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TinkerLabTV: Streaming Video STEAM Lessons on Demand

What if parents could stream short arts-based videos that would help them support their children to think like artists and innovators?

Photo of Rachelle Doorley
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Updates: How has your idea changed or evolved throughout the Prize? What updates have you made to this submission? (1500 characters)

The concept started as an art program, called ArtStart. This is based on our popular ArtStart curriculum for families with children ages 2-6. // We originally planned to expand the ArtStart curriculum to include video lessons and more process-based art lessons. // Further research showed us that our families want more than art lessons, so we're pivoting to build STEAM lessons (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) into the curriculum. STEAM activities are core to the TinkerLab mission, so this move is authentic, feasible, and scalable. // Early plans were to build out ArtStart to make it more robust with video and a bigger library of activities. Our current iteration is to build a more expansive platform, similar to Netflix, that will host STEAM programming for families with young children.

Name or Organization



We're based in Palo Alto, CA. Our platform reaches families world-wide.

What is your stage of development?

  • Early Stage Innovator, with at least one-year experience in ECD


  • For-profit

What is the stage of your proposal?

  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing my idea.

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (600 characters)

Parents are overwhelmed, busy, and want quick solutions that will help them build stronger connections with their children, while also fostering a passion for creativity and curiosity. TinkerLab offers curated short form video-based art lessons, delivered on smart phones or tablets, that are easy to execute, child-tested, and developmentally appropriate. The videos are designed for parents, educators, and children. Adults are provided with instructions on how to support creativity for kids. Our low-cost online platform enables us to provide these valuable tools to those with limited resources.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Product: A new or enhanced physical product that creates value for end beneficiaries.

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

TinkerLab aims to deliver video-on-demand STEAM lessons for smart phones and tablets to address lack of access to quality arts education experiences for children around the globe. We do this by helping parents, who may self-identify as non-creative, learn how to facilitate arts lessons. // Why this is important The smart phone was commercially introduced just ten years ago, permanently changing the way we interact with each and the world around us. We can hardly predict what the next ten years will bring, making it more important that ever for children to be empowered with skills of flexibility, curiosity, and imagination that will equip them to handle the challenges that come with a quickly changing world. An education in the arts, with a focus on creativity, observation, nuance, interdisciplinary connections, and critical thinking skills will help today’s children become tomorrow’s innovators. Access to a high quality arts education is more important now than ever. This easy-to-use platform will help parents bridge the gap between their own limited understandings of the arts and their child’s arts education needs. The curated content is developmentally appropriate, thoughtfully executed, and vetted by seasoned educators. Video lessons, which are organized by age and medium, with supporting materials for adults, will give parents and teachers confidence to facilitate meaningful art experience with their children.

What problem are you aiming to solve? (3 sentences)

To meet the demands of a quickly changing world, today’s children are positioned to become tomorrow’s innovators, which will require skills of creativity, imagination, and ingenuity. To prepare them for this challenge, parents are charged with the responsibility of providing children with a high quality arts education that teaches to these skills. We simplify the process by meeting parents where they are (smartphones and online) to facilitate meaningful arts-based learning experiences.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

