Trilobites are prehistoric arthropods that pre-date most dinosaurs.

They may be extinct, but that hasn’t stopped them making their way into the classrooms of Paul Beltrame and Samantha Rusanoff, as part of an exciting recreation project.

These creatures roamed the ocean floor, similar to a modern day crab.

South Australia has some of the world’s best fossil sites, with this project being an explicit attempt to connect global learning to the students’ local environment.

Students were each given an actual trilobite fossil sourced within South Australia.

Large deposits of fossils have been found in locations such as Kangaroo Island and the Flinders Ranges. Trilobites existed between 270 million to 510 million years ago during the Early Cambrian and Paleozoic periods.

Once the species of the fossil was identified, students created a 3D model of the trilobite through Computer Aided Design (CAD) software.

Students used fossils to identify the type, size and characteristics of the specimen before creating their model. 

The CAD skills learnt by students are important not just for science and paleontology (the study of fossils), but other areas such as engineering, design and computer animation.

Kildare’s 3D printers were then used to print models of each trilobite.

This process in paleontology would have traditionally been done by hand by an artist, however the value in 3D printing is that once a CAD file is created it can be printed over and over again.

Once the project was completed, professor Jim Jago from the University of South Australia, an expert in paleontology, visited our school to view the 3D printed trilobites and gave a presentation on his own career within South Australia and abroad.

Jago presented fossils and artist representations of his own research into prehistoric creatures, providing real-world context to the students for the skills they had just learnt.

While we cannot be certain, Kildare College may be the first school in Australia to replicate fossils through this process.

The STEM program at the college is used to build confidence amongst young girls in digital technologies, science and mathematical enquiry and critical and creative thinking skills.

The trilobite project demonstrates how enquiry-based learning is used to greater engage students in technical fields.

Our 3D printing program has now been extended to our feeder schools in a collaboration exercise to build teacher capacity for deep learning within digital literacies.

Kildare College has undertaken a commitment to science, mathematics and technology education by adding STEM as a core subject from Year 8.

By 2019 this program will extend to Years 7 to 9. This allows for the introduction of important critical thinking skills, and an increase in science, mathematics and digital literacy and enables the next generation of innovators.