In planning her time with the students, Allyson came to the conclusion that an essential skill of architecture, and one she felt passionate about teaching, was spatial reasoning - the ability to visualize three dimensional objects or shapes, and mentally manipulate them - rotate, flip, etc. Meanwhile, she watched the PBS documentary "Between the Folds," an award winning film about origami. Thinking of the innovative solutions often inspired by the constraints of an architecture project, she challenged herself to design the lessons using only paper. Embracing the spirit of architectural problem solving, think3d was born and grew into a sequence of lessons exploring spatial reasoning problems through origami and paper engineering.
As she was developing the challenges, she shared her idea with another parent, Holly. Aware that spatial reasoning is critical to success in STEM disciplines and of the recognized gap in spatial reasoning training, particularly in elementary education, Holly, a Professor of Cognitive Psychology at Tufts University and director of the Spatial Cognition Laboratory, was immediately intrigued. Together, she and Allyson planned to pilot the program at their children's school and to assess the impact of the lessons on students' spatial reasoning skills.
The results were exciting. First, the kids were incredibly engaged in the activities, often extending the activities into their own time, spending hours outside the classroom honing their new skills.
When Holly went into the classroom to test the children with classic spatial reasoning questions, the scores of the students who participated in the program showed marked improvement in spatial thinking, rising from 59% to 82% accuracy. The control classroom improved slightly, from 61% to 70%, the anticipated result of practicing the assessment tasks.
Realizing that this program could have a profound effect on children’s ability to succeed in STEM disciplines, Allyson and Holly began looking for ways to reach out to more students. They pilot-tested the spatial reasoning curriculum in New Hampshire, and with the assistance of Jennifer Jacobs, a passionate advocate of STEM education, they implemented it in six multi-grade classrooms at a public school in Brooklyn, New York. The results were outstanding; children and teachers alike applauded the innovative program.
Allyson approached Dan Rockmore, Professor and Chair of the Departments of Math and Computer Science at Dartmouth College, to share the think3d curriculum and to see if he might serve on think3d’s Board of Directors. Recognizing think3d's potential to help fill an important gap in the STEM training of our children and simultaneously foster their excitement and interest in STEM subjects, Dan offered to serve as think3d's first Benefit Director and to assist the fledgling company, recently incorporated as a Vermont Public Benefit Corporation.
grants and partnerships
Institute of Education Sciences Grant
Tufts University was awarded a three-year U.S. Department of Education IES Grant to collaborate with think3d to further develop and assess the curriculum which teaches elementary age students visuospatial thinking through 2-D to 3-D transformation challenges in origami and pop up paper engineering. This grant supports the development of teacher instructional materials and the assessment of the curriculum's effectiveness in improving curriculum-specific visuospatial skills, general visuospatial skills, and STEM performance.
The research reported here was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305A140151 to Tufts University. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.
Think3d works in collaboration with the Tufts University Spatial Cognition Laboratory.
Think3d collaborated with the Dartmouth College NSF funded Graduate K-12 Project, training STEM graduate students to bring think3d to local elementary school students.
Think3d has partnered with schools in New York City, New Hampshire, and Vermont including:
- The Bernice A. Ray School, Hanover, NH
- PS 39, Brooklyn, NY
- The Brooklyn School of Inquiry, a Citywide Gifted and Talented School, Brooklyn, NY
- Marion Cross Elementary School, Norwich, VT
- Thayer School of Engineering Summer Camp for High School Students, Hanover, NH
- Dothan Brook School, White River Junction, VT
- Two Rivers Supervisory Union Elementary Schools, VT:
- Mount Holly Elementary School
- Cavendish Elementary School
- Ludlow Elementary School
- Chester-Andover Elementary School
resource links: Public Benefit Corporations
In 2012, think3d was incorporated as a Public Benefit Corporation. Our social mission to "Build a Foundation for STEM Success" is part of the legal structure of the company and we are accountable to our mission. Think3d is a Vermont-based Benefit Corporation. Click here to learn more. TED Talk on Benefit Corporation
resource links: Origami
Allyson Hutton, M.A., Architecture, think3d Co-Founder and Director of Curriculum Design, holds degrees from Dartmouth College and from Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture. Her architecture projects include a key role in two projects at Cesar Pelli & Associates; the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, CT and the Duke Athletic Center/Basketball Hall of Fame in Durham, NC. Allyson taught architecture and urban design at the University of Wisconsin. Her work includes the design and development of studio curriculum and of a series of architecture tours of Manhattan. She has lectured on the design process, been a mentor and critic for students as assistant director of the Dartmouth College design studio and collaborated on the implementation of the first annual exhibit of student digital art at Dartmouth College.
Holly A. Taylor, Ph.D., think3d Director of Research and Assessment, is a professor at Tufts University in the Department of Psychology and is a member of the National Science Foundation-funded Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center (SILC). SILC’s mission is to understand spatial learning and how it can be incorporated into educational programs and technologies. She is excited to be involved with think3d! and its efforts to close the spatial reasoning curriculum gap. Holly received her B.A. in mathematics, with a minor in Psychology from Dartmouth College and earned a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from Stanford University.
Jennifer Jacobs, think3d Director of School Outreach, NYC, loves math and holds degrees in Computer Science and Art History from Principia College. Before her children were born, she spent ten years as a Financial Engineer with a major Wall Street firm. She left the paid work force to be home with her newborn daughter, but soon found plenty of volunteer opportunities when her children entered public school in Brooklyn, NY. She tutored math students as a Learning Leader, served on the School Leadership Team for five years and was President of the Parent Association for three years. Passionate about education, Jennifer hopes to continue helping schools improve their instruction by bringing Think3d! into as many classrooms as possible.
Think3d is a Vermont Public Benefit Corporation. Contact us here.