Tuesday, June 2, 2015

3D Printers in Elementary School

This week I am hosting some guest bloggers. This is a guest post from Terri Eichholz.

We were recently gifted with a Makerbot Replicator (5th Gen) to pilot in our elementary school library. Our librarian, Angelique Lackey, and I knew that time was short before the end of the year, but we wanted students to experience the power of creating with this device.

If you search the web for 3D printing curriculum to use in elementary schools, you will find a sparse number of appropriate resources. Most of the “curriculum” turns out to be instructions on using a 3D printer like this, or lists of manipulatives teachers can make on a 3D printer. Angelique and I were looking for something that would be more transformational for our students, however.

As we researched, though, we came across the CityX curriculum. Written to teach students about the design process, this free curriculum was exactly what we wanted. The downloadable Toolkit includes an instructor’s guide, printable student workbooks, Common Core alignment, and videos. Angelique immediately found a group of students who could meet with her each day to test it out before the end of school. It has been exciting to see how the steps of the design process unfold and the confidence, collaboration, and creativity this project has engendered.

If you feel like the City X curriculum doesn’t suit your needs, I encourage you to check out the #makered Twitter chat that occurs every week on Tuesdays at 8 CST. The contributors are extremely experienced and happy to answer questions or offer resources. When I asked for app suggestions for creating, here were some that they offered:
Software that you can use for designing includes:
I would caution you to try any of the above using student logins on your devices, as some may be restricted by district filters. This may be due to links to galleries, such as Thingiverse, that are great sources of inspiration, but may include inappropriate materials.

One of my 2nd grade students used Makerbot Printshop to design the medal below for our GT class.

A 5th grade student of mine, with no other instruction from me than, “See if you can design something for us to print in Tinkercad this weekend,” created the following. It is the sled from the book, The Giver, by Lois Lowry. (It was printed in white plastic, then painted with acrylic paints.)

Speaking of literature, another resource I was able to obtain through the #makered Twitter chat was a list of books that can be used with elementary students to connect to inventing and 3D printing. I have not read the following books, but they were recommended:
How to Bicycle to the Moon to Plant Sunflowers
The Big Orange Splot
Leo the Maker Prince: Journeys in 3D Printing

An excellent book that my colleague recommended, and I have since read, is Skyjumpers. I would also suggest the following books for any kind of curriculum in which creativity and invention are encouraged:
The Most Magnificent Thing
Rosie Revere, Engineer
Iggy Peck, Architect
Going Places

A 3D printer should not be purchased for the sake of having the newest technology. However, you should not discount the idea of having one in an elementary school. Teaching our students about the design process is one of the most valuable skills we can give them. In addition, getting a chance to see the tangible results of planning, problem-solving, and collaboration can be the most powerful way to make an impact.

Terri Eichholz teaches Gifted and Talented students in San Antonio, Texas. She has been teaching for 24 years, and shares resources and idea at http://engagetheirminds.com. You can also often find her participating in educational Twitter chats (@terrieichholz). Angelique Lackey is Terri’s fabulous colleague, and is the librarian at Hidden Forest Elementary. She can also be found on Twitter (@lackeyangie).