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First-grade teachers transform students’ desks into socially distanced JEEPS to help ease anxiety

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Creative teachers in Florida came up with a way to help ease students back into classrooms and quell fears over coronavirus social distancing.

Two first grade teachers in DeLand, Florida, are being applauded for their clever idea of transforming student desks into mini Jeeps complete with mock tires, headlights and license plates. The innovative idea was an effort to help mitigate children’s fears as they comply with COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.


(Source: FOX59 News)

The teachers, Patricia Dovi, 35, and Kim Martin, 51, of St. Barnabas Episcopal School, used construction paper in their designs as well as three-sided plastic dividers as windshields and windows.

“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, who will be teaching 18 students in person this year, told CNN.

The transformation, which took about a week, was reportedly inspired by an idea posted by a photo shared by a kindergarten teacher in Texas, according to CNN.

 

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Jeep Kindergarten @jeep

A post shared by Jennifer Birch Pierson (@jenniferpierson11) on

“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,” Garcia added.

The school paid for the desk shields, and reportedly would be reimbursing the $200 spent on other materials that the teachers paid for out of their own pockets.

Martin told the outlet that the goal was to make kids “happy” amid the unprecedented classroom experiences in which children will be required to maintain distance and can only take off their face masks when seated in their Jeeps behind the protective shields.

Amid a national debate over the safety of sending children back into physical on-site learning environments, the Florida teachers, who often collaborate and share lesson plans, wanted to prove that in-person lessons are not only preferable to online, distance learning, but can be safe as well.

“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.”

At an open house to welcome students back to the school, which officially reopens Wednesday, the children were given “keys” to their cars and told they were going to be like motorists obeying traffic laws.

“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,” Martin said. “So we’re playing on this vehicle concept to turn social distancing fun and more kid friendly.”

“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,” Dovi, who will be teaching 13 students in person, told Business Insider.

‘It’s colorful and it just shows the age of innocence,’ Martin told Business Insider.

“If we can get them to buy into the idea that sitting in a vehicle is really exciting, maybe it won’t be so hard to keep them at their desks,” Dovi, a Jeep enthusiast, added. “We were just trying our best to make the room look more kid-appropriate and not so scary.”

“It’s going to be more fun to say, ‘Hey, purple Jeep, you’re getting out of your lane,'” Martin added. “I think it will be a smart way to keep the kids engaged.”

The creative endeavor even got the attention of the head of Jeep exterior design.

“As the ‘head crayon and master doodler for Jeep’ this makes my heart truly smile,” Mark Allen told Insider. “What a fun and unique way to welcome back students and ease them into a new way of learning. Hats off to the teacher whose creativity is sure to inspire these young minds.”

“The whole thing is just wrapped in a big box of kindness,” Martin said. “We’re doing the best we can with social distancing.”

Frieda Powers

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