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.