The following blog post was written by the team at Fab Lab Tulsa about their Digital Fabrication pilot with early elementary school students.
At Fab Lab Tulsa, we’re used to working with digital design and fabrication tools. In fact, we consider ourselves to be experts at it, with over five years of experience teaching youth programs that target 5th through 9th graders. We’ve had some experience with younger students but we’ve wanted to find some way to get early learners engaged in the design process. After a ton of research we were able to locate the Fab@School Maker Studio platformer. We were super excited to pilot Fab@School Maker Studio to see if it could be used to expand our existing programs to students in the 1st to 3rd grades.
In November 2016, we spent two weeks teaching 72 young students in the afterschool program at Kendall-Whittier Elementary School. In keeping with our existing education program philosophy, the curriculum included digital fabrication using Fab@School Maker Studio and Silhouette Portrait paper cutters. We focused on teaching elements of the design process as defined in the Next Generation Science Standards, and we encouraged students to apply the skills they learned in a project-based assignment. Our objective was to evaluate both the software and cutters, as well as test the feasibility and value of introducing digital fabrication concepts and skills at an earlier age.
Each student received approximately 4 hours of instruction over multiple sessions. The 1st grade students focused on 2D design. They were introduced to the topic of design and shapes by reading and discussing the book “The Wing of a Flea” by Ed Emberley. This led to instruction on how to design basic 2D shapes and combine those shapes into more complex structures. Students used the cutters to create their physical model.
The older students began with the 2D design but quickly moved to designing 3D shapes. They were able to use the cutter to render their 3D design and then glue it when necessary. Some older students tried their hand at more advance design concepts like pop-ups, a design principle that’s tough but easier to handle when using the friendly interface of Fab@School Maker Studio.
In short, we were very happy and excited about the results of the pilot. While there is still considerable room for improvement in the lesson plans and teacher instruction, designing with the Maker Studio software was a simple and straightforward concept to learn for all three grade levels. In addition, the cutters proved faster and more efficient than was expected.
We had been concerned that students would lack the developmental milestones needed to be successful in design and fabrication. We were overjoyed when this did not show up in the trial. All students were successful in producing and cutting their 2D and 3D files and we would expect those skills to continue to improve as the students gained more experience.
Best of all, student engagement was very high and we observed a high level of student interest and growing self-confidence. We’re excited about the implications this base of knowledge will have in future grades, when we ask them to use more complex CNC equipment for larger projects.
How is your classroom using Fab@School Maker Studio? We'd love to share YOUR tips and ideas! For more FabFriday posts, click here. Try out some or all of these techniques in the Winter Design Challenge! Share your photos with us, Tweet them with the hashtag #FabMakerStudio for a chance to have them featured on the next FabFriday!