Welcome educators to SIx3D! We are excited about the possibilities of using 3D objects—and the data sets that make them possible—for K-12 learning and believe that they offer an excellent opportunity to excite and engage students in a valuable, interdisciplinary education experience.

The SIx3D viewer offers students the ability to explore some of the Smithsonian’s most treasured objects with a level of control that has never been possible until now. We hope this revolutionary level of access to the Smithsonian collections will spark your students’ curiosity and that the exploration of these objects will enable them to build lifelong observation and critical thinking skills.

With few exceptions, SIx3D also offers access to these data sets. Hailed by many as the third industrial revolution, 3D technology is molding a new K-12 STEM model. Students can use the same tools as professionals to become creators themselves. Whether students are printing invaluable museum objects or inventions of their own design, we hope the chance to bring objects to life will give students the opportunity to create imaginative and innovative work.

To help you introduce 3D and its possibilities to your students, Smithsonian educators are working on new resources for K-12 classrooms. Check back here for updates about new 3D related education resources.

The Mind behind the Mask: 3D Technology and the Portrayal of Abraham Lincoln

This ebook combines the 3D scans of the Lincoln life masks with an interdisciplinary learning experience for 8-12th grade students. Through combining 3D technology instruction and a guided historical discovery of Abraham Lincoln, students will learn important STEM and historical thinking skills.

Screenshots from ebook, The Mind behind the Mask: 3D Technology and the Portrayal of Abraham Lincoln

American Innovations in an Age of Discovery: Teaching Science and Engineering through Historical Reconstructions

Using 3D printers, Virginia eighth graders Jenn and Nate designed and manufactured a working reinterpretation of the Morse-Vail telegraph system, using objects from the Smithsonian and Vail’s journals. While exploring historical documents, it fascinated them to see that Vail and Morse experienced problems similar to those they were encountering. Their science and engineering teachers worked together to enable Jenn and Nate to solve these challenges. Jenn explains, “Reading and taking notes from a textbook, it doesn’t help. It’s easier to understand something [you made] that’s right in front of you.”

Jenn and Nate’s project is an initial pilot that will serve as the basis for a planned series of explorations based on 3D scans of discoveries and inventions from the Smithsonian collections. The transparent nature of early inventions’ functionality and underlying scientific principles make their reconstruction an ideal mechanism for learning. Jenn and Nate say they feel like a modern Alfred Vail or Samuel Morse. Their experience has ignited an interest in engineering and transformed their career aspirations. They have now engaged their friends in this process of invention. They’re currently working on a steam powered generator after school.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is collaborating with the University of Virginia, Princeton University, the Laboratory School for Advanced Manufacturing to research and develop a science and engineering curriculum. Please continue to visit this page for updates.

Photograph of students building telegraph using 3D printers

Featured Teacher: Hear from teachers using 3D in the Classroom

William Penn Charter School’s Corey Kilbane

At Penn Charter we recently began using 3D design and printing to support our Innovation Club, and our partnership with the Smithsonian has inspired us to look at the use of 3D in new ways. We are excited to use the Lincoln life masks to allow our students to approach a complex mind in a tangible way. It will also serve to pilot new ways to integrate 3D technologies into our classrooms.

Taking advantage of public scientific data, we are also developing hands-on molecular biology lessons. This has allowed one of our biology teachers, who is a cancer survivor, to explain the molecular basis of cancer to his students in a truly hands-on approach. While we eagerly await more resources and models from the Smithsonian, we have begun to digitize our school's history. As the 325th anniversary of our school approaches, I worked with students to 3D scan a cast bronze statue of William Penn by Alexander Calder, the same artist who created the Penn statue on top of Philadelphia City Hall.

Willian Penn Charter School students using 3D in the classroom

Are you currently using 3D in your classroom? How about Smithsonian 3D data? Please reach out to us with questions or to share your innovative uses of 3D data.