Christmas is coming, and the girls at the Marymount School, a Catholic school in Manhattan, are getting ready for the Christmas pageant. Third graders get to play the big roles, including Mary, Joseph, and the three Magi, the kings or wise men who present gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus. The third graders are also making the props, and, for the first time ever, the Gifts of the Magi at Marymount’s Christmas pageant will be 3D printed, in their new fab lab.
The Gifts of the Magi project cuts across several disciplines. First, an art teacher took the third graders across Fifth Avenue to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they examined Byzantine chalices and Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Adoration of the Magi.” Then they explored the significance of the gifts with their religion teacher before moving on to the design and production of their own representations of the gifts with their science teachers, Margaret McCarthy and Kathryn Cohen. The girls made sketches on paper.
They also sculpted some ideas in clay. “There is value in play and creation, whether it’s cardboard or new technology,” McCarthy says. “It doesn’t have to be the perfect product. There’s a value in messiness.”
Then the girls worked in Tinkercad, the 3D modeling software, first in pairs and then as a class. On a recent morning, 16 girls from Class IIIA sat on the rug in the science room as Margaret McCarthy hooked up her laptop to a large flat-screen television to decide how to present gold.
Should the gold coins be printed in gold filament, or should they be painted gold? And what should be on them: Hearts? Lambs? A J for Jesus, CC for Christ Child, or maybe a cross? “They didn’t know there was going to be a cross when Jesus was born,” one wise girl pointed out. Another added, “If it’s going to be dark at the pageant, most people won’t be able to see the coins, only the people on the aisles.”
And how would the coins stay on the tray? Should they glue them on, make a lip on the tray, or design it with indentations that would hold the coins in position? It was a collaborative design process; decisions were made by consensus, or when necessary, a vote.
When the design is done, Ms. McCarthy will print the golden coins and the tray in the fab lab downstairs, on a MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer.
With three third-grade classes, each is responsible for making one gift; Class IIIA is responsible for the gold. Class IIIC made the one for myrrh.
The Marymount fab labs are outfitted with other tools for programming, physical computing, and digital design and fabrication, including a MakerBot Digitizer 3D Scanner. Jaymes Dec, Marymount’s fab lab coordinator, says that, by teaching the girls to use these tools, “What I’m really trying to teach them is how to learn on their own in the 21st century.”