Recently, the two Makerbot Mini 3D printers for elementary schools to check out were put through the paces by the 4th graders in Mrs. Gretchen Hilley’s classroom and the 5th graders in Mrs. Laura Payne’s classroom.  Both of these teachers reached out a few weeks before the Winter Break looking for an innovative way to enhance some upcoming units they were planning.  The STEAM-integrated activities and units that they came up with for their students are pretty impressive, and from the look of things, the students absolutely love working with the 3D printers.

In Mrs. Hilley’s 4th Grade activity, students are using a free web-based 3D design application called Tinkercad to design ornaments to hang on their trees at home.  The 3D design process that the students use in Tinkercad extends, refines, and applies all of the 4th grade geometry and measurement standards: MGSE4.G.1 – 3 and MGSE4.MD.1 – 3 & 8.  Some of Mrs. Hilley’s students have become so familiar with the capabilities of the software, that they have discovered how to find and download existing 3D models from the internet, customize them into new 3D models, and then re-download them as 3D printable files that they can send to the Makerbot.  Take a look at this short screencast that one of Mrs. Hilley’s 4th graders made using Zoom explaining just how to do that.


Mrs. Payne’s 4th Grade Science & Social Studies students are in the midst of a fully integrated STEAM Unit built around the grade level standards of World War II.  Layered on top of Mrs. Payne’s already engaging lessons that typically include student creation is a 3D gamification element.  Students work in small group identifying themselves as either an Axis or Allied Team.  As the teams of students complete specific activities and tasks that show their mastery of the Social Studies content, they receive bits of “top secret information” describing the physical dimensions of three keys needed to unlock their team’s World War II Victory.  The three keys fit inside either an Axis or Allied Key Panel reminiscent of the multiple security keys needed to unlock the atomic arsenal used to win the second World War.

The “top secret information” that the students receive provides mathematical clues regarding the shaft length, cross section, and handle shape of the different keys needed for each team.  The Axis teams must use Tinkercad to design and 3D print the Moussolini, Hitler, and Hirohito keys, while the Allied teams create the Roosevelt-Truman, Churchill, and Stalin keys.  This gamification of the lesson, along with the integration of 3D design software and a 3D printer adds meaningful technology integration, engineering design, and applied mathematical concepts to the social studies unit in an engaging way while supporting creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication.

One Team’s explanation of the Project

If you are interested in ways that you can introduce your students to 3D Design and Printing within your classroom, please contact the STEAM Integration Specialist.