3D printing is becoming more of a staple in colleges, but it’s starting to make its way into elementary school curricula as well. Level Up Village, a pioneering program running in over 65 schools in 12 states, is offering programs featuring CAD and 3D printing to grade-schoolers.
Level Up schools utilize the STEAM (STEM + arts) curriculum, which is already distinctive for making the arts a priority in a national educational climate that has been devaluing them in recent years. But at the heart of Level Up Village is its focus on global collaboration. Each US-based school partners with a school in a developing country, and the two schools take the same STEAM courses while communicating through video message exchange.
Global Inventors, a course offered for students in grades 3-5 and 6-8, focuses on CAD design, 3D printing, and solar power. A partnership with 3D Systems provides participating schools with Cube printers, and students are taught the fundamentals of 3D printing. Through the course, the students are guided toward printing their own solar-powered lights. For students in developing countries without reliable access to electricity at home, the course is particularly useful.
Caroline Chamberlain, an eighth grade science teacher at Delbarton School in New Jersey, noted that her class’ partner school in Uganda already seemed to be way ahead in terms of their utilization of solar power in their daily lives. For the US students, the class teaches them not only about how to use the most current technology, but also about why it’s important.
“Level Up Village’s cutting-edge STEAM courses equip students with the skills they need for the 21st century and empower them to make a difference,” said Neesha Rahim, co-founder of Level Up Village. “We make it easy for our school partners to implement our leading-edge STEAM curricula by giving them everything they need, including comprehensive teacher training, supplies, and careful management of the global collaboration process.”
Level Up schools in the United States also directly sponsor their partner schools. A portion of the tuition for the courses is used to fund the same courses for students in developing countries, some of whom are living on less than $2.00 a day. Through the daily video messages, the US students learn about the difficulties that the students in their partner schools face, but they also learn what they have in common. They love the same sports, pop music, and are excited to be introduced to cool technology.
“The engagement level of my students increased significantly- and this was not because they spent more time on devices, it was more about their engagement in their own learning,” said Esra Murray, a fifth-grade teacher at International School of Dundee in Greenwich, Connecticut. “They questioned a lot more, they identified problems, they had more exposure to global children’s issues, and they became more aware of the world they live in.”
As next year’s presidential race begins to heat up, it can be disheartening to listen to some of our most influential politicians. Environmental issues are denied, poverty is ignored, and foreign citizens, when they’re spoken of, are referred to as enemies more often than not. It can make you despair for the future – but organizations like Level Up Village may be a reason to hope.
“I noticed that this generation of kids have an incredible quality,” said Rahim. “They all want to make a difference. This is the ‘do something’ generation.”