For many students, the use of tactile learning tools can be critical in forming intellectual and emotional connections to nature and outdoor spaces. As a park ranger and interpreter of these special places, I am constantly looking for new and innovative ways to bring the National Park Service’s mission to life. With this in mind, we are excited to announce our newest educational program at Cabrillo National Monument, 3D Cabrillo

3D Scans and Prints of the Conspicuous Chiton (Stenoplax conspicua)
Pictures, 3D Scans and 3D Prints of the Conspicuous Chiton (Stenoplax conspicua)

3D Cabrillo is a multifaceted educational resource and experience available to educators both near and far. In collaboration with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the San Diego Central Library, we utilized a special 3D imaging program to create 3D biomodels of many of the prominent organisms found in our Rocky Intertidal Zone or the tidepools. Free downloadable versions of these 3D models are available to the public on our website at the 3D Cabrillo Biomodel Library. These 3D models can be produced on any 3D printer, such as those available through the San Diego Public Library or other great makerspaces. Our hope is that this will increase accessibility of park resources throughout our community.

In conjunction with the biomodel library, we developed an interactive Student Resource Manual. This takes students through a step-by-step guide on how to create and render 3D models. Using free software available online and a mobile device with a camera, these models are easily created. The 3D Cabrillo program was specifically developed to connect students to the natural resources of the park, while simultaneously teaching 3D printing techniques. We were excited to successfully test-drive this program through many of our multifaceted educational programs - you can visit to learn more.

A scan and picture of a Rock Crab (Cancer antennarius)
A scan and picture of a Rock Crab (Cancer antennarius)

Using the new 3D scanning and 3D printing tools available to us, we seek to reach the public in different and exciting ways. Our goal is that this initiative will highlight the public’s important role in awareness and stewardship of our public lands, a tenant inherent in the very mission of the National Park Service. By connecting nature and technology, we look to foster excitement in the next generation of environmental stewards.

 scan and picture of a Scallop (Leopecten diegensis)
A scan and picture of a Scallop (Leopecten diegensis)

This program was adapted from the Scanning the Seas project initiated by Dr. Andrew D. Thaler. A special thanks to Dr. Thaler and his ongoing commitment to ocean science education. An additional thank you to the curators of the marine collections at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and their assistance in creating this online resource.