Imaginary Landscape

Originally Published in Tuesday News May 9, 2017
What do you see when you read? Do you imagine the scenery, the buildings, and the textures? Do they move? Questions like these served as prompts for third graders working with Ms. Wilson on a project that brought together language arts and 3D design. The results, an example of which is seen above, were 3D printed scenes inspired by books that the children had read.

Titles included The Indian in the Cupboard; selections from the Percy Jackson series; and naturally some Harry Potter. The project diverged from more traditional instruction in reading where all students read the same thing. “The important thing is that they read, not so much what they read,” notes Ms. Wilson. “I certainly have expectations for challenge, but it’s equally important to meet the kids where they are in their reading, and engage their interests.”
After reading the book in its entirety, students were asked to choose at least three settings and describe them. They drew pictures and wrote about how they imagined the scenery, inferring details not entirely described in the texts. “One of the main goals is to teach the students to go a step beyond reading for comprehension; to think beyond the words on the page,” notes Ms. Wilson. “We want them to visualize, to think critically, and synthesize thought.”
Part two of the project involved 3D design and printing. Each student chose one of their three settings and went to work designing in Tinkercad, a web-based 3D design program designed for children. Earlier in the year, the students had developed fluency in Tinkercad through an exploratory project making bookmarks.

The projects were printed in Ms. Wilson’s classroom, which is home to the only 3D printer outside of the school’s MakerSpace. Ms. Wilson, it turns out, spent two years as a technology integration specialist in Vermont. According to Wilson, one of the reasons she wanted to return to being a classroom teacher was so that she could truly do technology integration and take it from something that is typically extracurricular into everyday curriculum. It seems she's hit her mark.