Integrating 3D Printing Across Different Grade Levels – with Terri Reeves

Today we have a fantastic guest blog to share with you by our amazing pioneer, Terri Reeves. In recent weeks, Terri has reviewed PrintLab's library of 3D printing resources and carefully curated pathways for students from Grades 6-12. As you'll see, all students begin by learning foundation skills, before progressing to projects and challenges across various creative themes. Over to Terri to tell you more!

Headshot image of STEM teacher, Terri Reeves

2nd April 2024 Case Studies

Hello PrintLab Community! My name is Terri Reeves and I’m a STEM Teacher at Fayette Academy in Tennessee, USA. I teach computer science and STEM for grades 6 – 12. I’ve recently become a PrintLab Pioneer and after reviewing the curriculum, I thought I’d share how I intend to integrate PrintLab and 3D printing throughout my STEM classes.

First of all, a little about me… I have been actively involved in teaching 3D printing to my students over the past ten years when I received my first 3D printer. I have also built a 3D printer, a MakerBot type kit, and learned the basics of 3D printing at the Joint Science and Technology Institute in Maryland. Since the beginning, I have consistently integrated 3D printing opportunities into my curriculum, providing students with hands-on experiences that encourage creativity and support them in increasing their basic 3D printing skills.

I applied to become a PrintLab Pioneer as I believe their curriculum will be the dynamic link that will empower my students to go beyond the basic level to becoming highly talented makers. My students all have basic Tinkercad experience, but they lack the technical skills they need to make a huge difference in their ability to design and create with confidence. The PrintLab curriculum allows me to easily challenge all students to learn and grow in their skills. I plan to incorporate these great PrintLab courses into my teaching with a unique focus for my different grade levels.

Here’s a breakdown of my 2024 plans:


All Students

All students will begin with the 3D Printing Industry course that offers a comprehensive overview and insight into the many applications of 3D printing across various industries, and then the Designing for 3D Printing course in order to learn the best practices of 3D design. These two important initial courses will not only increase their knowledge but also provide them with a roadmap to envision how their newfound skills can shape their future endeavors.


Website screens showing the learning platforms for PrintLab's Intro to 3D printing courses


Grade 6

After completing the above, my students will then complete the Intro to Tinkercad course. The great thing about this Intro Course is that the students learn new skills and then are immediately challenged to complete a task in order to put these new skills into practice. The 10 challenges supply them with essential technical skills, and this connects to infuse a new confidence and a desire to do more. Upon completion of the course, I will have my 6th graders interview our lower grade teachers to find out what STEM manipulatives might support them or their students in the classroom. Students can then participate in PrintLab’s STEM projects to create manipulatives that are personalized for the teachers. These might include spinning tops, whistles, emoji tokens, Egyptian obelisks, and more.


Website screens showing the learning platforms for PrintLab's Intro to Tinkercad course and STEM projects


Grades 7-8

This group of students will also complete the initial 3D printing and Intro to Tinkercad courses. Upon completion, the students will interview our 6th – 8th grade teachers to find ways to help them teach more creatively using 3D printed objects. They will also delve into PrintLab’s Product Design resources, such as the mechanism cubes, upcycling and personalized gifts projects. Many of the skills gained in these projects will help students in designing high quality models for the 6th – 8th grade teachers.


Website screens showing the learning platforms for PrintLab's 3D printed mechanisms course and product design projects


Grades 9-12

These students will start with the same initial 3D printing courses, which will expose them to the career opportunities available via 3D printing as they inch closer to graduation. Rather than the Intro to Tinkercad course, students will follow the more advanced Intro to Fusion 360 course to increase their competence in designing complex 3D models. They’ll move on to focusing on assistive technology using various PrintLab resources such as their Assistive Bottle Openers and Assistive Clips projects. The experience and skills gained from the courses and projects will allow them to confidently work with our local assisted living home, where they will design items that will make a resident’s life easier to live self-sufficiently each day.


Website screens showing the learning platforms for PrintLab's Intro to Fusion course and assistive technology projects


This intentional PrintLab approach ensures a comprehensive and progressive integration of 3D printing knowledge through project-based experiences. Because of this benefit, when we begin our new school year in August, my new students will start at the very beginning to learn and grow. Returning students will pick up where they left off to continue in PrintLab. The beautiful thing about a STEM class that uses PrintLab is that every student can learn no matter the expertise they have. Each project leads to the joy and excitement of learning which ultimately leads to happy, successful, and contributing students in my STEM classroom.

The PrintLab curriculum will be new to my students and I am looking forward to seeing their growth and excitement as they work through these lessons. Thank you for your time and I look forward to sharing how things are progressing.

A huge thank you to Terri for sharing her plans with us. If you’re a teacher looking to integrate 3D printing across different grade levels, feel free to check out the free trial to PrintLab’s 3D printing curriculum!