Over the past few weeks, third graders embarked on a unique project tied to the new Social Studies curriculum focusing on the United States and regions. The assignment asked them to tap into skills that included research, programming, 3D printing and laser cutting—all with a little help from their friends in the Upper School.
Students were split into groups and given a particular region of the United States to research. Their research led them to questions such as, “What states are in this region,” “What makes this region special,” and “What is its history, geography and resources?” By the time the research phase was complete, students knew details such as why Arkansas is named the “Natural State” and why Vermont is famous for its maple syrup. However, this was only the first phase of the project.
From there, students moved to the computer lab for phase two. Using computer skills in Lower School Coordinator of Instructional Technology Mr. Greg Stevens’ class, and with the programming assistance of Mr. Brian Purlee and Ms. Elizabeth Helfant, the students began to conceptualize a board game that could be used to teach others – students and adults alike – about their assigned U.S. region. Students designed their board games and game pieces related to their region using specialized design software.
Once their time at the drawing board was complete, the 3rd graders made their way to the Upper School Maker Space lab. Waiting for them was a small group of Upper Schooler students and faculty who were already familiar with the 3D printer, laser cutter and button maker that the 3rd graders needed to complete their games.
“Over the course of my past three years in high school, I have spent a lot of time in the Maker Space, learning how to use each of the machines to fabricate my ideas,” said Lucas McCarty ’21, who operated the laser cutting machine after the 3rd graders loaded their schematics. Once the machine started cutting, all eyes were fixed as it brought their projects to life.
“Watching them get excited about the laser cutter, answering questions about how the 3D printers work and seeing the joy that they got from working with the hot wire made my day,” continued Lucas.
“Surrounded by the energy that the kids bring to the Maker Space is the best way to start your day,” added Grant Purdy ’21, who had also volunteered to help. “I love being down there with them and watching as the horizons of possibilities expand in their mind.”
Meanwhile, other group members continued working on the other components of the board game. Students worked outside of the lab to create boxes for their games while other groups took turns using the 3D printer to fabricate the game pieces.
“3D printing was my favorite,” said Skylar ’29.
“And watching the laser cutter cut the game board!” added Reagan ’29.
“The cross-divisional collaboration among teachers and students has been an incredible learning experience,” said 3rd Grade Teacher Sarah McGinn.
“We are so excited by the opportunities that this project has provided for our 3rd graders,” added Carla Federman, JK-12 History & Social Sciences Department Chair. “As they’ve learned important historical, cultural, and geographical information about their states and regions, they’ve also had the chance to work in Upper School facilities, with Upper School students and teachers, in a way that allows them to think creatively and that is truly interdisciplinary.”
To show what they’ve learned about their state and their region, students will deliver a final presentation to teachers, staff members and parents on March 12. Stay tuned!