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Students solve real-world problems with 3D printing in six Reformed Church schools

 

2021. 10. 07. 07:38

“3D printing is like magic. There are so many things it can fix. One of these days it will even fix the human body,” says Gergő Bor, a student at Rózsakert Demjén István Reformed Church Elementary School and High School. He and his classmates had the chance to design and print an entire spaceship as part of a pilot project jointly undertaken by his school and Maker’s Red Box. The programme was launched by the Curriculum Development Team of the Reformed Church at six Reformed Church schools in Hungary with the aim of encouraging the adoption of maker pedagogy and to help students and teachers unlock its full potential – as well as their own. The result? New-found skills, motivation and confidence for everyone involved.

Shared values, shared goals

“We’re looking for innovation that has the potential to change education and how students and teachers view the constructed world around us,” explains Dr Zoltán Pompor, Head of the Curriculum Development Team. “We’d like to get them to appreciate its diversity and offer them a holistic way to do so, rather than a siloed, subject-based one. Maker’s Red Box offers an excellent opportunity to do just that.” Established in 2017, the team set out to develop curricula that combine modern, high-quality educational content with Reformed Church values, and to seek partnerships with like-minded initiatives.

 

Maker’s Red Box’s vision, principles and pedagogical approach proved to be a perfect fit. Makerspaces with 3D printers, laser cutters and other workshop equipment were set up in six Reformed Church schools across Hungary. Then, in step one of the pilot project, the teachers of the participating schools completed a week-long introductory course in maker education and selected a Maker’s Red Box course to run either as an extracurricular workshop or camp.

Casting teachers in a new role

Fostering student motivation is a challenge educators are all too familiar with. Little wonder that it was also the biggest worry of the teachers involved in the pilot project. These concerns, however, were quickly put to rest.

Throughout the course, the students showed levels of internal motivation that I hadn’t been able to achieve with any other method previously,

explained Benjámin Szilágyi, who teaches computing, technology and digital citizenship at Lévay József Reformed Church High School and Boarding School in Miskolc. Gabriella Horváthné Tóth, a teacher at Budapest’s Rózsakert Demjén István Reformed Church Elementary School and High School shares Szilágyi’s sentiment: “The students were positively excited to take part in the course activities. They could proceed at their own pace and pursue their own interests, which gave them a continuous feeling of accomplishment.”

“The children learned how to use digital tools without even noticing,” said Mónika Kardos, a teacher at the Kiskunhalas Reformed Church College Szilády Áron High School and Boarding School. “At the same time, the course gave me the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with students and gauge their awareness of certain topics. Students also got to know each other better and unleashed their creativity. One of them actually said he felt anything was possible during these sessions.” The children, however, weren’t the only ones to find new motivation during the courses.

The teachers all agreed that discovering the students’ never-before-seen personality traits and talents during the activities was nothing short of incredible. As was seeing how they overcame challenges while being driven entirely by intrinsic motivation. In fact, many of them were so captivated by the framework of the tasks that they were happy to continue working on their projects in their free time. Similarly, many of the teachers came up with new tasks and ideas during the courses on how to develop them further. This is how the world’s first Mars rover football match came into being, courtesy of Miskolc’s Lévay József Reformed Church High School and Boarding School, and how the Nagyharsány Reformed Church Elementary School of Pécs College became home to the first music festival in the “city of the future”, using micro:bit-powered light effects.

Real solutions to real problems in and outside of school

One of the key strengths of Maker’s Red Box is that it presents real-world problems and encourages students to find their own solutions to them with the help of their teachers. In this way, they can explore several solutions instead of just a single one,

pointed out Dr Zoltán Pompor. According to teachers, the other advantage is that each course activity requires and develops skills across a range of disciplines. These include personal skills that traditional classroom activities largely ignore, such as creative problem-solving, pro-activity or emotional intelligence. Plus, the course materials also help teachers to engage children who aren’t at first comfortable with using 3D printers and microcontrollers.

That said, it became clear to the teachers early on that maker pedagogy and working in a digitally enhanced environment requires them to transition into a completely new role. This was quite a challenge for them at first, regardless of their field of expertise. But they emerged from the programme with positive experiences and an entirely new mindset key to the success of making; one that’s more of a mentor’s than of an instructor’s, and that focuses on helping students discover their own path to growth instead of simply showing it to them.

What’s next for Reformed Church education?

“Over the past few decades, there have been technological changes that transformed both the social and economic landscape. It’s crucial that education systems respond to these. Maker’s Red Box includes course materials, teaching tools and methodology in an integrated, interdisciplinary way, which allows teachers or even groups of teachers to develop several 21st-century skills at once through a single project,” explains Ádám Horváth, Head of Pedagogy at Maker’s Red Box. “The Reformed Church’s innovative and student-focused approach to curriculum development perfectly aligns with Maker’s Red Box’s project-based teaching methodology.”

Dr Zoltán Pompor feels the same way. According to the Head of the Curriculum Development Team: “The goal of our collaboration is to encourage the adoption of maker pedagogy in Reformed Church schools across the Carpathian Basin.” The pilot project is only the first step towards this goal. Following the pilot project’s success, both among students and teachers, the next phase will see Maker’s Red Box and the Curriculum Development Team develop course materials blending STEAM and Reformed Church education that can also be incorporated into the classroom in line with the National Curriculum’s digital citizenship programme.

Participating schools:

  • Bocskai István Reformed Church Educational Centre Elementary School, Halásztelek
  • Kiskunhalas Reformed Church College Szilády Áron High School and Boarding School, Kiskunhalas
  • Lévay József Reformed Church High School and Boarding School, Miskolc
  • Pápa Reformed Church College High School, Art School and Boarding School, Pápa
  • Nagyharsány Reformed Church Elementary School of Pécs College, Nagyharsány
  • Rózsakert Demjén István Reformed Church Elementary School and High School, Budapest

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