Forest - primary school desk partitions to help students with attention struggles
an elementary school in the Netherlands
Have you ever caught yourself looking at the wall or a fly when you were supposed to focus on a lecture or work? I bet you have. Many people with ADHD experience this on daily basis with most of the activities. Japanese product designer and design researcher, Shion Ito jumped into a classroom of an elementary school in the Netherlands, where there were two students with ADHD who have difficulties focusing on their studies. With the goal of enabling all the students to feel connected with each other, he created a playful desk partition that encourages students to construct their physical bubble that helps them focus on their studies with other students.
Have you ever caught yourself looking at the wall or a fly when you were supposed to focus on a lecture or work? I bet you have. Many people with ADHD experience this on daily basis with most of the activities. Let me start from explaining what is ADHD. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder which causes several problems such as lack of attention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. In general, people with ADHD tend to have difficulty concentrating on their tasks like studying. Through an observation research in a classroom of an elementary school in the Netherlands, where two students with ADHD were included, it was noticed that there were some students who had difficulty concentrating on their studies and had to isolate themselves completely, which created awkwardness and disconnection with other students. This project addresses the obstacle faced in this situation not only for students with ADHD but also for other students.
Observation research took place for one week, where students were observed in the classroom during regular class activities. During the observation, it was noticed that students were allowed to walk to other students because they were encouraged to work on assignments together. While they enjoyed this collaboration, it causes distraction for some other students. For this reason, those who are not good at concentrating, isolated themselves from other students to focus. While isolation is the best way for them to study, it might cause separation from those who do not require isolation to focus.
Thus, my design goal was to enable students with ADHD to construct their physical bubble that helps them focus, without feeling disconnected from other students.
The initial prototyping phase consisted of cards with two different messages, "I want to focus" and "I want to work with you" on the opposite sides. The idea behind this prototype was to enable them to convey their feeling to other students. The response was positive, but not in the way I expected. The children soon lost interest in the texts on the cards, but they really enjoyed pinning them between the desks. Therefore, I decided to take that pleasure as the starting point for a new design. I made flower and tree-shaped cards and asked students to use them. From this test, what I found was that students enjoyed building up their physical bubble with others students.
The final design is Forest: a set of desk partitions and a slot profile that attaches to the table. With cut-out shapes of animals, trees and plants, the partition can be arranged by students creating their original scenery. And this playfulness encourages other students to join in the building of a physical bubble which limits the student's intake of environmental interference. My intention behind this design is to give students autonomy to choose how high and how dense their Forest (partition) is. Through the evaluation test that involved four neuro-typical students and one student with ADHD, all students found the final design to be useful for focusing on their assignments. Also, it was seen that they constructed the partitions with other classmates. This collaboration made them feel connected with each other.
Compared to existing desk partitions which are overwhelmingly big, Forest consists of the small size of playfully shaped partitions. So, when you see a single piece of the partition, you won't get the impression that it's something that constructs the bubble, which encourages students to interact with the pieces and build their own bubble while expanding their creativity. The parts are made of wood and painted with soft colours that are limited to specific shades of yellow, green, and turquoise blue. Those colours are calming the eye and help students focus on their studies.
Shion Ito is a Japanese product designer and design researcher based in Den Haag, Netherlands. He aspires to understand human nature through the use of provocative artefacts into real contexts. He is currently looking for a company to produce his design, Forest.