I have the priviledge of serving a diverse group of students from all over the city of Boston. Our school sits at the intersection of several neighborhoods, resulting in a rich mix of students from various ethnic and ecomonic backgrounds. In my class alone, I serve first generation students from Haiti, Vietnam, Palestine, Puerto Rico, and Mexico, as well as students of long-time residents in the neighborhoods of South Boston and Dorchester. We are also a full-inclusion school, meaning that students with disabilities and English Learners are included in mainstream classrooms to learn alongside their peers. These students’ various experiences make for a rich classroom experience in which multiple perspectives inform our learning. Our students love to connect our learning to their own experiences and share them with their classmates and schoolmates. They are eager to learn more about each other and the world—both its promises and its problems. To our students, nothing is impossible. They understand that using their rich learning experiences, along with some hard work and perseverance, leads to innovative thinking and finding solutions to overcome any problem—all while having fun!
Every year I ask my students to share their favorite memory from second grade. Every year the majority of my students talk about how much they loved designing and building inventions in our “creative ideas” writing unit in which we learn about how creative thinkers and designers can identify a need or a problem in a community that can be solved through innovative design. Students then complete the process of designing and building their own "inventions" that fill a need they have identified.
In past years the majority of their “inventions” resemble boxy humanoid robots made from recycled cardboard and plastic bottles that can do pretty much anything and everything you could ask of it.
While this would be amazing, it misses the mark. Students never truly grasp the complexity of such an invention, and a gap between the idea and the reality of their solutions remains.
That is why I ask you to help bring a 3D printer to our school. Having a 3D printer will help me shift students’ thinking from “a robot that can make me tacos” (real example) to “a taco holder that keeps the shell from breaking when you eat it.” Being able to print their solutions will encourage them to think of more practical, less elaborate design solutions to more immediate needs in our school or in their personal lives. They can experience, in a concrete and meaningful way, the satisfaction of holding something functional that they created. They will learn to use 3D computer modeling to design and build their solutions, and then print, test, and refine their prototypes over time. They will gain the skills that our increasingly technological society will demand of them when they graduate 10 years from now, and teach them that they can make their ideas a reality.
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