3D Primary School Printing Project

As students of the Primary Education Studies course, we are keen to gain hands on experience working with learners and to put what we have learnt in University to the test. Therefore, when the opportunity to work with a primary school in Cardiff arose using 3D printers we jumped at the chance.  We collaborated with Year 4 pupils from St Philip Evans Primary School in their design and build project of a 3D alien pet. This project provided the children with a new and engaging opportunity to use technology to develop their creations.

Learners were taken through the ‘real world’ manufacturing process from designing to bringing the product to life. This project gave us an insight into how the Digital Competence framework (DCF) and how the Areas of Learning and Experience could be developed in schools. We have learnt a lot on our course about the DCF which is being implemented in schools across Wales as part of the new curriculum. Technology infiltrates every aspect of society and it is important that this is mirrored in schools. This project gave pupils an insight into how technology could be used to bring their design on the page into a 3D product.

Firstly, the pupils were put into their groups where they had already started creating their individual designs. They had been given a specific environment to work within. For example, one learner had researched animals who live in the desert and decided that their creation would have a pouch where they could store water to stay hydrated, which was key for survival. This activity demonstrated how design and technology could engage pupils and encourage them to start thinking about what properties existing animals have that allow them to survive in their natural environments.

This activity was cross-curricular and required pupils to engage with design and technology, science, geography, art and English. Learners were required to communicate to develop their designs and to use different processes before the designs were 3D printed. The pupils were given the opportunity to bring their drawings to life using clay and transform them into a 3D alien. This allowed them to see which aspects of their designs worked effectively and helped them pet to perfect their ideas in this format. After completing their clay prototype, they had to look at everyone else’s in their group and then pick a final one to develop further for the 3D printing. Learners evaluated their designs and, through peer review led by the success criteria, chose one design. The chosen design was then placed into Morphi an application on the iPad that would allow the 3D design to be created by the 3D printer. Pupils engaged with aspects of the DCF as they sourced designs, tested and then produced these aliens.

The Year 4 pupils were amazed at the intricacies that went into the creation of a 3D object. The printer lays down thin plastic layers that are built up to make any design their imaginations could create. Pupils were able to reflect on the design process and link this to the ‘real world’ in which a product is designed and brought to life for consumption. Throughout the day, we worked closely with the pupils to assist them with any help they needed, whether it was further developing their ideas, answering any questions raised or challenging their ideas to improve their designs. In our role as facilitators, along with the teachers, we were also able to learn with the pupils as we adapted designs so they could be mapped onto the 3D printer software.

Not only was this project exciting for the pupils, it was exciting for us too as we were given the opportunity to see first-hand how technology can further enhance learning across all areas of development. We have gained some valuable pedagogical skills observing how our lecturer, Jason Davies, and the teachers managed over 50 learners across 3 locations. We also gained confidence working with 3D printing technology which will help us as we progress on our journey towards a PGCE and as a qualified teacher.

Jade Staniforth and Olivia Leonard.

Five top TED talks

TED talks provide insight, inspiration and some very thought-provoking content.   Here are five talks that we think you might be interested in.

Your body language shapes who you are
Amy Cuddy points up that how you carry yourself provides unspoken messages to others.  This is particularly true of the classroom and of interviews.  This talk provides simple advice on giving the right messages.


Five ways to listen better
Listening properly to pupils is essential for understanding their understanding.   Listening is something we may take for granted.  Julian Treasure encourages us to consider how we approach this skill.


The mysterious workings of the adolescent brain

Ever wondered what is going on inside the adolescent brain, and why teenagers act as they do?   An illuminating talk by cognitive neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore provides some fascinating insight, and suggests that it provides real opportunities for learning.


Let’s teach for mastery – not for test scores

Salman “Sal” Khan, founder of Khan Academy, an organisation dedicated to providing a free, world-class education for anyone, considers the concepts of mastery and mindset.  His talk challenges conventional practice in schools.


Teach girls bravery not perfection

Reshma Saujani gives a talk challenging us to recognise how girls are socialised to be perfect, a trait which leads to students who are afraid to get it wrong. We should be teaching girls, as well as boys, to take risks.




Mantle of the Expert: an introduction by Paul Gibbins

paul gibbinsMantle of the Expert is a teaching strategy that gives children practice at real life situations through the creations of fictionalised scenarios.  It is particularly effective at engaging pupils in activities which give purpose to reading, writing, speaking and listening.  It offers numerous opportunities for assessment for learning and was highly commended by Paul Black as an effective teaching approach. It also allows for meaningful progression for MAT learners.

Core elements of the ‘Mantle of the Expert’ approach to Learning

Adapted from:

Heathcote, D. & Bolton, G. (1995). Drama for Learning: Dorothy Heathcote’s Mantle of the Expert

Approach to Education. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann USA

  • The learners gradually take on responsibility for running an enterprise in a fictional world
  • The learners care enough about the long-term goals of a fictional client that they engage in activities through which they begin to imagine the fictional world
  • Learners and teacher together:
  • interact predominantly as ‘themselves’
  • imagine that they are interacting as experts who run the enterprise
  • imagine that they are interacting as other people in the fictional world with whom the experts are concerned
  • Over time, the pupils engage in activities that at the same time are both curriculum tasks and that would be professional practices
  • in the fictional enterprise
  • The teacher must share power to position the students

(individually and collectively) as knowledgeable and competent colleagues and ensure that children position one another similarly

  • The children must reflect to make meaning.

For more information on Mantle of the Expert visit the website: