As they read Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, fourth grade students had the opportunity to connect their reading to learning about the larger system of the world’s oceans. With the guidance of the elementary technology coach, they integrated design thinking, systems thinking/mapping, research, collaboration, 3D design, and 3D printing to ultimately create their own solution to the problem of plastic pollution in the ocean.
To begin, students discussed what makes an accurate and trustworthy source of information, and the importance of cross-checking information with other sources. While delving into their sources, several students noticed an article addressing other problems connected to the ocean system in addition to plastic and trash. Exploring the question “How might the ocean system be unbalanced or broken?,” students began to identify issues like overfishing, extinction, pollution, climate change, and The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Systems Thinking maps helped students draw links between each issue, see how they’re related, and reach a deeper understanding of the challenges.
Once students completed their research, they collaborated to begin ideating (or brainstorming) different solutions to the problems they were passionate about. After modeling their final ideas in clay, students used a 3D rendering program to visualize the ideas for their inventions. The final step was to use the 3D printer to bring one of the approved designs to life (albeit at a much smaller scale). In planning for using the 3D printer, which uses a plastic filament to create an accurate model, students contemplated the impact of creating a new plastic item that could eventually lead to pollution, and how solutions themselves often have unintended consequences.
- fall 2021