Session: Advanced Design/Build and YWDBI Saturday Extension Workshop, After-School Winter 2021

Builders: 20 teen girls*

Materials + Tools: Phenolic plywood (donated by our friends Carl Bass and Chris Taggart!), bent and powder-coated steel legs (donated by Semi Exact!), table saw, chop saw, bandsaw, electric sander, finish screws.

Description: In the winter session of Advanced Design/Build and Saturday Extension workshops (led by instructors Emily Pilloton, Hallie Chen, and Augusta Sitney), girls built 12 distance learning desks for the youth living in a nearby transitional shelter. Our community partner for this project was BOSS (Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency), a nonprofit fighting against homelessness in the Bay Area and helping homeless, poor, and disabled people achieve health and self-sufficiency. The desks were designed specifically to accommodate the spatial and workflow needs of K-12 students learning at home, with ample room for books, a laptop and mouse, a glass of water or snacks, art supplies, and other personal belongings. Some were built at a 24″ height for K-3, and the rest were built at the standard 29″ height for middle school, high school, and adult humans. (Our friends at Tiny WPA, who were building similar desks out in Philadelphia, offered us some helpful advice about dimensions, scale, and use.) Each desk is built from one half-sheet of phenolic (resin-coated and colored) plywood, which is cut on a table saw to width, then on the chop saw to length, and assembled using finish (trimhead) screws. The legs are strong bent steel legs in a variety of geometries: bell, A-frame, and H-frame. These were donated to us by the generous folks from Semi Exact.

It was truly an honor to create desks for the students at BOSS and to deliver them at the shelter. Jon-Mychal, the Principal Consultant for BOSS, passed along students’ rave reviews of the Girls Garage desks. “These desks have helped make distance learning more of a fun activity and less of a boring obligation,” he said. “By designating the learning within the desk, the children have been able to make clear commitments to keeping their space organized and their assignments completed.” 

*“Girls” refers to gender-expansive youth (cis girls, trans girls, non-binary youth, gender non-conforming youth, gender queer youth, and any girl-identified youth).


The distance learning desks lined up in the Girls Garage studio space
Girls Garage teen girls sand the edges of the distance learning desk
Girls use orbital sanders to sand the edges of the phenolic plywood
Girls display distance learning desks in front of Girls Garage
A day’s hard work is topped off with a triumphant photo!
Girls build distance learning desks at Girls Garage
Our teen builders work together to secure the top of the distance learning desks
Distance Learning Desks Girls Garage
Another triumphant photo of the finished distance learning desks!