Maker Lesson: Repurposing using 3D Design in the Elementary Classroom


I will be teaching 5th grade this coming school year and think that 3D design would be a great learning activity to support the Design Think Process (Toolkit, 2014) for my students. Students will measure a life size object and resize it to build a mini version for poor little Marcel the Shell.


This lesson plan will reinforce the maker mindset.  Students will learn math concepts of converting and scaling.  This lesson was planned using the TPACK framework, which “merges technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge” (Koehler, 2009). As an educator, my job involves teaching students specific subject matter in a meaningful way.  I thought that repurposing 3D design for education is a fantastic way to do just that. Invent to Learn’s Eight Elements of A Good Project are purpose and relevance, time, complexity, intensity, connection, access, share ability, and novelty (Martinez, 2013, p.55).  Planning a lesson that incorporates all of these elements is not an easy task.  However, think about how much more powerful and memorable the learning experience will be for your students.

How To make a 3D design with TinkerCad:

1. Visit and sign up for a free account.

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2. Create a new project and name it

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3. Pull shapes into the tinker space to begin building.  To get a better understanding of how to move through the tinker space, click on LEARN to get a better feel for the navigation.  I highly recommend doing these short lesson tutorials, prior to building!  They will help you understand how to learn the moves, understand camera controls, create holes, scale, copy and paste, and more.

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 4. Save the project.  This is also where you can change the public access settings.  This saves the project to your Tinker Cad account.

Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 4.18.03 PM 5. Save the file.  You can download your file as a .stl, .obj, .x3d, or .vrml so that you can externally print to a 3D printer. You can also download your file as a .svg for 2D laser cutting.  This saves the file to your computer.

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6. To print your file open it up and send to your 3D printer.  If you do not have a 3D printer, you can send your file out to be printed by one of Tinker Cad’s printing partners.

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Here is my prototype of a chair for Marcel the Shell

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This is what it looks like after printing!



To promote reading and writing, students will write a story to go with the new mini object that they made.  Students will make their own Marcel the Shell storybook that they can read to a younger student. Then, students can create their own Marcel Video using video making tools.  These videos will be shared with another 5th grade class that has done the same project.  Helping Marcel projects will be showcased at a school function.


-Introduce Tinker Cad prior to teaching this lesson.  This will help ease students into the program.  Students will be able to focus on the mathematical learning and content, if understanding and literacy of the tool is already there.

-Start small.  Let students go through the tutorial lessons.  For 5th grade, you could also do a lesson regarding volume and geometry to help students become more acclimated with Tinker Cad.  These simple geometric shape do not need to be printed, but just built.

-When designing other lessons that involve 3D design and printing, design an object with a purpose. Make sure you have a tool or item that can be used. For example, a whistle, a stamp, a mini figure toy, something used to assist, etc. I challenge you to extend the use of your creation and repurpose it for other things. Get the most out of your creation!  Avoid ending up with a hunk of plastic that you cannot do anything with after making it.

-To find out more about the Maker Movement and 3D design and printing, visit follow #SIGMake and check out their wiki here.

Special note to the reader:

I hope that you found this lesson interesting. If you chose to do this lesson in your classroom, please let me know if you come across ways to enrich this task.  Please feel free to share any other ideas you have about 3D design and printing in the classroom.  I would love to hear your feedback so that I can better my own teaching practice and continue to grow as an educator.

Visit my lesson on the CLMOOC Make Bank and explore other makes.


Koehler, M.J., & Mishra, P. (2009). Too cool for school? No way! Learning and leading with technology. 

Martinez, S. L., & Stager, G. (2013). Invent to learn: making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom. Torrance, Calif.: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.

Toolkit « Design Thinking for Educators. (n.d.). Toolkit « Design Thinking for Educators. Retrieved July 19, 2014, from 


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