No Outer Limits to Creativity for Students

By Yvonne de St. Croix, PhD

Over the past few months, talented and gifted students at my district's intermediate school have been stretching their imaginations, gaining a greater sense of empathy, and developing an understanding for the challenges faced by all humanity. Utilizing the City X project platform, students engage in the design process to draft and produce 3D models in various mediums.

This project based on an adapted version of Stanford University's Design Process asks, "given the opportunity to create without limits, what kind of world would students create?" Fifth grade student, Scott, shares that the project allows him "to take the engineering design process to the next level." To reach that goal, students are asked to take an idea and make it a reality.

Students are required to empathize with others on a given social problem, for example energy collection or food shortages, by considering whom their solution could help and what social problems it will address. Fourth grade student, Miranda, says she has "learned that I am helping people and thinking about situations overcome issues."
Next, students define what the problem that needs to be solved is and ideate proposed solutions. Eva, grade 3, shares this makes her feel, "that I am capable of more things than I thought and I am special. I have never really thought of that."

Imagination plays a key role in the progression of the project - as Cole, grade 4, shares, "I am learning that you can use your imagination can do a lot too.' Following prototyping solutions through blueprints, sketches, clay sculpting, and 3D design, students next test prototypes at multiple stages along the design process.

Fourth grade student, Mark, summarizes the desires of the students participating in this project by sharing, the next step would be "making the design work." To make this a reality, students have the opportunity to modify their prototypes based on collaboration and feedback with other TAG students, and share their designs at multiple stages along the design process.

TAG students across grades 3-5 use the Makers Empire platform to design 3D prototypes in an .stl format. After designs are saved to the student's USB drive, I upload the projects to the Dremel 3D40 printer for printing to occur.

The design process encourages creative problem-solving, creation with their peers, and the use of 3D technology allows students to bridge the gap between digital and physical worlds. Fifth grader, Himaani shares, "I solve other people's problems with the design process." The digital copies will be shared with Made in Space which looks at needs recognized by the International Space Station. Students Emmie, grade 3, and Miranda, grade 4, shared they would like to modify their projects more and make life-size models.

Various forms of prototypes found in clay, drawings, blueprints, and 3D models can be found in the SNIS TAG classroom. Student-drafted solutions include solar sails, specialized glasses, HVAC systems, automatic pet sitting services, boat portages, and space security systems. Fourth grader, Heather Byrd, reminds readers the purpose of this industrial skills based project is to "build some things together...creating...while having fun."

Two notable sponsors of the City X project are the USA Science and Engineering Festival ( and Made in Space ( Feel free to check out both of these websites for more information. Stanford University's can be found online at I chose this project because I have been working with my talented and gifted middle school students on 3D printing to better the global society using the Summer Institute for the gifted resources on social entrepreneurialism shared at the 2018 CreativityCon and wanted my talented and gifted students to have a complex and purposeful companion activity. The Stanford University's design process was shared at the ASCD Global Leadership Summit 2019 as a project for rising IB seniors. As the student had adeptly begun our rigorous work with #D print for effecting positive change for global humanity, I felt we were on the right curriculum course progression.

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