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Birch Grove fifth graders explore 3D printing

Birch Grove fifth graders explore 3D printing

School libraries have evolved significantly since most district parents were in school themselves. Some of them, including Birch Grove School for the Arts, now even include their own 3D printers. 

A school librarian stands by the school's 3D printer


Birch Grove media specialist Eleanor (Ellie) Chovan has been working with students during their regular library media time since February to teach them the Tinkercad program, which creates 3D digital designs in a way that older elementary-age students can grasp. 

A student's Tinkercad 3D object


Chovan said they began by learning how to add and move basic shapes and resize designs. Once the students were familiar with the program, they began designing the creations they would actually get to print. Before printing, Chovan said students had to demonstrate they knew what shapes they needed to create their item and the size of their design.

The project’s design phase is now over, and the 3D printers are hard at work turning students’ creations into reality. Chovan said each one can take up to four hours for the printer to create. She said sometimes students are surprised that their design wasn’t quite as imagined, which she called a teachable moment to help them think through what to do differently during the design process. 

a female student holds up her 3D printed project


“It’s just so engaging for them; they have an anticipation of knowing they get to do this project,” Chovan said. “I’m so impressed with some of the designs and seeing how much of their creativity shines through. The fact that they can make something, personalize it and know they designed it - it seems simple, but it’s powerful for them.”

Birch Grove got the printers in the spring of last year, and Chovan said she’s already discovering other ways they will be useful beyond the library media center unit.