of temporary paid employees, which added a sense of opportunity, responsibility and weight to their time with us.
Impact for our young design champions
For our young design champions Dexter and Isabella (aged 14), this internship represented an opportunity to look back on a design journey to which they started contributing at age 10, and to step into a new space for collaboration. They were invaluable critical friends during the co-design process, and challenged all of us to think carefully about how we would work with the children. They were also afforded a view into university education and work placements, and helped us think about how we can create opportunities for children and young people of different ages through this approach.
Stepping into the space at this age, they had a newfound appreciation for what each stage of the workshop was trying to achieve, and the nuance of workshop design and facilitation. For Dexter, who was able to co-facilitate the workshop, his third, we could see a marked difference in his confidence as a facilitator, and his appreciation of what could be achieved through a playful approach to learning.
To read more about the internship and the iteration of the Gaming Workshop model please follow the links below:
Read about our approach to Empowering Children in Design through Gaming
2022 Summer Programme
- Read our blog introducing the TAP programme, Vince and Enrico and expanding on the internship here.
- Read the 2022 State of Play Workshop at The National Videogame Museum on the blog here, or in our summary publication here
- Our 2022 interns’ blogs about their experience working at The Glass-House. You can find Enrico’s blog here, and Vince’s blog here
- Read about the TAP symposium event here
2023 Summer Programme