Our school is a Title I school that has just transitioned into a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) academy. Many of our students are English Language Learners that come from low socio-economic backgrounds, and enter our classrooms below grade level in reading and math.
Despite this, students are eager and excited to learn and teachers know the importance of providing our students learning opportunities and experiences that encompass all that STEAM and 21st Century Skills are known for: communication and collaboration among students, creativity and critical thinking.
Educationalist, Sir Ken Robinson, states, " Creativity is now as important in education as literacy." As an educator, I whole heartedly agree with this statement. I know how essential it is to prepare students for their futures by offering a vast variety of learning opportunities that allow students to tap into their critical thinking and creative sides. This project will provide these learning opportunities through effective and intentional STEAM lessons that begin and end with the Engineering Design Process: Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, Test, Improve, Communicate. The Planning phase of the Engineering Design Process typically includes prototyping STEAM projects before creating the final product. Prototyping occurs in a 2-dimensional way by creating a blueprint, either digitally or with paper and pencil.
However, I find students' 2-dimensional blueprints lacking creativity and critical thinking; therefore, I want to improve the way students perform their prototyping by teaching them to take a 2-dimensional blueprint and convert it into a 3-dimensional blueprint that will be printed on our LulzBot Mini Desktop 3D Printer.
By exposing students to 3D printed prototyping, students' creativity and critical thinking skills increase exponentially as they analyze their prototype and expand on their learning when replicating their prototype with required STEAM materials.
For example, if students are asked to create a house using craft sticks and PlayDough, they can draw their blueprint, convert, print, and analyze it 3-dimensionally prior to assembling their craft stick, PlayDough house; and model it based on their 3D prototype. Testing, improving, and communicating results completes the Engineering Design Process and STEAM project, but doesn't stop the impact and influence of 3D printing on creativity.
After all, Sir Ken Robinson claims, "Creativity is putting your imagination to work, and it's produced the most extraordinary results in human culture."
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