Uncovering a Hidden History - The Lives of African Americans During Reconstruction - SCOPES Digital Fabrication

Lesson Details

Age Ranges
Fab-Modeling.1, Fab-Fabrication.1, Fab-Design.1, Fab-Modeling.2, Fab-Design.2, 11-12.RH.1, 11-12.RH.2, 11-12.RH.3, 11-12.RH.7, 11-12.RH.8, 11-12.RH.9, 11-12.RH.10
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Matt Zigler
Matt Zigler
K-12 teacher
I am a teacher, artist, and maker. I am currently the Bullis Innovation and Technology Lab (BITlab) Coordinator at Bullis School in Potomac, Maryland. In this role, I work with students and teachers to bring design thinking and the Maker… Read More


Students will respond to research about the lives of African Americans during the Reconstruction era. This era was a critical time that laid the groundwork for many social issues we see in society today. Students will work together to design and build an object or series of objects that tell the story based on the parts of their research that spoke to them as a group.

What You'll Need

Textbook, readings, video or other resources about the Reconstruction era and Jim Crow.


Access to digital fabrication tools such as 3D printers, laser cutter, CNC machine and vinyl cutter.

The Instructions


Working from textbook readings, first-person accounts, videos, etc, learn about the significant historical events and issues of the Reconstruction for African Americans in the South and beyond.

This should include not just significant figures of the time but also the many challenges faced by the average person.

Discuss these issues as a group to process understanding of the information.

Design Thinking Session

Discuss as a group what some of the most important themes that they identified are and how those might be embedded into a physical object.

Act as a discussion facilitator and take notes. Try to manage the structure of the discussion, not the end result. Start by identifying some of the big ideas and then when consensus is reached on some point, narrow the focus down towards the physical object. Allow groups to form and pitch their ideas, but attempt to get to one group project with many parts that can be assigned out, rather than several disconnected projects.


It’s helpful to get to a point of a few ideas at the end of the class period and let students sleep on it and come back the next day for the final decision.

Rapid Iteration

Over a few class periods, students will use the most basic materials available to prototype their project.

At the end of each prototype hold a review session to identify positive and negative aspects of the prototype. Identify action steps to improve the next version.


Allow 1-2 class periods for each of these iterations, and try to get 3-4 iterations. This encourages students to get their ideas out quickly and not be too precious with early phases.

Digital Fabrication

Using digital fabrication software and tools, students will design and create all of the necessary parts for their final design. Students will complete the project when all parts have been fabricated.

Divide the final project into groups or individual tasks. Allow students to search for design files on Thingiverse, Obary, Instructables or other sites, but review their choices.


Encourage students to use Tinkercad, Inkscape, Google Drawings or other design software if they have experience or desire to learn, but try and pair them up with less experienced students as co-designers.


After all parts have been found or designed, there will be a lag time before everything is fabricated and ready to be assembled. Work on step 5 during that process.


When all parts are created, assemble the final product and find a venue to display it publicly in the school or community.

Evaluation and reflection

Since students were the driving force in this process, they should also drive the evaluation. Have students identify what should be key factors in determining whether their project successfully communicates what they want to say, teach or express.

Such factors could be technical ability, clarity of metaphor, collaboration, design contributions, etc.


Once they have identified 5-10 factors, have them weight them to create a rubric. What would full credit in that category look like?


  • (Fab-Modeling.1): I can arrange and manipulate simple geometric elements, 2D shapes, and 3D solids using a variety of technologies.
  • (Fab-Fabrication.1): I can follow instructor guided steps that link a software to a machine to produce a simple physical artifact.
  • (Fab-Design.1): I can be responsible for various activities throughout a design process within a group under instructor guidance.
  • (Fab-Modeling.2): I can construct compound shapes and multi-part components ready for physical production using multiple representations.
  • (Fab-Design.2): I can participate in design reviews with prepared presentation materials as well as give and receive feedback from peers.
  • (11-12.RH.1): Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
  • (11-12.RH.2): Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
  • (11-12.RH.3): Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.
  • (11-12.RH.7): Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
  • (11-12.RH.8): Evaluate an author's premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.
  • (11-12.RH.9): Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.
  • (11-12.RH.10): By the end of grade 12, read and comprehend history/social studies texts in the grades 11-CCR text complexity band independently and proficiently.

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