Taming the Tide of 3D Printing

This year, our STEM program was lucky enough to receive a grant that helped us to get three 3D printers in our computer & STEM labs. My students are all pumped about 3D printing, but getting them to understand the process of 3D design and printing has been a challenge. They see the printer and want to be able to print anything they can imagine right then and there.

In my classes, I’m always striving to get students moving at their own pace and am uncomfortable when I see students all working on the same thing, so I’ve tried to avoid having a one-size-fits-all, everyone-look-up-here lesson about the 3D printer and 3D design. Recently, during a session of my overstuffed afterschool club, Makers Gonna Make, I had swarms of 4th graders inundating me with the same questions, so I created a tool to help students more clearly see the steps in this unfamiliar process.

Enter the “Am I Ready to 3D Print?” flowchart:


screen shot 2019-01-28 at 6.42.07 pm

This simple piece of paper has helped my students to conceptualize the process we use for 3D printing and to track their own progress through the different stages. This afternoon, I had students come in and say, “I know that I won’t be printing today, because I’ve still got 3 steps to go” which was a far cry from the “MUST PRINT NOW!” cries that filled our first session together. I’m excited to roll this out in my general classroom contexts as well, because I think it will help all of my learners better understand the roadmap for getting to print their awesome and creative designs.

If you’re interested in using and/or modifying this document to suit your needs, feel free to grab a copy here!


My 2017-2018 Classroom Space

I’ve long been inspired by the Montessori and Reggio Emilia approaches to education — particularly by the attention devoted to setting up the classroom space with intention and simplicity. I’ve tried harder than ever before to keep some of those ideas in mind while setting up my classroom space. This is my favorite set-up of the four years I’ve lived in this 2nd grade room. Things are “zoned” this year into four areas — the library/writing area, the science corner, the geography/cultural space, and the math section.

Here are some photos to show you how things look!

The doorway to my classroom features our class mascot “Q.”
The view looking in from the door.
Our writing and grammar area. The little drawers contain parts of speech sort cards that I purchased from a Montessori company over the summer.
Our classroom library! I’ve finally got my books under control this year. I still might have too many, but the baskets can actually accommodate them all.
Reading buddies and cubby seats in the library. The kids ALWAYS end up sitting in our extra cubbies, so I’ve gone ahead and made them official with pillows.
A more zoomed-out view of our library section and our “storage” hallway area.
The Peace Corner is possibly my favorite spot in the classroom. I hope that my students will soon be able to use this space independently to monitor and process their own moods and emotions.
Our STEM corner. I am SO fortunate to have received a grant this summer to get a 3-D printer.
Our fish miraculously survived a summer at my house with two very intrigued cats.
Our bird-watching station is brand new this year. I’m hoping we’ll have some birds soon!
My art supply shelf is a major improvement over the set-up that I had last year.
Our geography/culture corner. I’m excited about the incidental learning opportunities built into this space.
My cosmic address boxes — inside each box are materials pertaining to each of the settings.
A view of my newly-painted large wall. The lefthand side is for students to post work that they want to share and the righthand side is our “Wonder Wall,” for posting our weekly wonders.
Our family photos shelf. I can’t wait to fill the frames with photos of my students’ families. I think it makes the space feel warmer and more welcoming.
This is our wonder workshop inquiry shelf — students will store materials for self-driven projects in the containers.
My milk crate stools have survived their first full year of student use!
One of my math shelves — finally organized in a way that makes sense and leaves the materials accessible.
The second math shelf.
Our yoga mats and my teeny, tiny teacher space.
The rug, in the heart of our classroom, is where we’ll spend extensive time this year gathered as a classroom community.

The reaction to the classroom space from the students has been great thus far — they’ve treated things with care and have been fascinated to explore the many nooks and crannies in the space. I can’t wait to watch how they make the space their own!

Carving Out Time for What Matters

I believe that a classroom schedule reveals what is valued in the classroom. What the schedule looks like is, I believe, highly political, particularly in the era of standardization of curricula. I do recognize that many teachers are seeing increased usurpation of their autonomy in developing their own schedules, which makes carving out time for everything we want to do challenging. But, I also believe that the schedule shapes everything and is where we, as professionals, need to take a stand about what we value to create a flow to the day that aligns with our teaching philosophies and that will help to adequately prepare students for the ever-changing world.

Early this week, I participated in an STEM Education research conference — it was thrilling to be in a setting where everyone was talking about science. I have never had a mandatory professional development session in my district that was about science — it’s completely swept under the rug due to the massive weight of math and literacy. (Disclaimer: I have an M.Ed. in literacy, so I value and love literacy, but have experienced tremendous shifts in my thinking about science and social studies as the subjects for leveraging engagement and providing authentic opportunities for applying literacy skills.)

