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Client waiting for his 3-D printed hand to be assembled.

We recently disrupted our school schedule so that our students could build hands for kids who were born without them. Three of these children and their families were there to show our students the profound impact of this most authentic work.

Two of our teachers heard about a group called Enabling the Future from another group of teachers at a workshop, on a totally different topic. This organization asks individuals with 3D printers to volunteer to print hands for people in need. This is a grassroots movement, started by one woman in the United States. Like most powerful, grassroots social innovations, Enable now has worldwide chapters. Through the website, our teachers got in contact with Thierry Oquidam, from E-Nable France. His passion for the project led him to offer to work with our students. We built a prototype, sent it to Enable, made several adjustments to materials, strength, and design before our work was accepted into the program. We then printed pieces for twenty hands, in a variety of colors. Forty students from our Student Council met Thierry and the families, and spent a day of school assembling twenty prosthetic hands. For everyone involved, it was an incredible, empowering learning  opportunity and life experience.

That’s the short story. Of course, in the background, were countless hours of preparation and logistics.  The result was unequivocally impressive. But this is not my take-away. As Assistant Principal, I greatly appreciate this learning day for our students and I see it as something much more than a one-day event. The process that led us to this day reflects the type of learning we would like for our students everyday.

Through a series of connections, our students are now part of a global community working to make a difference at a local level. The task is as authentic and relevant as they come. Perhaps one of those students will be inspired to build prosthetic limbs in the future, to study birth defects, or to become an inventor. It was exactly the type of learning that should be happening in a modern school. It was a day beyond disruption. One day can become two. Two days can become three. This kind of learning can and should become everyday.