What we will do // We are passionate about making high quality arts education lessons available to all parents with children ages 0-3. We will change the landscape of kids’ creativity by empowering the key stakeholders, parents and their children, with the belief that enjoyment of the arts isn’t the special gift of the limited few and can be available to all children who have access to the right tools. How we will do it // We will deliver the lessons through TinkerLab, a video on-demand system that allows subscribers to stream curated art lessons on computers, smart phones, tablets, and even video game consoles. The thoughtfully presented video lessons help parents help their children learn how to do everything from pinch clay pots to collage abstract images from paper. The videos are executed by top-shelf creatives with an eye for creating big impact media on a small budget. In short, the medium is the message and aesthetics are important to us. We also work with a team of enthusiastic artists and educators who teach to the national art standards and understand how to talk to children, even across the fourth wall. In addition to the videos, we provide parents with step-by-step instruction sheets, supply lists, and additional downloads to support the lessons. To participate in the TinkerLab platform, users will become subscribers who pay monthly or annual fees. Low-income families will get access to the platform through subsidized partnerships with local schools or libraries. This would be analogous to the “Museum Pass” programs offered at many libraries or to a “School Access Pass” for a program like BrainPop. What we will achieve// Our goal is to reach and help hundreds of thousands of families foster home environments that support creative growth, making this the biggest streaming video platform for kids’ creativity. We conducted a qualitative study with 250 TinkerLab subscribers, and asked about the biggest challenges they faced when it came to supporting creativity for children. We learned that the biggest challenges they face are (in this order): + lack of time: “Carving out time from a busy schedule. “ + lack of planning skills: “I would like to make it more of a part of our regular routine, rather than waiting until inspiration strikes one of us “ + not having the right supplies: “Having all the supplies on hand as well as having age appropriate activities.” + struggle with messes: “The mess! Cleaning up after! I work with 1-3 year olds and they do help clean up at their ability level, but it does leave some for me to do, too. The reminds me...I need more shower curtains!” After taking classes on the TinkerLab platform, families will say that we helped them: + Find time to be creative, despite busy schedules + Make planning a snap because of the app’s calendar function that helps them add projects to their weekly calendar. + Set up projects with supplies they already had on hand + Sort projects by the mess quotient, which enables them to have more control over clean up

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

The primary beneficiaries are parents of children, ages 0-3. With our short format video, parents can quickly consume the content, learn how to lead a meaningful lesson, and recreate it with their children. I have ample experience working as an art educator for nearly twenty years, in schools, museums, universities, and online education. Since founding TinkerLab in 2010, I’ve been in close communication with thousands of parents and teachers who are hungry to inspire children in their creative growth, learning about their challenges and how we can support their needs. In my years of teaching experience, I’ve developed hundreds of lesson plans that include new projects and tested hits, which have appeared in related form in my best selling book, TinkerLab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors, the popular TinkerLab blog for parents of young children, workshops, and online classes. These lessons further enrich the aesthetic experience of 60,000 TinkerLab subscribers who come to us as a trusted sources of STEAM lessons. It is on the basis of this experience that I believe that both children and art teachers will benefit from the new platform.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (1500 characters)

The potential outcomes are exciting to consider! + Children are catalyzed to think imaginatively and creatively, thereby becoming positive change-makers in the world + Families, who are otherwise busy and potentially stressed, will find that creativity can be nurtured while overwhelm is kept to a minimum + Our society, overall, will become more creative and generative + Parents and their children will form build bonds and strengthen relationships + Children will become comfortable with mistake-making, understanding that small failures are part of the iterative process + Children will learn that problems can have more than one solution and questions can have more than one answer (Eisner, 10 Lessons the Arts Teach), which leads to stronger critical thinking skills + Children who participate in the arts do better in school, so this program will contribute to school success and retention.

How does or how could your idea impact low-income children? (1500 characters)

Low-income children may not have access to art classes, which can be cost prohibitive or difficult to attend. How do help these families close the gap and enable their young children to access high quality arts education of higher-income peers? TinkerLab can reach these families! There are a few important facts to discuss when we consider how we can help low-income families: // Low-income families have access to smartphones: 67% of low-income households, where earnings are less than $30,000 per year, own smartphones. ( // Many low-income families do not have broadband internet and rely entirely on their smartphones for online access: 21% of low-income Americans depend 100% on smartphones to access online information. (2016 Pew report) // Many low-income children have little or no access to arts education in their school. (Source: Arts Education in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools 2009-10 // By offering easy to view video, optimized for the smartphone, families of all income levels can access the same high quality content from the comfort of home or while on the road. Relying on transportation to a class, extra funds to pay for tuition, or even costly broadband service will not be factors in whether or not young children have access to quality STEAM education. An effective arts program can play an essential role in supporting creativity for young children.

