Episcopal fourth graders recently visited Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Yosemite, Everglades, and Hawaii Volcanoes National Parks without leaving the classroom! These travels were made possible by newly purchased virtual reality viewers using the Google Expeditions app.
The fourth graders have been fully immersed in their first project based learning unit on landforms. The focus has recently shifted to landforms in the United States, and more specifically, our national parks.
This year, Episcopal is incorporating the Every Kid in a Park program, which is a White House youth initiative that specifically encourages fourth graders and their families to explore our country’s natural wonders and historic sites. Each fourth grader received a free one year park pass. While students may visit the national parks with their family this coming year, this is difficult to do as a whole grade level or even class. This is where Google Expeditions has come in handy.
Virtual reality has enriched our students’ learning experience. Now they can fully witness how the Colorado River has carved out the Grand Canyon or enjoy the 360 degree wonders of Yosemite valley without leaving their seats. Before a field trip to the Manship Theatre to see a show about Thomas Edison, students used the VR viewers to explore the Thomas Edison National Historical Park. This VR experience allowed the kids to walk around Edison’s laboratory and see how he worked.
The VR viewers have been a terrific technology integration and the kids feel like they are actually in a certain place and have control of their viewing experience. Here’s one student’s reflection after using VR:
“When I went to the Grand Canyon, it was AMAZING!! It was amazing because when we were there we saw a big, gigantic canyon. Also after that we got to go on the Skywalk in the Grand Canyon. It was like you’re floating in the air. It was an AWESOME experience.”
Rosalyn is in her sixteenth year of teaching. Prior to coming to Episcopal four years ago, she taught at independent schools in New York City and Los Angeles. She is in her second year of teaching fourth grade science and taught second grade for two years. Rosalyn earned her Bachelor's degree in Biology at Whitman College and her Master's degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education at New York University. She loves teaching science and finding ways to integrate technology and other subjects into the curriculum.