Thoughts On Learning and Engagement and the Pluto New Horizons Mission


by Tracy Rudzitis -

I am sitting next to one of my 6th graders, J., as he flips though one of his favorite books. This book accompanies him to MakerSpace every day and if he is in the lab after school he typically has the book so he can refer to it. The book is a large picture book of the planets and their moons. He is showing me some of his favorite parts, and reading passages to me. As he is doing this, he is holding a model of one of the moons described in the book.


J. designed this moon in Tinkercad and has printed it out using the 3D printer in the lab. It is just one of a half dozen moons or planets that the has designed then printed. Ranging in size from a ping pong ball to a tennis ball, they don’t really look like much, but when you hear J. describe the features and the characteristics of the moon and how he was able to translate that into his own design and then print it and hold it, the shape takes on incredible meaning.


Watching J. and listening to him read about some of his favorite moons, I witness an intensity for learning and a motivation for uncovering more information and exploring creative ways to further be engaged. I see him grasping a physical object, of his own creation, even if it is not something he is actively referring to as he is reading. 


NASA provides some incredible 3D resources for those interested in space and space exploration at The recent Pluto fly-by, “New Horizons” gives us all an opportunity to rekindle the fascination with outer space.


Student’s can explore their interests in 3 dimensions, and students like J. can imagine these far away worlds in a more personalized and immediate way through designing their own 3D models based on their own imaginations, research, and picture books. I am fortunate that my students interests in space led them to these NASA resources. Teachers can also explore and share with their students the many readings about how 3D printing technology and materials are used in the space program.



"Welcome to the 3D Resources site. Here you'll find a growing collection of 3D models, textures, and images from inside NASA. All of these resources are free to download and use.”