by ALEXANDRA RETTER
During hybrid and distance learning this fall, Ria Graner’s granddaughter did her school work at a dining room table. It worked, but Graner said, “She needed her own personal space to be able to do her work, not a community space like the dining room.” That all changed when Graner’s granddaugther received a desk made by local carpenter Tim McLeod. With flowers, pieces of the night sky and the lyric, “Do you want to build a snowman?” she decorated her desk, and she also set up her own area for doing school work by the living room window.
McLeod started making desks for local students like Graner’s granddaughter after he saw a video of someone making desks. He realized he had the tools for doing the same thing, and he thought it would be a good way to help others, so he began making desks himself for local students to use while learning at home amid the pandemic. “It just sounded like a good cause, giving kids their own space so they could take ownership of their own stuff,” McLeod stated. He ultimately made about 20 desks while working nights and tackling the challenges that come with completing carpentry work in winter weather. He then let community members know about the desks on social media so they could reach out to him to get one for their student. Those who received a desk could donate toward the cost of materials, but did not have to.
Emily Tofstad, whose daughters are in kindergarten and second grade, sat at the kitchen table while doing schoolwork before they got some of the desks McLeod made. They sometimes had virtual school meetings at the same time, which could be distracting for them, Tofstad said. One of her daughters currently has her desk in the kitchen, and her other daughter has her desk in the living room. “It’s … better for learning, I think, and concentration,” Tofstad said. “And I think it makes them feel like they’re more in school.”
Tofstad’s daughters can also store their personal materials in their desks, which helps them keep track of their things, she said.
The students have been making the desks their own through decorating them as well. Graner’s granddaughter put depictions of the earth, roses, stars and a mountain on her desk, in addition to sayings like, “Be kind” and “Don’t pollute or litter; it’s wrong.” “She was so excited,” Graner said of her granddaughter’s reaction to her desk. “She couldn’t wait to draw on it.”
Tofstad’s daughters put their names on the front of their desks, as well as some stickers, after painting them with colors they like. “They actually came with me to pick them up, and they were so excited,” Tofstad said. “Right away, they started talking about what they were going to paint on them.” They were so enthusiastic about the desks that they had to call their grandmothers to talk about them, Tofstad added.
Looking ahead, Tofstad said her daughters will likely keep using their desks even after returning to in-person learning on a full-time basis.
In addition to wanting students to have a space of their own, McLeod said it was important to him that students have desks so their lives could maybe be a little less tough during the pandemic. “That’s the whole point of volunteering, to make things easier for another person,” McLeod stated.
McLeod said another reason he made the desks was to inspire others to assist their fellow community members. “I don’t want to be the only desk maker,” McLeod stated. “I want people to see, ‘Oh, I can do that,’ so everyday just starts helping each other.”
It would be wonderful if that inspiration to help others also spread to the students who received a desk, McLeod said. “And hopefully … they appreciate it and are thankful for it, and that seed grows, and they start doing things for other people and pay that forward,” McLeod stated.