If you want to get younger children to really engage in the classroom, a sure-fire way to go about it is with something fun. Show and tell works on this principle, but also on the plain of making each little person feel important for a little time. Storytime is another good example, giving each child an opportunity to read out loud to friends. Little do they know of course they’re learning at the time. That’s what a fun activity does.
Sherfield School feel the same way. Like all top-tier schools, they see learning as an opportunity for children to use their imagination and create. This learning experience cultures thought and promotes ingenuity, and one way Sherfield School are harnessing it is with vacuum forming using a Mayku FormBox.
Vacuum forming in the classroom
Vacuum forming is something you might associate with high school students on their D&T projects. Images of a huge vacuum former on wheels will probably spring to mind. But the technology and process is safe enough to be used in primary schools when supervised by an adult.
Industrial-grade vacuum formers aren’t suitable for small classrooms, and they’re too expensive anyway. Sherfield School found their ideal product in the Mayku FormBox, a desktop-sized vacuum former with a heating element but no dedicated suction. Instead, you can use a vacuum cleaner hose (with a special attachment) to suck the heated thermoplastic to the platform and over the 3D mould on it.
The process works faultlessly and it’s safe. The lack of an in-built suction device means the FormBox is also tiny. It’s no bigger than a book box, or a standard desktop printer. It’s also exceptionally easy to operate and clean.
“The Mayku FormBox is a great tool to get students engaged in product design from a young age,” says Heather Seabourne, a teacher at Sherfield School.
Giving students hands-on learning time
Using the Mayku FormBox, Sherfield School have been running workshops for students aged 5 - 8 with a hands-on and engaging introduction to vacuum forming and design. By putting the power of creation into student’s hands, Sherfield School are allowing children to discover creativity in their own time and realise their ideas.
Effectively, this is all about making vacuum forming a learning activity. And what’s cooler than a device that can make stuff before a pupil’s very eyes?
Sherfield School started by running workshops for reception and junior students, in which they would discuss shapes and designs and show how these can be created. They used the hologram viewer taken from the FormBox’s starter kit as an example, making a mould of it from a plastic sheet in front of the children’s eyes.
This basic introduction to vacuum forming went down a treat, but the real magic happened when the students got to play with vacuum forming themselves.
The FormBox is suitable for independent use by children over the age of 8, and can also be used by children younger than this at an adult's discretion and direct supervision. Students at Sherfield School were able to gain hands-on experience with vacuum forming by placing the plastic sheet into the tray, and helping teachers move the tray down over the model. They were then given their own mould and shown how to cut it out safely.
After the workshop, students were given an activity booklet to be completed at home which recapped what they learned in the workshop and contained a link to a YouTube channel with lots of further interesting educational content and how-to guides.
A school only needs one Mayku FormBox to run multiple workshops. The price for one is £599 retail, which is far less than an industrial vacuum former. The FormBox is also designed to operate 24/7, allowing teachers to bring in new groups without shutting down and rebooting the machine again and again.
Any objects can be placed on the FormBox to create three-dimensional moulds. Bananas, keys, watches, phones, Pepsi cans … we really do mean anything. The FormBox also comes with everything needed to get started, including 20 cast sheets, 20 form sheets, 1kg of Mayku Pour (a casting material) and 3 starter projects. Additional sheets cost around £30 for a pack of 30, making workshops very affordable indeed.
Other learning opportunities
Sherfield School could also explore the use of 3D printing in the classroom, which is also a good technology to introduce to younger children. The additive manufacturing process can be simply explained to junior students as a way to transform a base material like plastic into a physical object drawn on a computer. When children see this process in action, they're mesmerised by it.
Several schools and higher education institutions are utilising 3D printers to enhance student learning in this way, but the earlier it is introduced in education the better. 3D printing is also a really great complementary technology to vacuum forming because you can create a small series production run from 3D printed objects. The simplest application of this would be to 3D print a mould (for example, a toy car) and then create replicas of that mould with the FormBox. This is something Kohl’s Design It! Lab have been doing to engage a younger audience.
Machine: Mayku FormBox
This information was first published on the Mayku website. All images in this article are credited to Mayku. You can find out more about Sherfield School here. If you enjoyed this Mayku story, check out this one about inspiring the makers of tomorrow. More school case studies can be found here.