"The playfulness will help them cope."

By Meghan Overdeep
August 25, 2020
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St. Barnabas Episcopal School

With America’s classrooms profoundly altered by the coronavirus pandemic, two Florida teachers have gone out of their way to make sure their students find joy, not fear, in their surroundings.

Patricia Dovi and Kim Martin, first grade teachers who share adjoining classrooms at St. Barnabas Episcopal School in DeLand, spent a week transforming their students’ desks into little Jeeps. The women turned trifold sneeze guards into windshields and side windows, and added construction paper tires, headlights, and even little license plates.

The desks are the only place where students are permitted to remove their face masks. Martin told CNN that their goal was to create a space for kids to feel comfortable while following health 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,” she explained. "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."

Dovi and Martin said that they got the idea from a kindergarten teacher in Texas, who posted a photo on Instagram showing her classroom desks transformed into Jeeps.

When their students return on Wednesday, there will be no more group projects or close play, but the teachers said they are ready.

"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."

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