Innovation: What makes your concept innovative? (5000 characters)

The arts education market is flooded with information and lessons in the form of blogs, books, kids’ craft kits, kit subscription sites, and physical classes. The streaming video space, however, is largely untapped. What’s so exciting about this opportunity is that Millennials largely embrace streaming services and are comfortable consuming media online. Over the years, crafting and art-related television shows have made appearances. Most notably, Bob Ross’ show in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Today, there are a handful of shows and online classes, but their goals are different from ours. // CBC’s The Art Show: Viewers watch children create art from their imaginations. Videos cannot currently be downloaded. // Art Hub for Kids (YouTube): Most videos show children, in step-by-step tutorials, how to draw with markers. The media is somewhat limited to drawing and painting, and there is only one instructor. (Over 1 million subscribers.) // is a venture-backed company that delivers online art courses for kids ages 7 and up. // Popular, quick format video sites such as “So Yummy” of “5-Minute Crafts” take advantage of short attention spans with their quick-to-consume videos that teach things like how to thread a needle or how to make s’mores. They demonstrate how viewers like to consume media, but viewing is all based on serendipity through social media scrolling. While books, blogs, kits, and classes won’t become obsolete, easy-to-consume video is where the market is heading, and we plan to be on the forefront of this movement. We aren’t strangers to user research, and will go to great lengths to understand what young parents really want. This will impact the tone, visuals, graphics, interface, and structure of the user experience. Here’s our unique offer: + Parents can organize their projects, save them in the app or online, and watch them at their convenience. + Parents can download supply lists, making prep easy + The videos can act as a teacher to both parents and children. Parents can show their child the process videos, and leave the instruction to us! + Our Instructors are professional, practicing artists and arts educators who embrace a positive and respectful teaching style. + Our work is based on leading theories and best practices in early childhood education. + We embrace a culture of respect for creative expression and the recognition that all children are makers. + Our projects focus on hands-on creativity using materials that take children from digital to physical realm.

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of end-users. (1500 characters)

The market for TinkerLabTV is in excess of 10 million viewers. To give this some context, Netflix has 104 million paying subscribers and even more viewers, and YouTube has over 1.3 billion users! Obviously, not all of these users will become TinkerLabTV customers, but the market is still substantial. The 2015 census shows that there are 75.4 million millennials in the US. As of 2015, 16 million of these millennials became new parents, and as one would expect, this number is growing by one million parents each year! We know that these parents are pragmatic and that they want products that are useful and affordable. We know that they like to download apps. And we know that 85% use YouTube to stream videos, while 79% watch programs on Netflix. Only 3% say that they don’t stream video. Through all of our channels, TinkerLab reaches over two million viewers each year. Our short-term growth goal is to turn half of these viewers into paid subscribers, and our long-term goal is to expand to reach the millions of families in the US who are eager for creativity programming. We will set up a Freemium business model. New users will have access to free content and can opt into a low cost monthly or annual plan. The low subscription cost removes the barrier to entry, opening access and opportunity to families of all walks of life. Schools and libraries can join us as partners, and share our programming at no additional extra cost to their constituents.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (3000 characters)

Personnel… // The heart and vision for this idea is spearheaded by Rachelle Doorley, EdM., an arts educator with twenty years of experience in early childhood education, classroom teaching, online education, and out-of-school learning. // Our prospective team includes: + Head Teacher: with 20 years of art and teaching experience in painting, mixed media, and sculpture + Partners: A core of ten+ teachers who have the following characteristics: studio art expertise, art education certificated, seasoned art teachers, skilled at authentic connection with parents and/or children + Project Manager with 15 years of leadership in the non-profit sector + Accountant with 15 years experience in education finance + Front-end Developer + Back-end Engineer + Marketing Director Financing… We are currently boot-strapping this project and have a financial commitment of 100K from an early stage investor. Our intention is to seek venture capital within the next six months in order to grow our team and build out the product. As TinkerLabTV grows, so too will the personnel and our offerings. Technical… The proposed website and app use readily available technology, utilized by such platforms as Netflix, Craftsy, Udemy, and Teachable, making this a technically viable idea.

