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The teachers and specialists in Provo City School District are our innovators. They are innovators, companions, and caretakers. The Provo City School District Foundation wants to recognize and support their efforts to make our schools a better place.

The Foundation awards mini-grants to deserving district teachers each year. To receive the grant, teachers must submit a two-page application detailing their concept for an innovative project to their classroom or school. After receiving the completed application, the Provo School District Foundation Selection Committee picks the mini-grant recipients for the year.

It’s a process that isn’t required of teachers, but each year, many go the extra mile for their students.

This year, we’re speaking to a few teachers who have received mini-grants to ask them about their classroom’s perceived need, their mini-grant product, the classroom impact of their mini-grant, and lastly, advice for new and struggling teachers on how they can differentiate and extend learning in their classrooms.

We spoke with Dixon Middle School art teacher Jake Gilmore this week about his new 3D printer. Students worked throughout the year on sculpture, including a unit on digital sculpture, a major staple in the arts. While students focused on a project-based approach to complete a 3D design, the project needed more finality and tangibility. That’s where his mini-grant application comes in; with the new printer, students can see their dreamed-up designs take shape in real-time. Read our conversation below to learn more about the effect of his mini-grant and advice for other new teachers looking to extend or differentiate learning in their classrooms.


Q: What was the class issue, or where did you see a perceived need?

A: The kids in sculpture classes worked on digital sculptures, but a large part of digital sculpture is planning for what it might be in reality. With the ability to print a sculpture, they can test and execute it correctly. 

And they enjoy looking at their designs, but getting to hold your sculpture, in reality, is an entirely different thing. They keep the digital file so they can print it themselves, too, and I print out a copy at the end of the project, too.

Q: What goes into design and digital sculpture?

A: There’s a lot of planning and focus on details so that it comes out clearly on the printer. I also have to take every kid’s file on a slicer program—there’s a free one, so we’ve made it work.

Q: What advice would you offer new teachers looking to extend learning in the classroom like you have?

A: Don’t underestimate the kids. I make digital sculpture professionally, and as a first-year teacher, I didn’t assume they could take on projects like these. These projects are high-level and require skills used by industry professionals in engineering, video games, movies, and more– it’s realistically one of the best skills you can take from art class, too– but these kids do it every day. Don’t underestimate your students.

And if you have a vision or idea, do some research to find what you need. Don’t underestimate what’s available to you. You can find cheap alternatives online. And we didn’t have to go cheap with our printer; the kids have some awesome tools to use here. I didn’t think I’d have the tools to teach digital sculpture on iPads and a 3D printer, but here we are.

Spencer Tuinei
  • Communication Specialist
  • Spencer Tuinei