A PreK student plays with a number rack toy built by Squalicum students.

Manufacturing students from Squalicum High School worked in teams to design and fabricate 3D number racks for developmental preschool classrooms around Bellingham Public Schools. In total, 14 five-bead racks and 10 seven-bead racks were created using CAD software, 3D printers, laser engravers, wood and non-toxic paint.

Special education preschool teachers were in need of math materials that mirror the ones used in kindergarten but wanted them to be more age appropriate for their students. To create these materials, Director of Teaching and Learning Charisse Berner approached Squalicum High School’s Career and Technical Education Director Jeff Tetrick about producing the number racks. Tetrick was happy to take the project on.

“It was a great building project to support young learners,” said Tetrick. “I was most impressed with my students’ enthusiastic approach to take on this project and willingness to help our early childhood education programs. The students took this project very seriously and honestly cared how the racks would turn out knowing they were for preschool children.”

The number racks were delivered to schools in December and are already in use at several schools including Sunnyland Elementary School.

“Sometimes getting the focus of a preschooler, especially a preschooler with more challenges, can be quite the task,” said Sunnyland preschool teacher Jen Mallett who uses the number racks in her class.

Through songs and activities, students use the beads as a visual tool to learn how to count. 

“The number racks are wonderful visuals especially for young learners with the challenges that some of my students face,” Mallett said. “The racks are not only functional, they are sturdy and attractive to the students. The base is perfect as it allows us to line up our counting bears under the beads reinforcing the one-to-one correspondence that is so fundamental to their learning.”

Mallett said the number racks make learning easier and fun for the students by creating a tangible connection to counting.

Number racks produced by Squalicum High School students are currently in use at Sunnyland, Carl Cozier, Geneva and Birchwood elementary schools.

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