Maker Space Makes Interdisciplinary Learning Fun

Third graders studied states and regions in the United States with a new and unique project as part of the revamped Lower School Social Studies curriculum. Students developed new skills that included research, programming, 3D printing, and laser cutting—with a little help from their friends in the Upper School.

Student groups were assigned a region of the United States. They studied the region’s geography, history, and resources. By the time the research phase was complete, students knew details such as why Arkansas is named the “Natural State” and why Vermont is famous for its maple syrup. Next, students moved to the computer lab to conceptualize a board game that could be used to teach others—students and adults alike—about their assigned U.S. region. Students developed board games and game pieces related to their region using specialized design software.

Then, they made their designs a reality in the Biggs Family Maker’s Lab, with the help of Upper School students and faculty who were already very familiar with the 3D printer, laser cutter, and button maker needed to build the games. Upper School volunteer maker Lucas McCarty ’21 operated the laser cutting machine after his younger schoolmates loaded their schematics. Once the machine started cutting, all eyes were fixed as it brought their projects to life. McCarty commented, “Watching them get excited about the laser cutter, answering questions about how the 3D printers work, and seeing the joy that they got from working with the hot wire made my day.” Students created other game components as well. They decorated elaborate game boxes and used the 3D printer to fabricate game pieces.

“We are so excited by the opportunities that this project has provided for our 3rd graders,” said Carla Federman, History and Social Sciences Department Chair. “As they’ve learned important historical, cultural, and geographical information about their states and regions, they’ve also had the chance to work in Upper School facilities, with Upper School students and teachers, in a way that allows them to think creatively and that is truly interdisciplinary.”

Third graders were especially proud of their projects as they presented them to their peers, teachers, and parents in March just before spring break.