Those of you who know me know that I’ve been wanting a 3D printer in our library for awhile. It seems that just when I think we’re about to get one, something happens that puts a barrier in our way. This isn’t just about having cutting edge technology. This is about allowing kids to experience another level of creating. It’s about allowing kids to explore a technology that is possibly a piece of technology that we will all eventually have in our homes. It’s about giving kids the power to dream something up, design it, print it, and hold it in their hands. It’s about bringing STEAM education to life for our students. For these reasons, I haven’t given up hope that we will have a 3D printer in our library. Recently, we started a conversation with UGA to partner with them and use the 3D printers that they have. We are very grateful for this opportunity, but we know that if we truly want to have a 3D printer as a part of our daily resources available to students, then we need to have one in our building all the time.
Today, Makerbot announced a partnership with Donors Choose to put a 3D printer in every classroom. This is a bold claim, but it is a step toward thinking that 3D printers aren’t just for colleges, public libraries, or industry. Each time I’ve mentioned putting a 3D printer in an elementary library, I’ve been met with the “why” questions. I’ve also been met by the “I can’t see elementary students doing that…” statements. My philosophy that I have embraced since reading Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo is to “Expect the Miraculous”. I have faith that if students have access to a cutting edge tool such as a 3D printer paired with expertise from mentors over Skype & Google Hangouts paired with expertise from our community who already use 3D printers, then miraculous things will happen for students. I don’t have all of the answers of what this should look like in an elementary school, but someone has to be willing to step up and walk into the unknown and trust that students and multiple experts will learn together, figure things out, and shape how this technology can support what we do and hope to do in schools.
As soon as I saw the Donors Choose opportunity, I submitted a project. By the end of the day, our project was approved and we already had a matching grant. This match brought our project down to approximately $1500. If what Makerbot says is true, as more donors donate to the project, other business and private donor contributions will fulfill this project. Once again, I’m taking a leap of faith that this project will be filled for our school and we can begin exploring and leading the way for 3D printing in schools.
Two donors have already contributed to our project along with our matching donation. I invite you all to take a look at our project, consider donating, or at the very least, consider sharing our project with your circles. Giving kids the opportunity to create, share, and contribute to the current conversation on 3D printing in education is a great gift to give, especially this time of year.