Nichole Thomas is a teacher at Liberty Elementary, a STEM based school in South Riding, VA. There, they teach 3D printing to students in Kindergarten through 5th grades, and work hard to connect all printing projects to their curriculum. Thomas was gracious enough to share her curriculum with us at MatterHackers, and we are happy to share it with you. Find Nichole on Twitter at @MrsThomasTRT

Overview and Background


Students will learn about molecules and the three states of matter they can be in. They will then design a model displaying the different arrangements of the molecules in each phase. The models will include both simple models of molecules and text identifying the represented state. Students will use TinkerCAD to recreate these with either separate models for each state, or all three states modeled onto one piece.


Students learned all about the three states of matter. Learning about matter the students need to identify the basic types of molecules: solid, liquid, and gas. The students learned about the size, spacing, and movement of these states of matter and needed to demonstrate their knowledge by creating a model of each.


Virginia Standard SOL 3.3: The student will investigate and understand that objects are made of materials that can be described by their physical properties. Key concepts include...
a) objects are made of one or more materials;
b) materials are composed of parts that are too small to be seen without magnification; and
c) physical properties remain the same as the material is reduced in size.

Common Core Standards: 3.P.2.1 & 3.P.2.1: Physical Science: Matter: Properties and Change:
Understand the structure and properties of matter before and after they undergo a change. Compare solids, liquids, and gases based on their basic properties.

A collection of printed models designed by students

Duration of Lesson

After students learn about the States of Matter unit in class, the actual 3D modeling and creating of parts should take students about 45-minutes in the computer lab.


Before beginning in TinkerCAD, students need to understand what the different states of matter molecules look like and understand how the molecules interact and work.

Lesson Plan and Activity

Lesson Steps

  1. Pass out this handout as a hard copy for the students.
  2. In class, students learn about different phases of matter and the behavior of molecules in those states.
  3. Students are introduced to TinkerCAD and given their challenge: create a model for each state of matter: solid, liquid, and gas.
  4. Then students create a drawn draft of what they want to create. Students need to make sure their molecules are the correct shape as well as spacing between each other.
  5. After the student’s draft is approved by the teacher they may begin working in TinkerCAD.
  6. Students log into TinkerCAD and begin creating their models of the three types of matter.
  7. Once students finish the teacher needs to ensure that the creation has all of the components and is ready for printing.
  8. The students take their models for one week and create their video diary showing where they see the three states of matter in the real world. (Student take pictures of the different states of matter with their molecules in the picture).
Student designing his set of models

Rubric and Assessment

By the end of the project students should have designed three models. They should have a solid, liquid, and gas representation. They should be able to explain how the three states of matter make their molecules interact as well as a video diary of examples.

A set of the three states of matter designed by a student

Notes, Tips, & Tricks for Printing

Depending on your preference, you may want all three models on the same piece or you may want the three models to be free-standing.