MI Sixth Graders Virtually Travel to World Destinations

MI Sixth Graders Virtually Travel to World Destinations
Posted on 05/05/2017
​MI Sixth Graders Virtually Travel to World DestinationsSixth graders at Mason Intermediate have been exploring the world of virtual reality!

Valerie Spaeth, sixth grade Social Studies and Language Arts teacher for Team Quest, and Mason City Schools Innovative Learning Coach Dan Little have worked together to bring this opportunity to students through support of the MI PTO.

"MI's PTO has graciously granted us the funds to purchase a class set of VR headsets in order to take our students on virtual field trips," explained Spaeth. VR is really just starting to make headway in the classroom, and Mason is leading the charge!"

On April 21, Spaeth and Little invited members of MI PTO to visit her classroom and show how the PTO's funds are being well spent. The grant was written for MI sixth grade social studies classes, and the total cost for a class set was $8,000, which includes the headset, the devices, a teacher tablet to control what students are seeing, a personal router, and storage. The $8,000 was fully funded through Mason Intermediate PTO.  

"Right now we are using the program to take kids on Google Expeditions. This application will 'drop' students into a given location somewhere in the world. Today I took my kids to Shanghai China so they could see the economic development that is currently taking place. Last week we went to Mount Everest, and next week I am planning on taking the students to Tokyo!" shared Spaeth. "The curriculum for sixth grade social studies centers on the physical and human geography of the Eastern Hemisphere.  Through using Google Expeditions and VR, I am able to take my students on virtual field trips so they can experience these places rather than just read about them in a book. It makes what we learn in class more personal."  

This program will benefit the entire sixth grade as the headsets are shared among classrooms. These headsets bring the environment and cultures of the eastern hemisphere alive; allowing teachers to take their students on virtual 'field trips' where otherwise it would be impossible for students to experience hands-on learning half-way around the world.  These headsets will immerse students in actual places, rather than simply being a remote observer through a textbook.

Currently Spaeth's class is studying Monsoon Asia and how humans modify their environment to ensure survival.  One example is a focus on Japan's innovative engineering when it comes to building their "earthquake resistant" skyscrapers. The students watched a short video explaining basic skyscraper building techniques that focused on the tallest skyscraper in the world: the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.  From there, students went on a Google Expedition to visit the Burj Khalifa and its 153 story observation deck.  
"We then did a short virtual reality lesson on earthquakes and how they impact the shifting and changing of Earth. We finished the lesson by going on another Google Expedition to Mount Fuji in Japan; one of many active volcanoes in the island nation which towers above Tokyo Bay," added Spaeth.    

A few of these additional 'visited' locations include:

Touring the Palace of Versailles in Paris, France
Exploring Desert Habitats in the Sahara Desert
Learning about Urbanization in Brazil, Nigeria and India
Venturing to Robben Island in South Africa
Visiting the Burj Khalifa
Climbing Mount Everest
Witnessing the Great Wall of China

"This is truly just the beginning. Google Expeditions is always adding powerful and educational trips for students to experience!"
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