iDigFossils: STEAM Integration through 3D Scanning, 3D Printing, and Paleontology

Location: Room Tower View Lobby, Table 16

Participate and share

[Participate and share : Poster]

Wednesday, June 28, 8:00–10:00 am
Location: Room Tower View Lobby, Table 16

Pavlo Antonenko   Claudia Grant   Megan Hendrickson   Julie Hughes   Sean Moran  
So you have a 3D what do you do with it? iDigFossils is a collaborative project between educators and the University of Florida that provides open-sourced, NGSS-aligned K-12 curriculum using 3D printed fossils. By leveraging 3D technology, these lessons allow students to become scientists.

Skill level: Intermediate
Attendee devices: Devices not needed
Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Open educational resources
Grade level: 6-12
Subject area: STEM/STEAM
ISTE Standards: Teachers : Facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity
Teachers : Model digital age work and learning
Students : Empowered learner

Digital tote resources

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

As the maker movement continues to become more prominent in the K-12 classroom setting, it is imperative that teachers find a way to incorporate this technology in a meaningful ways that are aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the Common Core. iDigFossils is a National Science Foundation funded collaboration involving the Florida Museum of Natural History, the University of Florida, and secondary science educators. The goal is to create curricula using high-quality 3D models for a K-12 audience following the guidelines proposed by the NGSS. Fossils are oftentimes delicate or rare, and not universally suitable for classroom use. Therefore, 3D scanning and printing technology provides a unique opportunity to make these specimens available for K-12 education. In addition, paleontology is an interdisciplinary and engaging area of study that provides distinctive opportunities for STEM integration.

STEM integration is an instructional method that aims to emphasize the connections between science, technology, engineering, and math. This model helps introduce concepts in these subjects in a way that is more meaningful to students and also replicates the way science is practiced. Our K-12 system is not preparing students to meet the demands of the upcoming STEM workforce (National Research Council, 2011). Through this initiative, students prepare for the future by acquiring 21st century skills, improving scientific literacy, understanding relationships between disciplines, and applying those relationships to real life experiences. Instruction through STEM integration and connection to real life issues is more relevant to students and therefore, increases motivation, self-efficacy, college readiness, and promotes interest in science careers.

In collaboration with scientists and secondary science educators, we have developed lessons that replicate scientific studies that have lead to significant discoveries advancing science. These lessons are rooted in the idea of STEM integration. For example, research on Carcharocles megalodon provides multiple opportunities for K-12 educators. Lessons have been designed to teach concepts of extinction and evolution (science) through the use of 3D printed teeth (technology). Students replicate scientific processes by measuring the teeth and calculating the size of the animal (math). Ultimately, they reconstruct the entire jaw by applying concepts of fine arts and engineering. Like the study of C. megalodon, there are other examples from the fossil record (e.g., Titanoboa cerrejonensis and equid evolution) that can increase educators’ content knowledge and guide students through this integrated process. Furthermore, making specific fossils available for 3D reproduction can help educators introduce examples of important topics, such as climate change, fostering new learning opportunities in issues of current societal relevance.

During this session, we will show teachers how to create the necessary accounts needed to access all online resources. In addition, participants will learn about the technology and software required execute the lessons in a classroom setting. By displaying student work and 3D models, educators will see how the lessons were implemented in classrooms and have the opportunity to discuss possible classroom applications. All of the lessons and additional handouts presented are NGSS, CCSS, and ISTE Standards aligned and available to download from the iDigFossils website.


We plan to share the following main points:
• Instruction through STEM integration and connection to real life issues is more relevant to students and therefore, increases motivation, self-efficacy, college readiness, and promotes interest in STEM careers.
• University of Florida scientists and secondary science educators have collaborated to develop lessons that replicate significant scientific studies. These lessons are rooted in the idea of STEAM integration.
• Making specific fossils available for 3D reproduction helps educators introduce examples of important topics, such as climate change and evolution, which foster new learning opportunities in current societal issues.
• Lesson plans are available for use in K-12 classrooms that utilize 3D printed fossils. At this time, lessons include Recreating Paleo Food Web, Recreating PaleoEnvironment, Human Evolution, Horse Evolution, Megalodon, Titanoboa and Climate Change. The web address is and contains instructions to download all 3D files from scientific databases, lesson handouts, scientific articles, and presentations.

We plan to show: 
• How to access lesson plans on
• How to sign up for an account and request permission to use 3D files from MorphoSource
• How to convert .ply files to .stl files using open source software like MeshLab
• How teachers can download and use 3D visualization even without 3D printers
• Introduce open source software for 3D model viewing such as MeshLab, Sketchup, and Cura (software can be used on both macOS sierra and PC)
Samples of 3D printed specimens
• Examples of student work and classroom outcomes related to use of iDigFossils lessons and content.
• The power of scientist and teacher collaboration and the benefits of STEM integrations in the K12 classroom
• Cross curricular connections aligned with Common Core State Standards Literacy and Math

Supporting research

Grant, C., Antonenko, P., Tovani, J., Wood, A., MacFadden, B. (2015). 3D scanning of fossils for middle and high school students: Science teachers’ perspectives. In L. Liu & D. Gibson (Eds). Research Highlights in Technology and Teacher Education 2015 (pp. 97-104). Waynesville, NC: Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education.

Bull, G., Chiu, J. L, Berry, R. Q., & Lipson, H. (2013). Advancing children’s engineering through desktop manufacturing. In J. Spector, M. Merrill, J. Elen, and M. J. Bishop (Eds.) Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology (4th ed.) 675-688.

Callaway, E. (2011). Fossil data enter the web period. Nature, 472, 150.

Campbell, T., Williams, C., Ivanova, O., & Garrett, B. (2011). Could 3D printing change the world? Technologies, potential, and implications of additive manufacturing. Washington, DC: Atlantic Council.

Chiu, J. L., Bull, G. Berry, R. Q., & Kjellstrom, W. (2013). Teaching engineering design with digital fabrication: imagining, creating, and refining ideas. In N. Levine & C. Mouza (Eds.) Emerging Technologies for the Classroom: A Learning Sciences Perspective (pp. 47-62). New York: Springer Science.

Dimitrov, D., Schreve, K., & De Beer, N. (2006). Advances in three-dimensional printing: State of the art and future perspectives. Journal for New Generation Sciences, 4, 21-49.

Hooper, R. (2013). 3D print a fossil with virtual palaeontology. New Scientist. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from

Lipson, H., & Kurman, M. (2013). Fabricated: The new world of 3D printing. John Wiley & Sons.

Murphy, S. V., & Atala, A. (2014). 3D bioprinting of tissues and organs. Nature Biotechnology, 32(8), 773-785.

Thornburg, D., Thornburg, N., & Armstrong, S. (2014). The invent to learn guide to 3D printing in the classroom: Recipes for success. Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.



Pavlo Antonenko, University Of Florida

Claudia Grant, Florida Museum of Natural History

Megan Hendrickson, Academy of the Holy Names

Julie Hughes, Academy of the Holy Names

Sean Moran, University of Florida

learning starts here

San Antonio

June 25-28, 2017

© 2017 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), All Rights Reserved