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Design Apprenticeship Program


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Teens & Young Adults

The Design Apprenticeship Program offers previous National Building Museum teen program participants or new particpants with a demonstrated interest in art or design the opportunity to get hands-on design and fabrication experience. In this eight week program, middle and high school students design and construct full-scale projects that they control from concept to completion.

Program Goals

Design Apprenticeship Program participants will:

  • Develop advanced design and technical skills.
  • Build essential personal and social skills by working as productive team members within defined time and project limitations. 
  • Learn from professionals who work with the built environment, including architects, designers, contractors, technicians, and visual artists.

How does the program work?

The Design Apprenticeship Program takes place on Saturdays during the fall and spring of the academic year. Up to 30 students participate each session, attending the program’s eight design-intensive sessions. In a series of short projects, students are given a design challenge—for example, to create a piece of furniture—within a set of design criteria. Next, by collaborating with architects, contractors, electricians, interior designers, visual artists, and university architecture students, teams develop and construct their designs. Participants learn to work with different materials and are introduced to the design basics of a particular object. At the end of the program, design teams present their work in a formal presentation open to the public. Their work is then exhibited in the Museum or given to the client recipient. Most recently we partnered with the Transitional Housing Corporation to design and fabricate five pieces of furniture for families in their transitional housing program. The furniture offered solutions to maximize space and create a sense of home for the recipient families. The Museum's House & Home exhibition provided content and inpsiration for the project.

DAP 2011 Takoma Education Campus
A Design Apprenticeship Program team assembles their storage solution.
Photo by Museum staff

Students are required to complete Design Apprenticeship Program I, only once, in order to participate in the spring Design Apprenticship Program II. In DAP I participants are introduced to the design process and learn basic construction skills. In DAP II the Museum partners with a community organization who acts as the client for the term's project. DAP II is an opportunity for participants to work on a more complex project that will benefit a real world client. Design Apprenticship Program II is open to any student who has completed Design Apprenticship Program I and returning participants can particiopate in Design Apprenticship Program II as often as they would like. Throughout the year the Teen Council offers career and college based workshop opportunities for participants who have completed at least two teen programs. Joining the Teen Council is one way our design students can continue to deepen their design knowledge and skills while waiting for Design Apprenticship Program II to begin in the spring. The Teen Council is a part of the Museum’s effort to effectively teach design and technical skills and to develop challenging projects for our students who continue to advance their design skills.

DAPI student puts the final touches on her team's chair.
Photo by Museum staff

Sample Projects

  • Trash and recycling receptacles that continue to be used in the Museum’s Great Hall today
  • Emergency relief shelters for natural disasters around the world, including tsunamis, earthquakes, drought and hurricanes
  • "Green" donation boxes for the Museum using sustainable design principles
  • Modern furniture for the Dinner Program for Homeless Women. The theme was inspired by the Museum's exhibition Marcel Breuer: Design and Architecture
  • Seating and storage solutions for a local D.C. middle school that was destroyed by a fire
  • Working prototypes of discovery carts for the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History's new state-of-the-art education center. Cart prototypes were evaluated by NMNH staff and volunteers. The feedback will be used to inform the final design of the actual carts to be used in the space

How can I get involved?

Current middle and high school students between ages 13 and 18 are invited to apply for the Design Apprencticeship Program. Enrollment is limited to 30 students who have demonstrated interest or experience in architecture, design, and art. The fall Design Apprenticship Program I session is for new participants. The spring Design Apprenticship Program II session is for returning participants only.  

Applications for the Design Apprenticeship Program II 2015 are available as of January 16. The spring session is for returning students only. The dates are Saturdays, February 28 through May 2; no session on April 4. Hours are 10 am–3 pm. No emails or phone calls about application status, please. For more information about program or application process, email or call 202.272.2448, ext. 3301.

Like us on Facebook or follow us on Instagram @Studio231 to stay up to date with all of our Teen Programs.


Volunteer recruitment for the Design Apprenticeship Program for spring 2015 is now OPEN. Apply by January 30, 2015. If you are a design professional or student in the fields of architecture, urban planning, or education and would be interested in helping inner-city youth learn about design and the built environment, please click here to learn more about volunteering at the Museum. Volunteers for teen programs must be of 18 years of age or older, and must be able to commit to at least 7 of the 9 Saturdays for the Design Apprenticeship Program. Attending the pre-program training session on Saturday, February 21, 10am - 2 pm is also mandatory.


Currently we do not offer internship positions with the Design Apprenticeship Program. Students or recent graduates who are interested in a greater commitment to the Museum's education programming can click here to learn more about internships at the Museum.


For more information, please contact the Teen Programs Coordinator at 202.272.2448, ext. 3301 or email


The Design Apprenticeship Program is generously supported by the Hattie M. Strong Foundation; McGraw Hill Financial; and The Butz Foundation. Additional support for teen programs is provided by The William Randolph Hearst Foundation; The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation; the D.C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities, an agency supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts; MARPAT Foundation; Clark Charitable Foundation; Forest City Washington; the American Society of Interior Designers; The Tower Companies; and an anonymous donor. Geppetto Catering, Inc. is the official Meal Provider for Teen Programs at the National Building Museum.