DMTV Milkshake: How To Create Real Change by Teaching Kids Design

This week’s Milkshake guest is Maya Bird-Murphy, Founder and Executive Director of Chicago Mobile Makers.

“I have a lot of big dreams for Chicago Mobile Makers,” Bird-Murphy says. For the moment, Chicago Mobile Makers offers young people the chance to engage in design thinking in a meaningful way, with workshops and events across Chicago. In them, students are encouraged to consider their built environment — and to take ownership of those spaces and change them for the better. Whether teaching young students to consider how to make the most of an under-utilized area of their elementary school, or guiding older students through a discussion on how to address a dangerous intersection, the emphasis is on developing a sense of agency. “The greatest thing I’ll see during workshops is when students realize that they have the agency to change [a situation], and they have the power to voice their concerns,” Bird-Murphy says. “We did a workshop close to a large and problematic intersection where Sears used to be, and then left — so a lot of the storefronts left with it. We asked the students what they would do in that intersection because they’re constantly interacting with it. Their proposals made them feel like they had a voice in their community, and they could actually make that change and be heard.”

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Photo: Tom Harris

Chicago Mobile Makers is growing: Bird-Murphy shares here how the group has just completed the transformation of a one-time USPS mail truck into a “mobile design studio” — an efficient way to transport “design materials, construction tools, digital fabrication tools, and a 3D printer,” Bird-Murphy says. Her next big goal is to give CMM a more permanent home. “Right now, we’ll drive to the school or the organization and hold our workshops there,” Bird-Murphy says. “But we would love to also host students — [a space] that becomes a gallery, a shop, a place where you can gather with the community.”

To learn more about CMM, see their upcoming workshops and events here.

See Maya’s Friday Five here.

Diana Ostrom, who has written for Wallpaper, Interior Design, ID, The Wall Street Journal, and other outlets, is also the author of Faraway Places, a newsletter about travel.

Milkshake, DMTV (Design Milk TV)’s first regular series, shakes up the traditional interview format by asking designers, creatives, educators and industry professionals to select interview questions at random from their favorite bowl or vessel. During their candid discussions, you’ll not only gain a peek into their personal homeware collections, but also valuable insights into their work, life and passions.

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