While at the conference, there was much lamentation about how little time there is for science. The results of a survey of Maine teachers about their science practices indicated that science instruction is minimal in many classrooms. I’m attaching the graphics from the grades 3-5 results here — the K-2 looked very similar, but I didn’t get that handout.


I left the conference feeling determined to go “all in” on STEM education this year. And the first place to legitimize that focus is in my anticipated classroom schedule. I carved out a big block of time this week to start thinking about what I value and what needs to find its way into our precious classroom time. As you’ll see, I have the blessing (though sometimes a curse) of a 7-hour day with my 2nd graders, so my pool of time to work with is a bit larger than in some other settings.

Screen Shot 2017-07-01 at 11.29.23 AM.png

The biggest change from this year in my hypothetical schedule is devoting the entire afternoon after our Unified Arts classes to STEM. We’ll spend the early months of the school year doing nature study, which will integrate science and writing. This time will evolve into a more general science period during the colder weather, though I’ve been inspired by Laurie Rubin’s bookTo Look Closely to keep taking my students out periodically in the winter.

The second component of our afternoon will be spent on technology and computer science. If I want to help my young students become digitally literate, I’ve got to walk the walk and give them ample time to learn about technology and to develop their computational thinking skills. I’ll be sharing more about my computer science work (a major summer project for me) in a later post.

Another significant change are the lengthy morning work time blocks, in lieu of traditional reading and math instruction. I had the pleasure of visiting a Montessori school this year and these blocks are my attempt to bring a little bit of Montessori to my public school classroom. I’ll be meeting with small groups and individuals to provide instruction during these times, but, when they aren’t meeting with me, my students will be free to choose their own order for going through the required assignments of the week in math, reading, geography, language, writing, and Spanish. I feel optimistic, but a bit anxious, about these blocks and figuring out to set them effectively is a work in progress that I’ll continue to tinker with until we start school.

The only other large change is a slight shift in our morning and afternoon routines. I have always given my students an “Independent Learning Time” at the end of the day, where they are free to tinker and explore and make autonomous choices about what they’d like to do. After reading The Curious Classroom by Harvey Daniels, the idea of “soft starts” nagged at me for weeks. Soft starts can take many forms, but they are intended to be a way for the students to begin the day with autonomy and have a chance to settle in for the day. I plan to have a host of options for students during this time, ranging from visiting our wonder stations, to board games, to art projects. I know that I do a form of “soft starts” for myself each day — I feel like students would benefit from that same opportunity to settle in.

Because I’m shifting the ILT time equivalent to the morning, I’ve decided to eliminate Closing Circles, which are always hurried at the end of the day, to mindfulness time. I envision this time being an opportunity for students to again make choices, but to choose from a variety of activities with a more reflective, peaceful nature. I’ll play a yoga video each afternoon, but also invite students to draw, write, read, look out the window, or anything else that helps them to feel a moment of peace at the end of a busy day.

While I’m sure elements of my schedule may have to move slightly as I find out concrete times for things like guidance and library, I am committed to retaining the integrity of this schedule. For this first time, my schedule on paper honestly reflects my priorities and goals as an educator and I believe that, with careful work, it will be a positive step towards generating a classroom of truly Curious Questioners.

What does your classroom schedule look like? How do you balance fitting in what you have to with fitting in what you want to include?

Classroom Tour 2014

My school had our Open House last night and it has me so excited about the upcoming year! My new students were so excited to see our room and to have their parents meet me last night. Additionally, many of my former students popped back down to our room for a visit — it was bittersweet to see some of them. I can’t believe that they won’t be in my room anymore come Tuesday!

I’m just about ready for the first day of school and my room is definitely the neatest that it will be all year. I’ve moved a lot of things around since last year and am pretty happy with how things are as I plan to start the year. (Maybe I won’t have to move everything around every month this year.) My classroom space has a lot of built-in things, which are nice, but they can also be pretty limiting in terms of options for arranging furniture. But, I think I’ve got things organized in such a way that the space will grow with our learning — there’s lots of room for displaying student work and storing their projects!

So, without further, ado, here’s a tour of my space.

doorThis is the door to my classroom – our class mascot “Q” remains prominently exhibited.


Our supply cart and paper station are just inside the door.

corner from door

Here’s the view of the room when you walk in the door.


