Third grade studies rocks and minerals as a part of their science standards. In Ms. Hicks class, they have been extending their research of rocks and minerals to create their own Blendspace lessons to teach others facts about rocks and minerals. They are even including pre-tests and post-tests in their lessons. As a part of this Blendspace project, students started thinking about how they might design their own climbing wall for our school based on their research.
Ms. Hicks asked me what tool we might use to design and prototype of a climbing wall, and I immediately thought of Tinkercad. We have used Tinkercad for other projects and have found it to be one of the better tools for 3d design at the elementary level. Students came to the library to learn a bit about how Tinkercad works.
I gave them a very quick tutorial which basically showed them things like adding a work plane, dragging over geometric shapes, resizing shapes, and building up.
I created two generic accounts that students share rather than creating an account for every student. Half of them logged in with one account and half with the other. Their goal was to tinker during the first lesson to see what they could figure out, but their tinkering was a bit more focused than usual. Ms. Hicks really wanted them to already start envisioning their climbing wall as they were tinkering. Some of them latched onto the tool and really got a jumpstart on designing, while others tried something and started over several times.
One student thought we was being a bit silly by trying to design a chicken instead of a climbing wall, but we turned this into a learning opportunity. I thought about the climbing wall that is at our own Omni Club here in Athens. It is shaped like a giant bulldog, so I pulled it up on the screen to show that he could in fact design his rock all to look like a chicken if he really thought about how people would climb a giant chicken. Instead of shutting him down, his wheels were turning about what he might try, and he is in fact now designing a penguin rock wall.
Other students started thinking about which rocks and minerals would be the best choices for the climbing wall based on their strength and also their color. They referenced their research and the Mohs hardness scale to choose rocks and minerals that would hold up a climber. As they did this, they changed the colors and shapes of the climbing pieces on their walls to represent their different choices. Not all students were ready for this level of thinking, but when we found students who were thinking in this way, we encouraged them to share what they were doing in the hopes of giving other students ideas.
One student even let me record a snippet of his thinking about his own rock wall choices.
The students have worked on these designs for 3 work sessions. As they finish, they are taking screen shots of their designs and adding them to Blendspace with an explanation of their design. In the future, we plan to export their designs as .stl files so that we can actually 3d print their prototypes when they are ready to present.
I loved this real world application of rocks and minerals because it showed students that there are actually careers where you might consider some of the facts that they are learning in science. There was so much higher order thinking built into this project, especially this design piece. I had some great conversation with students as they referenced their research to find the specific rocks and minerals they wanted to use. One conversation involved a student specifically wanting a rock that was yellow. He kept Googling different rocks he knew to see if they came in yellow. When he finally found one of the feldspar family that was yellow, he noticed that the website description referenced Bob’s Rock Shop. We had a great conversation about the importance of digging into the website to really see where the information was coming from, and he found that the information actually did come from a reliable source within that site.
I hope that we can find ways to share the work that this class is doing in the hopes of inspiring students at all levels to apply what they are doing to really world experiences. It would be fascinating to actually see this climbing wall come to life and have o