Inspiration in the everyday – teachers, caring for their students, collaborating with one another, sharing ideas, brainstorming solutions, giving back and growing too. The best of education can give me the kind of goose bumps that last a while. Working with Mrs. Jackie Dirscherl is that kind of good. Let me tell you a story.
First, quite a few months ago I was working at the office when one of my colleagues, Pam Johnson shared an iPad app she was exploring with me. She was looking at it for a K-3 elementary school that had a 3D printer and needed an entry level program to start building with kindergartners. The app was called PrintShop and it worked with the Makerbot machine. Students draw simple line drawings to tell a story, take a picture in the app and save to the library in a Makerbot account. As I had not been working with that age level yet it was immediately intriguing to me. I downloaded the app and vowed to remember it.
Fast forward several months further into the year and in one of my regular visits to classrooms I asked Jackie Dirscherl if there were any projects coming up that would allow for collaboration. She told me about a presentation she had seen at NCTIES and her hope to incorporate the project idea with the study of the Trail of Tears in her American History course. She wanted students to research tribes involved in the Trail of Tears, find out about their cultures and roles in the event, look at artifacts and photographs from the time and come up with a symbol that would represent the tribe and their role in history. She wanted the students to learn the Makerbot software and Tinkercad to transfer the drawings to 3D print designs to print replicas of the symbols as stamps. Jackie wondered if I could help with the 3D printing aspect? Jackie is a special education teacher and I had worked in her room several times before. I knew the complexities of the Tinkercad program and decided to tell her about the Printshop app. I told her I had an idea and would show her something later that day.
I found a book on Native Americans in the media center, looked at images and found one of a Blackfoot eagle head worn as protection. I drew a rudimentary line drawing and took a picture in Printshop. I saved the photo in the app and created a 3D design. The first attempt printed in a little over four hours and gleaned important lessons. Lesson 1: my features (eyes and nostrils) did print, but because they were not attached to the outer lines they did not stay connected when the build was removed from the raft. Lesson 2: I had drawn the lines too thin causing the shape to flex out of shape when held. Both issues needed to be remedied for the painting and stamping activity to be a success.
I redrew the eagle head with a Sharpie this time. I changed the design slightly for the detail to connect to the edge. I took another picture, saved again and printed. This build took only one hour forty-five minutes to print and to my knowledge none of the settings were changed. (I printed at another location though.) Success! You can see in the image that the second build was much thicker and sturdier. My next step was to share the process with the classroom.
During my next visit I downloaded the app on the iPad for Jackie. She made a Makerbot account and we installed the desktop version of Makerbot on her computer. Her students were finishing up their study of the Westward Expansion and she and I brainstormed ways to move forward. Partnering in classrooms with innovative, risk-taking, and compassionate teachers is one of the most significant benefits of my work. The open sharing of ideas, content, and strategies for the needs of these particular learners, was an ongoing process. Coordinating access to the iPads and 3D printer was also part of the logistics. Jackie and I remained flexible in our contacts and created moments to meet where seemingly none existed. All while the students experienced their day-to-day lessons and marched forward in the acquisition of content standards.
This project will take me moving into next year. The collaboration, sharing, idea swapping, and flexibility of interested professionals make teaching an honor. Believing that there are other projects out there in my schools waiting for me to discover makes the new school year a perpetual treasure hunt.
Enjoy an album showcasing the process of this project linked here on Flickr.