New York State Regional Education Service Agencies
Fred Ende and his team wondered how they could create supportive and effective microenvironments for people to work in either independently, or in small groups. This question had been something that they had been mulling over since before COVID, and was of even greater interest in the post-pandemic workplace.
As the director of curriculum and instruction in the northern suburbs of New York City, (Putnam/Westchester area) Ende works with 50 school districts to meet their curriculum instruction and assessment needs. A part of a statewide organization called BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), their agency provides a number of different services to districts, including special education, career and tech support. Educators come to the site looking for resources and solutions, and to exchange ideas. Beautiful conference rooms provide places to share and present to large groups, but the facility lacked ways in which smaller breakout groups could meet. People would have to remove themselves to meet in the hallway, or in the professional library to have a conversation, which did not allow for multiple breakout groups to meet. Providing their educators with multiple meaning spaces is where their Nook Story begins.
Ende’s team began to familiarize themselves with the product offerings for portable breakout spaces and to collect research for what would best fill their needs. They took the search to NeoCon, the annual office furniture show at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. Browsing the showrooms, Ende discovered Nook and was intrigued. Specifically designed to enhance existing spaces, the Nook is moveable, endlessly customizable, and supports a multitude of situations seamlessly. Sitting in the Nook Huddle, Ende could easily envision the ways in which Nook could support the PNW Boces.
The PNW Boces Team found a good partner in Nook. Encouraging them to pilot the products, Nook suggested that they do a study about how they performed in different spaces and compare how different spaces yielded different interactions. Choosing to test both a Nook Solo and a Nook Huddle, the team placed the Huddle in a school, while the Nook Solo was installed at the main campus.
Nook Solo is the single user pod that integrates a door into its design, enabling the space to be contained and perfect for focused work. Solo uses two ultra-quiet fans to replace the air 1.5 times per minute, to ensure that a user will have a space that feels fresh. The PNW Boces team envisioned that it might become a place where people took phone calls or if they had a phone meeting while they were attending a PNW conference, they could use it for privacy.
Teachers Immediately took to the Nook, scheduling times to chat and holding planning meetings during their prep time. During the month-long trial period they found that the Nook Huddle provided a space for students who needed a bit more separation to talk one-on-one with a teacher. The students discovered that having a conversation in the Nook felt vastly different than standing and talking in the hallway. The Nook Huddle is a Certified Autism Resource, which means it is a product that has been designed to support individuals sensory experiences by minimizing stimuli. In a Nook Huddle sound is softened, light can be adjusted to different levels, the interior space is defined and the house-like roof with its upholstered walls makes the user feel held and supported. Ende relates that he and his team are looking for resources that will assist teachers and students, aid in concentration or provide a place where teachers can deescalate a situation. On the PNW Boces campus, a Nook was placed in the special education building, and has been very well utilized. Students who need to take a moment outside of their classroom or cohort, can meet in a setting where they can be heard, and their educator can focus on their needs and respond without distraction. The Huddle has also supported students who might need a space where they can read, work or reset in a separate setting where their space is respected. Students whose needs are not met in a traditional classroom setting have benefited greatly from the characteristics of the Nook.
The PNW Boces Team wasn’t expecting the benefits that they found in their Nook experience. When asked what word best described their Nook Story, Ende said that their Nooks met a need: “Our Nooks were exactly what we needed to create the microenvironments we had envisioned. The pilot program allowed us to form an attachment with our Nooks, and they are invaluable. We chose to customize our Nook incorporating the colors of the upholstery to match our school and added a white board to make them that much more useful and to integrate them into our work.” Nook’s intuitive, fluid and flexible dynamic suits a multitude of environments and needs, and is increasingly the perfect solution for educational settings.