Taking Metalcasting to the 8th Grade

Pam Lechner

Question: What do you like about metalcasting? 

Sarah Koch: “What’s not to like? Molten metal is very cool!  I like creating 3D art by carving the foam pieces and using the hotwires and tools to shape them. Then it’s thrilling to watch the pouring process. The hardest part is thinking up something to carve.”

Sarah Koch is an eighth grade science teacher at Angola Middle School in Indiana. She has been teaching science for about 10 years and is currently including metalcasting as one of the subjects she covers. 

But how did she learn about metalcasting and how is she able to make castings to share with her students? Enter FEF certified school, Trine University.
Trine holds several foundry nights each year, inviting students from across the campus as well as the community at large to attend and make a casting. When Koch found out about these opportunities, she decided to try it out. 

“I had walked past the foundry lab often and had seen the large induction furnaces and wanted to see them in action,” she said. “I have attended several of these events and continue to go … so that my stories are fresh and students can see the excitement in my eyes. The castings (I make) sit on my white board on display. Students often ask about them and want to hold them.”

Based on her experience, Koch decided to include metalcasting in her curriculum.

“I talk about metalcasting in our unit on properties of metals and nonmetals. Kids are just starting to learn about the atomic structure of materials in eighth grade. We talk about elements, compounds, and mixtures and how they are related, yet different. Having a story about melting metals and casting my own figurines grabs their attention and gives them something to imagine while we discuss properties,” Koch said. “One of my castings is a duck. I tried to make it the same size as my bathtub rubber  duckie. When we talk about density, we discuss why two ducks the same size have different densities (one floats and one sinks). It is a useful tool for teaching! And the students seem fascinated by metalcasting.” 
Koch said she makes it a point of attending the open foundry days/nights at Trine because she enjoys it. But her involvement in those casting activities serves a very important function. She is introducing young minds to the field of metalcasting. As we all know, the sooner a person is introduced to the world and possibilities of metalcasting, the better the chance of drawing that person into the industry as a vocation.

Thanks, Sarah. And thanks to Darryl Webber, the FEF Key Professor at Trine, and his students for making activities like this available to the community.   

Click here to view the column in the May 2023 Modern Casting digital edition.