In the new wave of educational tools, 3D printers are at the forefront of bringing interactive technology to the classroom. Children in grades as early as kindergarten can benefit from the process of 3D printing introduced as a learning aid. Not only do students love to be able to participate in the STEAM and STEM-oriented design of printed objects, but they also benefit from the numerous teaching aids for all subjects that can be created with the printer. Here are five ways to integrate 3D printing into the elementary classroom.
1) Learn How to Design and Print Their Own 3D Projects
The first and most obvious way to use a 3D printer in the classroom is to have your student learn how to create their own objects within a computer-based modeling program. Students can work individually or in teams and participate in project-based learning, which incorporates many subjects, aided by the 3D printer. This helps even the youngest of students learn valuable technology and computer learning skills as well as gets them excited to participate in these lessons. They can also use pre-designed templates to print out objects which can then be used and customized by each student as part of a non-tech program, like art electives or social studies.
2) Help Bring Your Lessons to Life Using 3D-Printed Objects
Speaking of non-STEM ways to integrate 3D printing into your classroom; objects created by the printer can be used to demonstrate objects from lessons that would benefit from a real-life example that students can hold in their hands. Why look at a picture of an ancient pyramid when your students can study the actual dimensions and chambers of one right in front of them?
3) Help Students Better Understand Unit Math
Gone are the days when a classroom had to purchase a huge set of math manipulative blocks that might not fully cover the subject being taught. Fractions, unit rates, and place value tools can easily be created for your elementary classroom according to your needs. Having enough sets of manipulatives will never be a problem when you can print as many as you need.
4) Make Your Students Excited About Learning
Even the most reluctant of learners can look forward to class when a 3D printer is introduced into the classroom. The initial novelty of a new technology in the classroom can lead to genuine interest in how the machine works, what it can do, and the lessons that are taught with it.
5) Use 3D-Printed Objects to Assist Visually Impaired Students
3D printing can be a valuable resource for those students who have visual impairments or other needs whose education would benefit from a tactile teaching aid. With a 3D printer in the classroom, you can create objects that will help your students participate in ways that they couldn’t before. Lessons with physically manipulative objects can improve learning in ways that traditional lessons might not and 3D-printed objects can be made with specific student needs in mind.
Using a 3D printer offers numerous opportunities to increase elementary students’ learning, and educators should take advantage of this technology.