How to DIY Whiteboard Tables
How do you convert an old elementary school computer lab, lined with desktops, into a vibrant space that inspires innovation in students ages 4 through 14? With a budget of $500, I set about this summer to create a space that engages with students and empowers creativity. After adding some color to our walls, I continued my personal painting party and made dry erase whiteboard tables that would encourage kids to interact with the space.
Technically, this is a “Tech Lab,” but students need to feel inspired and empowered to do amazing things with the tech tools they have. A dry erase whiteboard table is a fantastic way to empower students. With a dry erase marker, even the youngest child can easily take ownership of the space around her. She can write her name, draw a picture, leave a message, and erase her mistakes – and in the blink of an eye, the technology lab becomes hers.
Think of the empowerment
ownership of space!
Think of the empowerment bundled into ownership of space! When you own something, you are more likely to take pride in it, care for it, represent it, defend it, and share it with others. How often do we begin the school year with a conversation about sharing OUR classroom? And what actions do we let students take so that they feel ownership in their space? A teacher hanging student artwork on the wall is very different from students actively hanging their own paintings. How can we use these simple tasks to help students feel empowered?
With student empowerment in mind, I decided to convert the lab’s four 2’x4′ tables into dry erase whiteboard tables: an open invitation to own a piece of our tech lab. Below is a tutorial, so you can empower your students to take ownership in your classroom too!
Things you will need to paint a dry erase whiteboard table
Step 1: Purchase your dry erase whiteboard table supplies.
Before purchasing my supplies, I did quite a bit of research on Dry Erase whiteboard paint because I had heard that is difficult both to paint and maintain. After spending some time on Pinterest, I searched the paint on Amazon and read through the reviews. The Amazon reviews are incredibly helpful, including this helpful review that I recommend you read before tackling this project. Specifically, you want to pay attention to the kit’s expiration date, and the timing of paint coats.
The kit contains two cans of paint that you will mix together before painting. Each can has a code on the bottom that tells you the date of manufacture. According to the reviews, you want to make sure that the large can of paint is no more than one year old. I didn’t have any problem – the kit I bought had a date that was only a few months old.
You also want to make sure that you use foam rollers. Our tables were not particularly large, so I thought a foam brush might work. It did not – this paint is thick and does not self-level. You could easily see the brush strokes in the first coat. Thankfully, I had a foam roller left over from my chalkboard wall project, so I grabbed that and evened the paint out.
Step 2: Move the table to a ventilated area before applying the dry erase whiteboard table paint.
This paint is smelly – much more than regular wall paint. You will want to be in a well-ventilated area for this project – outside, if possible. I moved our four tables to a gravel path around our courtyard. This not only helped with ventilation, but also negated the need for a drop cloth. It was a hot August day, and I was in the sun the whole time. So the smell was ventilated, but I think next time I’d opt for the shade.
Step 3: Follow the preparation instructions on the dry erase whiteboard kit.
I didn’t use a primer because the tables were already white and I had sandpapered the surface a bit. However, the kit instructions suggest a primer if the surface is dark or porous.
The dry erase whiteboard paint needs to be activated before application to the surface of the tables. Following the directions in the kit, I poured the small can of activator into the large can of paint base and mixed it for 2-3 minutes. It was easy to tell when the color had changed to bright white and the paint was completely mixed.
Step 4: Apply the dry erase whiteboard paint to the table.
Once the activator and paint base are mixed, I had 1 hour to apply the dry erase whiteboard paint to the tables. As I mentioned above, I tried using a foam brush to apply the paint because the table area was small. This paint is thick and sticky, so there were a lot of brush marks in the first coat and I decided to try the foam roller, liked the kit directed. The second coat, applied with the foam roller, was much smoother.
This paint dries quickly, and can only be applied for a short time. By the time I painted all four tables with the first coat, the first table was dry enough for a second coat. The kit says that two coats are sufficient, but I ended up painting a thin third coat because I had enough paint. By the third coat, I had been painting for over an hour and the paint was starting to get too sticky to spread.
Step 5: Let the dry erase whiteboard paint cure.
The directions state that the paint takes 24 hours to dry to the touch, and 3 days to fully cure. About 4 hours after painting, we started to bring the tables inside, only to find that one of the campers put their hand on the table and left a handprint in the paint. I grabbed my foam roller and the leftover paint and tried to smooth it out. Unfortunately, the leftover paint was pretty goopy and the handprint left quite a dent. Still, I was able to improve it a bit, although you can still see the faint outline of the handprint when the light hits it a certain way. Chalk it up to working in an elementary school!
Step 6: Start drawing on your dry erase whiteboard table!
After three days, the paint had fully cured. I tested it with a black marker, and it took a little elbow grease to erase. For a few days, I used dry erase cleaner and a cloth to fully erase the markers. A few weeks in, I no longer needed the cleaner and all of the marker colors erase without any problem!
The kids love the tables. They doodle and draw during recess, and a couple of middle schoolers worked through their math problems after school the other day. They love being able to easily erase and make changes to their writing. When parents and adults notice that the tables have an extra sheen, they are always excited after I tell them the tables are dry erase whiteboard! It’s a great way to give visitors ownership of the lab and new opportunities to think creatively.
Comment below: How do you empower students to establish ownership of their space?
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