How A School Librarian Is Teaching with 3D Printing at Her Schools

Hajnalka Molloy is the Leader of Campus Library and Information Services at Aberfoyle Park Primary Campus in Australia, President of the School Library Association of SA and a Makers Empire Ambassador. She has been a Teacher Librarian for 19 years and loves her role and its dynamic and complex nature. She has dual qualifications as both a teacher and a librarian and has worked in various sites including regional Australia and low socioeconomic schools. Here she shares her experience as a librarian using Makers Empire across multiple school campuses.

Tell us about your role as librarian at Aberfoyle Park.

“I currently work at Aberfoyle Park Primary Campus, which is a campus of three schools including a Catholic School, Independent Christian School and a Department for Education school. I work with every teacher and child on site.

“I teach students inquiry and research skills across reception to year 7. In units of inquiry, I embed STEAM, including Makers Empire or Lego WeDo 2.0 where relevant. I also teach literature and work to connect students with reading for pleasure.

“At lunchtimes, we run a Makerspace, which includes students accessing Makers Empire.”

I understand your students enjoy playing Makers Empire’s new 3D game creator, Maze Mania?

“I had 30 kids burst through the doors at lunchtime to get to Makers Empire… I only have 30 laptops in there!”

How did you start using 3D Printing in the library?

“I had been researching 3D printing for a couple of years and was very keen to be involved as I love playing with new technologies but I was concerned that there would be limited educational value to using it.

“I ran a small project with a few classes using a different program but found certain aspects of it to be too difficult for a school setting – particularly managing usernames/passwords etc, accessing STL files and the program itself was a bit too complex (I could only use it with my older students). And I didn’t have access to a 3D printer so although the project was interesting and suited some students it was too difficult to implement across the school.”

Tell us about your Makers Empire experience.

“I reached out to Makers Empire who were incredibly supportive and helpful – I still wasn’t sure how I could use it to meet educational outcomes but I did want to learn more. As I undertook training and began to implement it at my school I continuously found more and more ways that I could use it in authentic learning tasks and found links across various curriculum areas.

“I found Makers Empire to be incredibly user-friendly. In particular, it was very “school” friendly. There are very easy processes for children of all ages an literacy levels to log onto their accounts saving so much time and stress – especially with younger classes and easy ways to provide students with their password, print it out, have your own records or change their passwords. While this may seem minor it is a massive improvement on many other programs I have used with children where most of your lesson is take up with helping them to log in and it saves all work automatically!”

What are some of the projects you’ve done with Makers Empire?

“The first really big project I did using Makers Empire was a nesting box project. Year 6 and 7 students undertook a guided inquiry project where they had to choose an arboreal, hollow dependent, native animal and research the animal (this includes animals such as possums, microbats, birds etc), their habitat, diet, behaviours and their size and weight.

“Students then designed a model of a nesting box that would suit that animal. The model had to be created to scale and include all measurements in their designs. Every child created a model of a nesting box then evaluated their model. The next step was to build it out of wood but this didn’t eventuate as we had run out of time.

“Other projects have included researching insects and their body parts, their habitats and needs. Students then had to design their own insect including all of the correct body parts and create a habitat for it. This project has been successfully done with reception students to year 2 students.

“A year 2 class researched playgrounds and how they had changed over time, including the use of different materials, and playgrounds in their local area. They then looked at modern playgrounds including those that provided disability access and soft flooring, like the ones found at Students then had to design playground equipment for a future playground. They created and printed these using Makers Empire.

“In many of these cases, the evidence of learning was in the conversations I had with children about their designs and their design process rather than in the product itself. All unit plans have direct links to the curriculum including the Digital Technologies curriculum. The deeper I delve into using Makers Empire the more opportunities I see for using maths in an authentic manner, particularly when using the Shaper app with measurements, shapes etc.”

Have there been any unexpected issues?

“I have been concerned about the environmental impact of printing more plastic stuff that would ultimately end up in a landfill. The filament from Makers Empire is PLA – which is biodegradable in the right conditions. There is also a local filament recycling plan where all failed prints, rafts, supports etc can be sent to be made into new filament.

“This year I will be working more closely with classes to create print criteria as not everything (that is designed) needs to be printed. The learning is in the process, not the product. You could very successfully use Makers Empire without ever actually printing anything (but it is a lot more fun and exciting when you can print it!)”

What have been the benefits of having Makers Empire in the library at your school?

“By teaching Makers Empire through the library I am able to implement its use across the entire school and support all teachers using it.

“Some teachers are happy for me to simply show them how to use it and help set up usernames and passwords and then they use it independently with their own students. Others would like to work with me to lead its implementation in their classroom.

“By managing Makers Empire through the library I am able to support every teacher and every child in the way that best meets their needs.

“I am also able to take some of the hassle and time issues out of 3D printing. Teachers let me know which files need to be printed and I manage the printing where necessary until they have the confidence to do this themselves.”

What are your teaching plans for this year?

“This will be my second year in using Makers Empire. My main goal for the year is to look for better ways to assess students’ work, particularly their design process and then support teachers these assessment processes.”

Thanks very much for sharing your teaching experiences with us, Hajnalka. We can’t wait to see what you and your students come up with next!

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