Making can take a number of fascinating and educationally valuable forms. From arts and crafts to coding and design, just about any interest can be used to spark a passion in creation and making. One form of making that has become increasingly simple, cheap and more and more popular in schools is that of 3D modelling. SketchUp is the most popular 3D modelling tool available, and with a featureful and free version (SketchUp Make) available to educators, it’s most certainly a great place for any class to start reimagining the world in 3D.
Compatibility: Mac / Windows
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A Quick Look
1. Introduce 3D modelling the right way
Before jumping in and having every student download and start building with SketchUp, take some time to discuss the real world applications and impact of 3D modelling. Make sure to talk about the kind of ideas that will really resonate with your students. Talk about the creation of their favourite computer animated films. The design process of sports cars, or the architectural modelling behind the world’s largest skyscrapers and buildings.
Once you have had time to introduce SketchUp and students are comfortable with launching and controlling the tool, it’s time to let them explore. Let them roam free and have fun. A great place to start is to let students download and build with some of the example models from SketchUp’s 3D Warehouse. And if they want to progress further, point them in the direction of the exhaustive online help and tutorials offered by the SketchUp community.
3. Start small
It’s important to set realistic expectations with your students as they begin to model with SketchUp. This doesn’t mean stifling their creativity, but it does mean curbing their ideas to start simple and expand from there. Want to build a car? Perhaps start with just a wheel. Constructing a house? Start with a cottage rather than the Taj Mahal. Not only can this prevent frustration, it can also help students build confidence in their ability and help them enjoy the creation process.
4. Making with a motive
There are many reason to make. It can just be for the fun or the experience, but it’s a lot more meaningful to make with a purpose in mind. Try encouraging your students to use their 3D creations beyond just their screen. This could involve uploading their model to Google Earth, sharing their creation on 3D Warehouse or even using it as a blueprint to bring their design into the real world.
5. 3D Printing
While 3D printers are still quite an expensive classroom addition (although they don’t have to be), the applications and learning opportunities these devices can offer is incredible. Using modelling software such as SketchUp, students are able to dream, design and deliver their 3D creations into real world objects. If this possibility interests you then definitely check out Karen Winsper’s fascinating article detailing her experience with 3D printing in the classroom.
Links and Next Steps
- SketchUp Learning Center – Resources, tutorials and help learning SketchUp
- Download SketchUp – Direct link to SketchUp Make download page
- 3D Warehouse – The world’s biggest repository of free 3D models
- SketchUp 3D Modeling for Education – Resource from University of BC
- Using Google SketchUp in the Classroom – Google Hangout recording (55 min)
- Creating a 3-D History – Using SketchUp in History class
- Placing a SketchUp model in Google Earth – Instructions from SketchUp
- 3D Printing in the Classroom is Elementary
Feature image adapted from image courtesy of Flickr, FHKE.