Strategizing weekly workshops to learn from the students, our team was particularly interested in their attitudes about liquor, neighborhood liquor establishments, and what they view as personally threatening and unequal. We also wanted to ensure that specific skills were built around thinking critically about problems, ideation, accepting criticism, building consensus, collaboration, and public speaking.

Some of the statistics related to the issue of underage drinking became a driving force in our design curriculum decisions, establishing student leadership and pathways to civic engagement. Key stats included:

  • In 2012, a community needs assessment of Baltimore high school students revealed that almost 40 percent of eleventh graders drank alcohol in the past 30 days. The average age at which young people ages 12 to 17 begin to drink is 13 years old.
  • Baltimore has 2x the liquor stores it’s supposed to with an increasing density of alcohol.

Our essential question to the students became:  What are ways that you can make change in Baltimore?

Taking a more in-depth look at liquor stores, the fall months focused on three areas: Self (personal purpose), Group (group identity), and City (understanding Baltimore) while encouraging students to think critically about the differences or similarities between liquor store establishments based on neighborhood, why those differences or similarities may exist, and how they are impacted.


Learning how to translate and frame the problem through a social design lens took place in the spring, with progress towards design research, personal interviews, and low-fidelity prototyping. We recognized that students were particularly interested in transforming current liquor stores into community centers and how the presence of liquor stories attracts people in the neighborhood as a place to hang, loiter or sell drugs, which leads to violence, such as shootings and robberies. 


Keeping their design and civic interests in mind, students prepared interview questions for a visit to City Hall to meet and interview Councilman Bill Henry which led to a postcard design challenge to council people and liquor establishments throughout Baltimore inspired from the questions: What would you say to a liquor store owner? What do you want your councilperson to know?





Closing out the school year, students strategized for a town hall with Baltimore community leaders and decision makers introducing their youth-driven design videos sharing the impact of underage drinking in Baltimore.

Project Team: Becky Slogeris and Diamond James