This Makerbot Educator Teaches Life Skills in Her 4th and 5th Grade Science Classes

Among the cacti and tumbleweeds of Scottsdale, Arizona, is an oasis of learning known as the Rancho Solano Preparatory School. At this private pre K-12 school, education is all about preparing students with the life skills needed to succeed in our ever-changing 21st century world. In fact, it’s stated mission is to “cultivate in our students the ingenuity to thrive in a global society and to be architects of their future.”

That’s a mission that Shannon Feaster takes to heart in her 4th and 5th grade science classes. As a member of the MakerBot Educator program and a teacher of 20 years, she’s going beyond the books to meet the rigorous standards at Rancho Solano.

Since August of 2016, she has used a MakerBot Replicator (5th Gen) and MakerBot Replicator Mini to challenge her students to design and 3D print projects. In turn, she’s elevating engagement, encouraging real-world problem solving, and teaching larger life skills —especially those for tomorrow’s jobs.

We chatted with Shannon to learn just how she is 3D printing in the classroom and what she’s achieved with her students.

MakerBot: What MakerBot products are you using and what do you like about them?

Shannon: We use MakerBot Fifth Generation 3D printer, MakerBot Replicator Mini, MakerBot Desktop, MakerBot Mobile app (teacher only), and Thingiverse. All are very user-friendly for both teachers and students.

MakerBot: What do you and your students primarily 3D print in your classes?

Shannon: Projects! My students have used the printers to create everything from robots with second grade science buddies to cars, design prototypes, and organisms for plant or animal classification and adaptation units. Both printers are also used by my STEM club.

MakerBot: How does 3D printing with MakerBot help you target specific learning goals?

Shannon: It goes right along with STEM and Next Gen Science Standards —we find a need, design, test, modify, print, modify again, and use! It’s not only teaching the kids about the design process, but they also have to collaborate, problem-solve, show persistence with a project, and see value in how technology can change lives for the better. We hope to soon work on printing toys and food bowls for a rabbit rescue in our community.

MakerBot: Tell us about the most exciting or interesting lesson that you’ve run with your MakerBot so far.

Shannon: After studying about the 5 kingdoms and ecosystems, my 4th grade students had to design their own organism and write a book about its scientific classification, habitat, and more. They used TinkerCad to create their organism. Some did plants, some did new species of animals, and some even did protists and bacteria. They 3D printed their organisms and had them on display along with their book about that organism.


MakerBot: What does having access to a MakerBot 3D Printer help you achieve in your classroom?

Shannon: Simply put—projects come to life! Students have the opportunity to design, test, modify objects for projects; and the kids use the 3D printer to make models to show what they have learned or to use for presentations.

MakerBot: Do you think having access to tools like a 3D printer at this age helps set your students up for success in the future?

Shannon: I think our 3D printers set my students up for success simply because they can turn their ideas into a reality and they understand how to persevere through a difficult design and learn from their mistakes to make improvements. These are not simply STEM objectives, but also life skills.

MakerBot: Have you saved time or money creating teaching props for projects or on other teaching supplies using a 3D printer? If so, how?

Shannon: Absolutely! It was actually my students who reminded me that I could 3D print containers for all of our STEM materials, and even a screwdriver to keep in the classroom! They have also used the MakerBot to create props for a play they are currently doing in Language class. And other teachers like to ask my STEM club students to print math manipulatives and letters for the younger grades on campus!

MakerBot: How do you plan to continue using 3D printers in the future? Do you have any new projects coming up?

Shannon: My fifth graders will be taking a trip to Biosphere II and after our ecology unit, they will jump into Google Sketchup to design their own Biosphere. They will export their designs from Sketchup to 3D print the model to use in a presentation or project. The 5th graders are also designing a working windmill to print and use! After studying the Human Body, my fourth grade students will use the printer to design cross sections of a heart, cells, eyes, and more.

MakerBot: Is there anything else that you would like us to know about how MakerBot empowers you or your students?

Shannon: One of my fourth grade students has a notebook with drawings of prototypes and he now has the means to design and print his models. Being able to take his designs from paper to a real model has inspired him to further his ideas, and even look into how to present and patent his ideas!

Thanks again to Shannon and Rancho Solano Preparatory School!

More Resources for 3D Printing in the Classroom

MakerBot provides a variety of resources designed for educators of all experience levels with 3D printing. To learn more about how you can 3D print in your classroom, visit For classroom-ready lesson plans, check out Thingiverse Education. To become a MakerBot Educator, visit

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