By SAM RAPPAPORT
Nancy Dellamore, once a Hyde Park Day School parent, is pioneering a new classroom desk that adapts to students’ learning styles. The Focus Desk, an easily-adjustable workstation, is a product of Marvel Group Inc., a Chicago-based furniture company that Dellamore and her husband co-own.
For more than a decade, Dellamore has thought of ways to create a freer learning environment for students. Dellamore first noticed the restrictive nature of traditional classroom desks when her son, in the 2nd grade, was diagnosed with dyslexia. Dellamore’s son found it difficult to sit still in class, an issue only made worse, Dellamore felt, by static and inflexible surroundings.
“In public school they tried to make him sit still,” Dellamore said, voicing her frustration over the inability of public schools to cater to students’ different needs. “If he needs to move, let him move.”
In 5th grade, Dellamore’s son transferred to the Hyde Park Day School’s Northfield, Ill. campus. Although Hyde Park Day School was attentive to her son’s individual needs, Dellamore thought that the immobile, classroom desks still posed as an obstacle to students with learning disabilities.
“These kids just learn differently,” Dellamore said. “I wanted to allow kids to take control of their environment.”
Acting as project manager, Dellamore began collaborations with Hyde Park Day School students and teachers to design a desk that would fit the needs of students and effectively reduce class disruptions. The result of that partnership is Marvel Group’s Focus Desk, which, among other things, allows students to adjust the table height quietly and within seconds.
Dellamore claims that a student’s ability to stand at his desk when he needs to helps students and teachers alike.
“A child that would have been disruptive before can stand up and get that energy out,” Dellamore said.
The Focus Desk was brought to market eight months ago and is quickly gaining momentum. Both campuses of Hyde Park Day School are now stocked exclusively with Focus Desks.
Melanie Hodak Mitra, Hyde Park Day School’s Northfield Campus principal, explained that, at her school, the Focus Desk has only received positive feedback.
“We focus a lot on self awareness,” Hodak Mitra said . “When [students] can identify that they need to stand up or sit down, it’s a great thing…the students love them.”
Hodak Mitra was involved in brainstorming desk designs while the Focus Desk was still in development.
“We wanted something flexible enough to be used differently for the needs of different students,” Hodak Mitra said. “It’s furniture, but it’s not just furniture. It helps the kids be the best learners they can be.”