My name is Ronalea Freeth, I am a first grade teacher in San Dimas, California. You may walk into my classroom and hear a gentle buzzing of students who finished their math assignment asking to go onto TinkerCAD and continue working on designing a project. A year ago I would not have imagined that we would have a 3D printer in our classroom or that students would be creating and learning using CAD software.

Witness something wonky and something right

Witness something wonky and something right

I submitted my Big Idea to CUE’s LeRoy Finkel Fellowship Program on the premise that I wanted my students to be able to make connections between the digital world and the concrete world that they experience. In 2028 my first graders will be graduating high school and they will be faced with problems new and complicated. To that end, it is my goal to teach my students to be 21st century learners using 21st century tools. First grade is the perfect place to explore, create, and try new things. The beauty here is that the teacher (me) and the students are learning this new technology together, free from failure, focused on exploring and learning. We take pride in trying new things and celebrate when we have a project that goes “wonky”. My goal was to remove the fear of failure and focus on experimenting.

I had no idea that submitting a 60 second video about my Big Idea would be so impactful on my life. Although I was not named as the LeRoy Finkel Fellow, the experience proved to be immeasurably valuable. Being chosen as a finalist gave me the opportunity to further develop my vision as an educator. It also felt like a vote of confidence to take risks. I can better teach my students about the Growth Mindset because I lived it through this process. By having to present my Big Idea and through being judged I had to step far out of my comfort zone. I never will forget the nerves I felt before my presentation. And afterwards, the amount of admiration I had for my district when they believed in my vision enough to fully fund my Big Idea regardless of how I finished in the judging.

With the money I was awarded as a finalist and my district’s support, my classroom now is equipped with a Polar 3D printer, six Chromebooks, and mentor texts to support growth mindset and 3D printing. Starting this school year, we read Growth Mindset by Carol Dweck and used several mentor text like Iggy Peck, Architect and What Do You Do With An Idea. We also learned about 3D printing with Leo the Maker Prince, a story about a lost 3D printer. We used the Chromebooks to learn how to create using Google Applications for Education, especially Google Classroom and Build with Chrome. All my students are able to log into their Google accounts and create amazing designs. Project Ignite, the platform that we use to have a classroom in TinkerCAD allows me to push out projects onto Classroom! Almost everyday I get emails from students’ parents with STL files for me to print on the 3D printer. The best part is we are not simply printing already made files, we are designing and using the 3D printer to solve problems. Students of all different academic levels have been successful using the CAD.

Thank you to the CUE committee who believed in my Big Idea and to my amazing Bonita Unified School District who made it happen. It has made me a better teacher and has given my students the tools, motivation and ability to become 21st century learners.

Interested in submitting your Big Idea? Deadline to apply for the 2017 LeRoy Finkel Fellowship is December 8, 2016.


img_9319-copyRonalea Freeth has been teaching for seven years, for Bonita Unified School District (San Dimas, CA). She is a Google Certified Educator. She is passionate about helping students become 21st century learners. Ronalea is a believer in the power of yet! Follow her on twitter @mrs_freeth.

About rfreeth