Teachers across the United States are preparing to welcome students back to the classroom. But as coronavirus cases rise, many worry that young children’s excitement will quickly turn into fear.
That’s why two first grade teachers in DeLand, Florida, decided to transform their students’ desks into little Jeeps.
Patricia Dovi, 35, and Kim Martin, 51, of St. Barnabas Episcopal School spent a week redesigning the desks, which feature construction paper tires, headlights and license plates. The desks have three-sided plastic dividers that serve as windshields and side windows as well as sneeze guards.
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The desks, which are spaced far apart, are the only place where students are permitted to remove their face masks.
Martin said their goal was to create a space for students to feel comfortable while following health and safety guidelines.
“Our school gave us plexiglass tri-folds, which we felt would overwhelm our little ones. So we took the design and turned them into little Jeeps,” Martin told CNN.
“We had a little meet-the-teacher session and we gave them keys to their car and told them just like in a motor vehicle, you have to stay in your car at all times and wear a mask when you get out in case you come across hazardous conditions. So we’re playing on this vehicle concept to turn social distancing fun and more kid friendly.”
The idea was inspired by a kindergarten teacher in Texas, who posted a photo on Instagram showing her classroom desks transformed into Jeeps.
Many students said they could hardly wait to take their desks for a test drive, the teachers said.
Dovi and Martin’s collaboration came naturally. Not only are their classrooms connected by an adjoining door, but they often share lesson plans and supplies.
“St. Barnabas Episcopal School is blessed to have such collaborative teachers and forward thinking teachers,” Paul Garcia, head of the school, told CNN. “I was truly pleased to hear when the idea to decorate the first graders’ desks as Jeeps was presented to me. This is one example of many examples in which this team of teachers and all of our team search and find ways to make our students learning environment fun and engaging, especially, during this difficult time.”
The school paid for the desk shields, but will reimburse the teachers for the $200 spent on other materials to transform the desks into vehicles.
Although the pandemic has made teaching and learning different — no more group projects, floor circles or close play — the teachers said they are ready for whatever comes.
“All of us have some sort of anxiety about going back to school. It’s going to look 100% different than it’s looked in my 20 years of teaching,” Martin said. “But our goal is making our kids happy. The playfulness will help them cope.”
St. Barnabas Episcopal School will welcome students back to the classroom on Wednesday.