Business Viability: How viable is your business model? (5000 characters)

This business is viable! We worked through all of pieces of the Business Model Canvas and identified the freemium model as the best fit for TinkerLab. In this model, all users have access to basic features and some of the video content at no cost, while full access comes with a nominal subscription fee. We began testing this model in 2016 with our free ArtStart curriculum. Users who wanted more of this content paid for access to the ArtHabit curriculum. In this small test, we found that 14% of our users converted to paid subscribers. Our business model will also be scalable, as profits will increase at a higher rate than costs. We predict that our staff can remain lean, overhead will be low, and the margins will be high. How will we do this? We’ll… + Create an MVP to validate our model + Create systems that lead to automation + Build a strong team + Focus on marketing + Establish a company culture of iteration and innovation + Establish a template for well-planned bulk video production to decrease costs and time which includes pre-production resource-saving strategies such as script completion, prop checklist, and studio setup, as well as editing templates for post-production

HCD: How have you used human centered design to build or refine your concept? (5000 characters)

HCD plays an enormous role in our research and development process! We’ve conducted qualitative surveys, quantitative surveys, and in-depth interviews. Each have provided us with useful data points that have furthered our understanding of our target audience. Quantitative and Qualitative Survey, 2016 // We conducted an audience survey of parents and educators of young children. Here are some of the useful statistics that supported the development of the ArtStart Workshop and ArtHabit Online Course from 2016-2017: + When asked about their top three choices for consuming arts education content, 73% said online articles and 49% said video tutorials. + We asked which areas of hands-on creativity they’re most interested in exploring, the top four areas (in order of preference) are arts and crafts, science, nature, and engineering. + There was also a qualitative question about their dream experience for an online class with Rachelle. Here are a few outtakes that are largely relevant to our current idea for TinkerLabTV: // “To learn about simple but effective activities to engage the children and gave a learning outcome” // “Simple, yet engaging ideas that are easily implemented in a busy special education preschool classroom.” //“Someone showing me the list of projects I have chosen to have fun with and do with the kids. Then, show and tell!” //“My dream experience would be to learn something new and exciting, and to come away feeling renewed in a sense of capability, not overwhelmed with cost or lack of assistance. I would like to bring some new projects to this area (where I work) and not just be on a bandwagon along with everyone else.” // “ would love S.T.E.A.M Based programs.” // “How to set up an affordable monthly plan to get my children making and creati g each day. We all enjoy the making experience but i get stuck with organising and i just dont know how to start.” Qualitative Survey, 2016-2017 // In an ongoing one-question audience survey, I’ve been polling TinkerLab visitors with this question: “What is the one thing you struggle with when it comes to supporting your child, children's, or student's creativity or art making?” After receiving thousands of responses to this question, we combed the data for themes and learned that there are four key areas where parents and teachers feel challenged. Interviews with parents of young children, who also care about creativity education, 2016 // We conducted one on one interviews to better understand the hopes, desires, and dreams of our target audience. These interviews helped us think more deeply about what parents really want. The process also led us to create an avatar who we still use when planning programs, lessons, and workshops. See attached images for outtakes from each of these surveys or interviews, and examples of how we've integrated the feedback into our designs.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

// The idea for TinkerLabTV first developed years ago when I was at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, when I developed a project around an online curriculum called ArtStart. As an arts educator in inner-city Los Angeles, I saw a large need to help underserved populations have the same high quality arts education opportunities that their well-off counterparts had access to. This urgency to help ALL children have access to high quality art experiences has not left me, and it’s played out in various iterations since those early teaching years. My goal then, as it is now, was to help every child have access to high quality arts education. Here’s a snapshot of my journey: + Aware of the trickle-down effect that teacher training can have on improving education for large numbers of children, I focussed on developingTeacher workshops at Resource Area for Teachers, the deCordova Museum, and the San Jose Museum of Art. + In 2010 I started the blog,, which quickly grew into a popular hub for parents and teachers who wanted inspiring and easy art and science activities idea for their children and students. As the blog grew, I was further motivated by my earlier goal to reach and improve creativity education for large numbers of children. + With the help of Roost Books, in 2014 we published TinkerLab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors. This best-selling book sold thousands of copies and has been translated into Russian and Romanian. + In 2016 I developed the ArtStart curriculum. It’s reached thousands of parents and teachers who share a goal of helping their children develop creative skills through open-ended art experiences. + 2018: We will launch TinkerLabTV, a learning platform with creativity programming for parents and their children. // My interest in early childhood education started when I read the book, “Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children.” This book explored the results of a landmark study of children between the ages of 1 and 2 from both economically disadvantaged and advantaged homes. Their research uncovered that there were notable differences in vocabulary use, IQ scores between these groups of children, and it was all linked back to the amount of time parents spent in dialogue with their young children. After reading this book, I knew important it would be to raise my own children in a conversation-rich home. Sparked by this book’s message, I’m passionate about helping parents of young children connect with their child’s innate creative skills. Nurturing and developing the creative muscle at an early age is crucial to retaining those innate skills as children grow older. As former director of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Jessica Davis, explains in "Drawing's Demise: U-Shaped Development in Graphic Symbolization,” a large number of children lose creative drawing abilities in adolescence. This is a trend that can change with early intervention!

Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (600 characters)

We have some of the partners we need and will be looking for the right people to join our mission to help our creativity platform reach more children and their families! // We’ve identified a handful of expert artists and arts educators who can connect with parents to deliver age appropriate content. // We will be looking for a Front-End Engineer, Back-End Engineer, Marketing Manager, Product Manager, and Accountant, and Film Makers (videographer, editor, etc.)

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (1800 characters)

Through the Business Model canvas, we identified key partners who can help us bring this idea to life: + Influencers who want to share this idea with their fan bases + Art Educators who want to work with us as video creation Partners + Schools and Libraries who can help us reach underserved audiences + Homeschool associations that want to add us to their preferred provider lists + Teachers interested in creating lesson plans for the platform Key Suppliers would include + Art supply companies + Furniture companies + Science suppliers

Would you like mentoring support?

  • Yes

If so, what type of mentoring support do you think you need? (1200 characters)

Thank you for connecting me with a mentor!

[Optional] Biography: Upload your biography. Please include links to relevant information (portfolio, LinkedIn profile, organization website, etc).

Rachelle Doorley is an arts educator and founder of the popular creativity website, TinkerLab and author of TinkerLab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors. She has a B.A. in theater from the University of California, Los Angeles and an Ed.M. in Arts in Education from Harvard University. This unique combination of design and education is the basis of her passion for creating learning experiences that are rooted in good design.

[Optional] Attachments: Please upload relevant attachments or graphics or show us how you prototyped.

The web interface reads like a streaming video platform, such as Netflix, and acts as a learning platform (i.e. Kahn Academy or Craftsy).

Updates: How has your idea changed or evolved throughout the Prize? What updates have you made to this submission? (1500 characters)

After surveying with my subscriber base, my idea began as a 5-day art challenge for families with young children ages 2-6. These families were hungry for meaningful and easy art projects for young children. I first ran the challenge in 2016 and have since run it four times with increased participation each time. After gathering more feedback from participants, I've lowered the age to 0-3, in order to reach parents while their children are still young. We are also expanding the content from solely process-based art to include STEAM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, art, and math).

Name or Organization

TinkerLab North Campus, LLC


Palo Alto, CA.

What is your stage of development?

  • Early Stage Innovator, with at least one-year experience in ECD


  • For - Profit

What is the stage of your proposal?

  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing my idea.

Would you like mentoring support? [Relevant only for Early Submission Deadline]

  • Yes

If so, what type of mentoring support do you think you need? (1200 characters) [Relevant only for Early Submission Deadline]

I would love to have a discussion with someone who has experience with streaming software, running a startup, and/or hiring staff (for example: who should I hire first?).

Mentorship: How was your idea supported? [Relevant only for our early submission participants] (1500 characters)

Thank you for connecting me with a mentor! It was so helpful and the mentor was both gracious and knowledgable. I wanted to leverage his expertise as an experience designer and asked questions about data collection, best practices for user testing with children, and when it's time to move from research to ideation. I came away with an action list that I'm still working on. While I have a considerable amount of research via surveys and interviews, the conversation showed me new ways to test products with children that I haven't considered, and I plan to execute these trials as the product develops.

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with Gary Community Investments?

  • Yes, share my contact information

[Optional] Biography: Upload your biography. Please include links to relevant information (portfolio, LinkedIn profile, organization website, etc).

Rachelle Doorley is an arts educator and founder of the popular creativity website, TinkerLab. She has a B.A. in theater design from the University of California, Los Angeles and an Ed.M. in Arts in Education from Harvard University. This unique combination of design and education is the basis of her passion for creating learning experiences that are rooted in good design.

[Optional] Attachments: Please upload relevant attachments or graphics or show us how you prototyped.


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