Sunday, March 10, 2019

Finding Balance - A Team Building Challenge

Getting to Know New Students:

On the first day of a new class, I do this simple but powerful activity with my kids not only as an ice-breaker, but as a way for me to informally assess the students. This 30 minute activity reveals the risk-takers, the leaders, the followers, the collaborators, and the loners.  In addition, it gives students a tangible representation of how life can sometimes be hard to balance.


Balancing Rod
1 pipe cleaner
1 craft stick
2 washers


Each object has a “special” point, it is called center of gravity, where the object’s weight is evenly distributed around it. You can balance things in a way that do not seem to make sense, if you place the center of gravity properly.

All objects behave as though their mass (the stuff they're made from) is concentrated at a point called their center of gravity. A simple object like a ball has its center of gravity in a very obvious place: right at its center. But in a more complex object, like your body, the center of gravity is not located at the center of your body. In fact, men’s center of balance is located closer to their chest while women’s center of gravity is closer to their hips.  

Driving Question:

How can I balance a craft stick on the balancing rod using 2 washers and a pipe cleaner?


  • Students may work alone or with a partner
  • All objects must be used
  • All objects must be balanced on top of the rod
  • Pipe cleaners may not be wrapped around the rod

The Progression:

At students will all start by balancing the craft stick and the washers evenly, but then I remind them that all materials must be used. Eventually one of them will figure out a different way, and others will try as well.  Along the way, I encourage the students to balance the craft stick on its side or on one of the ends.  At first it will seem impossible, but eventually they figure it out!


The Wrap Up:

Ask:  How are we like the objects we balanced on the rods today?
Ask:  Do you sometimes feel like you have a lot to balance?
Ask:  What are some things in your life that causes imbalance?
Ask:  Do you sometimes feel like you're just barely hanging on?
Ask:  How can we use this activity to help us find balance in our lives?

The discussion usually takes on a life of its own when the students understand the connection between this activity and their lives. Students will give examples of friend drama, family responsibilities, homework, grades, sports, and other extra-curricular activities. This will open up the discussion on how we sometimes have to prioritize and re-balance from time to time. Sometimes we fall, but we pick ourselves back up and start over!

Sunday, March 3, 2019

3D Modeling and Printing - a step-by-step lesson plan

Teaching 3D Modeling and Printing

Four years ago we purchased two Polyprinter 3D printers for our Makerspace.  I knew nothing about 3D printing and had a lot to learn.  That first year I experimented with files obtained from Thingiverse and some of my own simple designs that I created on Tinkercad.  My students were also eager to learn how to use the printers and design their own creations, so I developed this lesson plan to introduce students to not only 3D design, but also the fundamentals of how 3D printers work and how 3D printing is impacting all areas of society.

6 Reasons for Integrating 3D Printing Into Your Classroom

According to Seton Hall University there are 6 reasons for integrating 3D Printing into your classroom:

  1. Tangible models/physical examples/learning aids
  2. Technology of our time/relevant/impacts many fields
  3. Easy way to make courses more interdisciplinary 
  4. Ignite or spark creativity or imagination
  5. Increases spatial intelligence/takes the abstract to the tangible
  6. It's exciting to tinker and explore


As with all of my units, I use the learning framework outlined below. This plan, which is based on the engage2learn framework, gives structure and a flow so the students know where they are at all times during the unit.   

  • Pre-Assessment

  • Team/Launch

  • Hook/Challenge Brief
  • Form Groups/Team Role
  • Establish Norms/Develop Conflict Resolution

  • Plan

  • Analyze Project Requirements
  • Analyze Rubrics and set goals based on pre-assessment

    • Research/work

    • Plan and research
    • Identify knows/need to knows

    • Create/Crit

    • Final project is created
    • Adjustments and refinements made based on peer feedback

    • Share

    • Share project with authentic audience
    • Students self-assess their work via Maker's Statement.


    The pre-assessment in this unit includes a lot of vocabulary, file types, and procedural questions.  It is important for the students to evaluate their pre-assessment and develop a list of "knows" and "need to knows" so that they are able to set goals and plan how they will go about their learning.


    Much of my work is done by the time we start the unit.  I have front-loaded all of the slides, curated resources, and set up a timeline so the students have everything they need to work autonomously through the unit.  Instead of doing whole group lessons on how to use Tinkercad, I have provided tutorials and other resources. I do spend time addressing the whole group on the day I give a "tour" of the 3d printers and discuss the different types of filament.  By the time I do these lessons, the students have had time to review the resources so they can come prepared with questions.



    If a student already knows how to use Tinkercad, then they can move through projects more quickly, while others may need more time to learn.  I facilitate the learning by holding "workshops" and answering questions.  The first part of project is the "Cube of Relevance" where students create a cube with icons and logos that represent things that are relevant to them. During this phase, students become familiar with Tinkercad, image file types, vector graphics, and other technical aspects of 3D design. Students spend time planning their second project by using the Faucet/Funnel Thinking docs. This is the part of the project where design thinking and empathy play a part in the planning process. They are designing something that has a use or purpose.  By asking "who, what, where, and why" the students come up with an idea that will help others.  Throughout the unit students are encouraged to work autonomously by receiving peer feedback, utilizing the provided resources, and seeking out their own additional resources. 


    The final phase of the unit involves a self-reflection/evaluation using the rubrics and the Maker's Statement. This final stage is important so be sure to allow enough time for them to reflect and share their process. According to John Spencer "Innovation skyrockets when people show their work".  He also adds that when students show their work, they are helping to build a community. In the process, sharing their mistakes and "building trust through vulnerability".

    The Slides

    Below you will find the slides that I use to deliver resources and information to my students.  I also post in Google Classroom the assessments and materials that I want turned in to me. Students make a copy of the slides so they have everything they need at their fingertips for autonomous learning!

    Feel free to make a copy for yourself and modify as needed.