June 19, 2014
Tinkering with the Past
I really enjoy professional collaboration. I recognize that I have only one perspective which can be greatly enhanced by another person’s ideas. My adventures in 3d printing in the classroom this year have provided me the opportunity to work with other teachers. One teacher is a colleague with whom I taught 4th grade for many years however, she is now teaching 3rd grade. She was interested in using 3d printing in her classroom, so we put our heads together and came up with an interesting lesson – 3D printed artifacts.
In California, 3rd grade Social Studies is all about the community where you live. This means that students study local government and the people that lived in our community prior to us. For us, that is the Chumash Native Americans. Third graders spend a lot of time studying the Chumash. The 3d printer came in towards the end of their unit of study. They already had a good understanding of the Chumash.
Students were given two parts to this project. One was an informational writing piece that described an artifact that an archeologist “discovered”. In reality it was a 3d printed artifact that the kids created. The second part of the assignment was to connect with the oral story telling tradition that is so important to the Chumash.
The first step was to create their artifacts. This lead to some wonderful conversations about what types of things archeologists find. Some students wanted to print the houses of Chumash but realized that they are much too big. The solution was an understanding that archeologists don’t usually find an entire house. What they find is evidence of a house and sometimes small pieces that used to be part of the house.
After the class discussion I came in and introduced them to the design process. After trying out several different software options I settled on trying out 3dtin.com for the first time. It has simple tutorials to get started, it’s easy to use, and it is entirely web based. Since I wouldn’t be there with them throughout the entire process, I really wanted something that they could just start using. We did have some browser computability issues, but I was able to resolve that pretty easily. They went to work and started creating their artifacts.
Once the 3rd graders had created their designs on the computers I sent in my expert 4th graders to load the designs on the computer that we would be printing from. They were able to give feedback on how to design things so that they would print well. My fourth graders had never used 3dtin.com but were able to figure it out quickly. After a few redesigns my students brought the third graders to my classroom and showed them how the printer works. They took the lead and got all of the artifacts printed.
While the artifacts were printing the third graders were working on their writing assignments. They had to describe where their artifact was found in California, what part of the village or archeological site it was found in, what they thought it was, what they thought it was used for, and why they thought that. They had to describe who in the village was likely to use it, and when they thought it was made. They also needed to describe what it what materials it was made from.
When they finished with the description of the artifact they were to then write a story similar to the kinds of stories that the Chumash told. They were required to include their artifact in the story. I think they had a lot of fun with this part. If we had more time we would have filmed the students telling their stories and put a QR code on it, or done an Aurasma with the iPads.
The project was a great success from my perspective. The students gained a better understanding of what archeologists do, how the Chumash shared stories, and how 3D printing in the classroom can work. I learned more about 3Dtin.com and that 3rd graders are more than capable of using 3D printing in their classes. I look forward to improving on the project next year.