This is my desk (constructed from three student desks!) and our huge classroom timeline, which is one of things that I am most excited about heading into the year. We’ll start by putting the birth dates of my students and their parents and grandparents and then we’ll add on key dates and events as we learn throughout the year.


This is a view of our book nook, our center station, and our Morning Message Board.


This is what the book nook looks like. The cubbies are being used by each “team” of students to hold their academic materials.


Here’s our Morning Meeting/game station, our “caught being kind” apple, and our book display. The start of school theme for the book display is books that reflect curiosity, questioners, and wonder — a perfect initiation for my new group of Curious Questioners!


This is the “Where?” team table. Behind it on the wall are the clipboards that I will be using to display work that my students choose as their favorite tasks and “best effort work.” Right now it has things they wonder about, an activity that we did together during step-up day last June.


This is a work-in-progress, but it will be our “wonderment station,” a place where I exhibit things that are interesting in order to invoke my students’ curiosity. Right now, there is a globe, a coconut from Hawaii, and some magnetic rocks.


At the front and center of the room is the white board and our rug area, where we gather for all sorts of learning activities.


This is where I post the groups for Morning Work Centers, where we’ll have our class jobs once my students brainstorm what they should be, and where I display our daily schedule. (Day 1 is already up there!)


Instead of counting up the school days, I am going to have my students count down.


This is a close-up of just one part of our classroom library. I have way too many books in my classroom (though I doubt that’s actually possible!) — so many of my bins are nearly overflowing now.

4444 00000

Two more shots of the classroom library — the bins have taken over all of the nice built-in shelving unit in my room! But, honestly, what’s more important than books?

corner from hexagon table corner from door corner from book nook corner from bathroom

Here are some more-zoomed out pictures of the room. You can see the “What?” and “Who?” student work areas and get a sense of how the classroom is laid out.


And one of my favorite parts of the room — the “Past Curious Questioners” gallery that shows all of my former students!

School starts on Tuesday — I can’t wait to start filling this space with my students’ creative thinking!

Classroom Tour

Open House was a great experience. It was great to see my students again (I had met most of them during a school visit because I was hired before the last school year ended). I am also pleased to report that 75% of my students and their parents attended the event – I’m feeling optimistic about parent-school communication now that things have gotten off to such a good start!

I am so excited for my students to arrive for our first day on Tuesday! My classroom is all set up and ready, so I thought that I would offer a tour of the room. I’m really pleased with the space and have had a lot of fun setting everything up.

ImageThis is the door to my classroom. My room is one of three classrooms in a K-2 pod.

ImageThis is the view of my classroom when you walk in the classroom door.

ImageThis is my desk area. One of the first things that I did in my classroom was remove the teacher’s desk. I will use this area when I need a place to sit (which probably won’t be very often!) and will also be where I meet with students in small groups. The best part of this space is that I have extra built-in cubbies behind my desk, which I’ve been using to organize all of my materials. I’m storing a different unit in each cubby and it’s been so easy to keep everything organized as I’ve worked on lesson planning.


This is the area where students will read their Morning Message and their Math Message, where they will hand in their papers (into a tray for finished work or the tray for work that they need more time to finish), and where students can find any type of paper that they may be seeking.


This is the math storage shelf. All of the manipulatives that students may need to access can be found on this shelf.  I’ve labeled everything so that students will be able to independently find and use any materials they need to support their learning. (This is a major theme throughout my classroom.)


This is the class book nook! I expect this will be a very popular spot in the classroom.


This is the student cubby area/extra storage space. I am elated that my students will have a space that is tucked away from the busy-ness of the room where they can neatly store all of their belongings.


This is a view of the front of the classroom. This area is a continuation of the classroom library and features the topical book display — right now it’s showing biographies, our first unit of study. The board has our calendar area and one of the things I’m most excited about — our classroom timeline, which I hope will help to give my second graders a sense of chronology.


This picture shows just some of the classroom library. I am so excited to share all of the books that I’ve been collecting for so long with my students! All of the books are organized by subject and labeled with a specific color-coded sticker, which will allow my students to easily put the books back into the bins where they found them.


This image shows the rest of the classroom library, where I’ve put the leveled books and all of the materials that students may need for word work or other literacy activities.


This is the writing “bulletin board.” Students will use the clothespins to track their progress through the writing cycle. On the left side of the door, the students will collect examples of a specific part of speech that we will study each month. In September, we’ll be looking for nouns — both common nouns and proper nouns.


This is another shot of the whole space — this one is taken from the corner near my classroom bathroom. I can’t wait until my students get to explore and bring their energy to this space!