COLUMBUS, Miss.--Investigation and experimentation are moving full steam ahead at Mississippi University for Women.

Thanks to a grant from the Mississippi Professional Educators (MPE), Melinda Lowe and Penny Sansing Mansell successfully launched the STEAM in Action with 3Doodlers project for students in The W’s Child & Parent Development Center (CPDC).

Lowe, the director of the Office of Outreach & Innovation and the coordinator of education for the School of Education, said part of the main goal was to introduce appropriate technology connecting learning into a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) project. She said 3Doodlers, a pen that prints in three dimensions and is an Educational Technology (EdTech) tool for activating learning through all of the senses, originally were intended to be used during the summer, but those events were held virtually. As a result, Lowe and Mansell, the director of the CPDC, The W’s laboratory school and part of the School of Education, put the plan into action and submitted a report to MPE.

“Think of the 3Doodler as a larger version of a mechanical pencil,” Lowe said. “Instead of lead, the pen extrudes plastic filament as a result of heat. 3Doodler allows students to design, create and instantly put their creativity to use. Greater depth is added when students can culminate a lesson with a 3Doodler model that reflects the depth of their imagination while showing understanding of what was being taught.

“While it may seem like a lofty goal for young children to grasp STEAM, we felt confident that 3Doodlers would be a perfect way to start the school year introducing these important concepts. We also tied in the project with our current back to school theme, our families.”

The 3Doodler will be offered to The W student teachers to use with a technology lesson as a required part of their studies. Lowe thanked MPE for funding the grant that encouraged the students to investigate and experiment with new mediums, to use a more complex tool, to build, create and engineer new designs, to work on fine motor skills and concentration, to utilize a large amount of creativity and freedom and to use organizational skills, patterns, sequencing and planning

Lowe said the grant enabled her to purchase 18 3Doodler pens, more than 3,000 multicolor filament strands and multiple 3Doodler resources to support the children as they develop more secure fine motor skills through their collaborative 3Doodler art projects.

“We used the 3Doodler activity pen kits to create three-dimensional shapes of various colors and sizes,” Lowe said. “Instead of providing our students with paper, paint, pens and crayons, the 3Doodler allowed them to practice trial and error with a new medium. We helped when necessary, but the collaborative art project gave our young learners the opportunity to express themselves in a new, fun way.”

Mansell said young learners typically don’t sit silently or still for very long and want to exhibit curiosity, explore and have a need to engage with their environment. She said simply explaining a lesson without visuals or hands-on activities won’t support an active mind, which is why the 3Doodlers fit with the CPDC’s mission to ensure every preschooler learns and grows in a nurturing and fun environment to set the foundation for a lifelong love of education and success in school and life.

Mansell said the students learned the science and technology behind how the pens worked, discussed vocabulary words associated with the project, like plastic, filament, technology, architect, engineer, learned how to charge the pens, load the plastic and wait for the pen to

heat up, made an anchor chart about the order of how the pens worked and used the smartboard to find more creative and extensive 3Doodler projects.

Mansell said the children then held unloaded pens and discussed how they would use them. She said they then worked in small groups and experimented with the 3Doodlers until they became comfortable using new technology and developed more secure fine motor skills and concentration. Mansell said she was impressed with the students’ ability to quickly learn and adapt and to produce pieces that were used as 3D parts (mainly hair) on their individual and family portraits as part of the family unit.

“As the children developed skills and confidence, their attitudes about using the new technology soared,” Mansell said. “We are excited that this tool can continue to be a constant part of our art center as children can now use with minimal supervision.”


Oct. 26, 2021
Contact: Adam Minichino
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