Hi Dawn! Glad the idea resonates with you as a teacher, as you are the pivotal stakeholder in implementing something like this. This version cost me $50 for the cardboard to build one H Desk. The cardboard was previously-used, triple-corrugated (industrial thickness) from Amazon's warehouse. It usually comes in 4x8 foot sheets. And if you order it in bulk from some places the cost can go down a bit (e.g. ULINE). This desk took a few hours to cut and assemble myself, but that was the fun part. If students are too young to use a utility knife or razor blade, I think the next best option would be to collaborate with a local CNC shop or fabrication shop who could cut (or laser cut) the cardboard into the right shapes. Then students could just assemble them. I've tested similar cardboard designs with 3rd graders and they loved the assembly part. I didn't tell them what they were supposed to build out of the pieces, but just left it up to them. It was amazing to see them collaborate and figure it out! I haven't built a bunch of these in one space yet, but they are pretty large. I imagine you could get 10-12 in a classroom, more if you stacked them on top of each other. They pull apart too, so you could stash the pieces away in a corner or something. And if it's for a younger grade, the design could be scaled down for shorter heights, possibly allowing for more desks in one space. Ideally I want to make a bunch out of sustainable wood so that desks could be stacked and pushed together structurally. I would love to see a classroom that functions more like a playground, with students climbing up on desks as stages to present their findings, or forming nooks to do private work, etc.
For sure! I guess I should really take you all the way back to 2014 and a project I did called The Dreamathon ( https://vimeo.com/117650087 ). It was a sort of artistic attempt to imagine what schools could look like if they were truly designed for and with students. Ever since then I've been fascinated with designing for learning. Fast forward to being in grad school 6 years later studying how people learn best. Unfortunately most classrooms still operate with butts in chairs the whole time, even at the almighty Stanford. Humans are not meant to learn sitting down looking forward, though. We learn by getting into, onto and around things. So I set out to design a piece of furniture that would afford that kind of learning, a sort of giant LEGO desk that would allow teachers and learners to shapeshift the very spaces they call classrooms. I started by sketching a lot of things in my notebooks. I would show them to people and see if they understood the concept without me explaining it. I tried to get a lot of opinions on school furniture, from classmates, and professors. I started working with an all-girls high school in Palo Alto. They are rebuilding their school and asked me to help them design the interim learning environment. This got me plugged into some other local K12 classrooms. I was able to talk to administration and some teachers about classroom designs. Eventually I moved into modeling with balsa wood and some small wooden blocks. I started talking to more schools in the Bay Area and asking them what sorts of desks and chairs they used. Then I built a full size prototype, first out of 2" x 2" wood strips. It's still sitting in my apartment as a reminder of scale. Then I ordered some scrap pieces of industrial cardboard from Amazon's factory. Sometime they have leftover pieces you can get for cheaper. I got five 4' x 4' pieces and made another full-scale prototype without screws or glue. The cardboard just slots together. After a bunch of other tests with users, I started to think the cardboard could be a sort of final product for students stuck at home during COVID. I'm sure I'm leaving out some steps / details. But that's basic process log to date. Does that help?
Hi Sarah, great to hear from you! Thank you for the kind words. The cardboard furniture at the d.school did inspire this concept, in part. I've gotten to know Zach Rotholz at the d.school, who has done a lot of the cardboard stuff there. I was working on wood furniture designs at the d.school when the COVID crisis hit, so I pivoted to think of ways that my designs would be more immediately useful. I even have one of Zach's cardboard chairs in my apartment, so I'm sure it was subconsciously or consciously motivating me. I think my main innovation though was to allow it to be more than one thing, not just a desk or just a chair.