As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to loom large over many parts of the world, preparing for the new school year is understandably daunting for parents, pupils, and teachers. In order to stay safe, children will need to abide by the recommended hygiene and social distancing rules. This can be overwhelming and confusing for many young students, which is why first-grade teachers Patricia Dovi and Kim Martin from St. Barnabas Episcopal School in DeLand, Florida decided to put their pupils’ minds at ease with a fun idea. They transformed every child’s desk into a colorful jeep with three-sided plastic shields, allowing them to stay a safe distance apart in the classroom while keeping them entertained.
Dovi and Martin got the idea from Jennifer Birch Pierson, another elementary school teacher in Texas who made the desk designs for her students. Dovi—who has a real Jeep of her own—was immediately taken by the playful solution and decided to create her own versions for her students. With the help of family and friends, Dovi and Martin spent about a week crafting the miniature jeeps. The school provided the plexiglass, but the rest of the materials were kindly paid out of pocket.
“Anything that we can do to add some silliness and some creativity to get them excited is going to be really important in the longevity of this school year,” says Dovi. “We were just trying our best to make the room look more kid-appropriate and not so scary.”
On the first day of class (August 26), the children excitedly arrived to find their personalized jeeps. Dovi recalls their reaction: “We put keys with their names on the desks, so they were all very excited and wanted to know if [the Jeeps] really work and where to put [the keys] in the ignition.”
Of course, it’s never easy to ask young children to keep in one place, but the jeep desks create a fun, stimulating environment for both play and learning. “[The kids] are really kind of utilizing the concept of a vehicle for safety rules,” Dovi says. “No one else can be inside your car, keep hands inside the vehicle, keep your mask on when you get out of your car. It's a way to make them feel playful rather than imprisoned.”
Check out Dovi and Martin’s jeep desks below.