Several months before Lisa Thumann and Kern Kelley of EdTech Team, along with Kevin Hunter of Simplified Office Solutions, hosted a webinar about 3D printing, I had been dabbling in 3D printing within my 8th grade science classes. I convinced my department chair and principal to purchase a 3D printer for my classroom with the intent of moving my classes away from curricular consumption towards curricular creation. My goal was to have students design, build, and create various models, tools, and manipulatives to both enhance their learning environment as well as document their individual learning.
What are my students and I currently creating with our 3D printers:
1. Game pieces and manipulatives to enhance student projects
2. Manipulatives to enhance student presentations such as homologous chromosomes, spacecraft prototypes, and various other engineered creations.
3. To improve the learning process for my students I have printed multiple models of things like chromosomes, animal structures to demonstrate relationships between organisms, and cellular models to illustrate the functioning of cellular structures.
As a result of participating in the webinar, I won a new FlashForge Finder from Kevin Hunter of Simplified Office Solutions. With the addition of the new printer, I plan to add the following projects to my curriculum:
1. Molecular models
2. Geologic formation models
4. Environmental awareness
a. green energy cars, turbines, etc
5. Astronomy models
There are several pros that I have realized as a teacher attempting to integrate 3D printing, engineering, and design into my science curriculum:
1. Not only does a 3D printer allow for tangible results as listed above it will allow for a greater understanding of planning, design, engineering, and material science learning (many printers use different types of polymer filaments).
2. Lastly, it allows for greater student interest and inquiry through tangible results of their own creation.
a. I personally witnessed this when my 11 year old son designed and printed a 3D model of a Bromine atom.
b. The variety of insights gained by the design process, things such as the proximity of neutrons and proton in the nucleus vs the electron cloud, general problem solving just to get the object to print are incredibly powerful learning tools.
As with anything, there are challenges I have encountered along the way:
1. Troubleshooting the printer can be challenging because only one or two other teachers in the building using 3D printers.
2. The students want to print everything they find (I’ll take this problem over a behavior issue any day!).
3. Finding time to integrate all of the projects in a meaningful way with my curriculum.
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