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MCDS in Action Blog by Head of School Ben Hebebrand

Ancient Egypt meets the Laser Cutter and 3-D Printer

When first graders at MCDS recently completed their unit on Ancient Egypt, first-grade teachers Julie Rimkus and Amy Maier re-planned this unit they have taught for a few years. Obviously, the craft of teaching indeed is a never-ending cycle with expert teachers always looking to refine or even overhaul their lessons.

“We really wanted our students to contemplate time, to foster a better awareness of time, helping them connect to the past and see how ideas endure and evolve,” said Julie.

In planning this unit, the teachers agreed to expose students to the concept how an idea endures, yet is vastly different in how ideas are put into practice. “Obviously, technology is a tool our students associate with today, but their understanding of technology may only be limited to interpret technology as computers and automation as opposed to the “technology” used in Ancient Europe to “fabricate” hieroglyphics,” said Amy. Thus, the unit this year evolved into “Ancient Egypt meets the Laser Cutter and 3-D Printer,” an idea whose seeds were planted during an after-school session with Academic Technology Integration Specialist Rita Gipp.

In collaborating with Rita, first grade students attended the Makerspace to create their names in hieroglyphics. The students learned that in ancient Egypt, language was primarily represented by pictorial symbols.

Showing how language evolved from pictorial symbols to today’s abstract symbols of letters made into words certainly provided students an insight how ideas endure yet evolve. In order to strengthen this knowledge, students used a technology application to represent their own names in Ancient Egyptian symbols. Upon finishing that task, students learned how to program the laser cutter to etch pieces of wood to engrave the hieroglyphics that represent their names. Similarly, they also printed the hieroglyphics on the 3-D printers.

Students certainly studied and learned other notions of ideas and creations evolving over time such as the advances made in sailing or homebuilding. But it was in the hands-on experience of applying ancient hieroglyphics to spell their own name and subsequently print these symbols via laser cutting and 3-D printing technology that students may have gotten an actual feel of how the ancient endures into the modern era.

As these first grade students age and continue to compare the past with the present and even the future, they will gain a better understanding of time and progress, possibly leading them one day to question whether “all creativity begins in imitation” or if we indeed jump the curb going from 2.0 to 3.0 in a single step.

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