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Grant Highlight: Geography Comes Alive

Grant Highlight: Geography Comes Alive

Geography Comes Alive (And Other Classes Do, Too.)

Picture yourself sitting in a classroom, reading about some far-off land in a text book. Now imagine you could be taken instantly to that land. Instead of reading about pioneer life, you’re transported through space and time so you’re riding in a covered wagon along a dusty frontier trail.

If that could happen to you, you’re either on the Magic School Bus or you’re a student at East Grand Rapids Middle School.

Through a grant from the East Grand Rapids Schools Foundation, middle school students are now able to visit an astonishing variety of places and times through virtual reality. Middle School teachers Jill Smith and Sarah Youngs applied for the grant, “Geography Comes Alive,” last fall.

The equipment funded by the grant includes 32 iPod Touches and 32 virtual reality headsets, along with an iPad for a teacher to use. Teachers are able to use the gear to guide their classes on more than 300 Google Expeditions that will allow students to virtually see, hear, and interact with far away places. The program is already paying big dividends, with more to come.

“The VR gear really adds to the experience the students are having,” says Smith. “When we study a certain place--Mount Everest or the Amazon or even Antarctica--we are able to make our students feel like they are there. The science teachers have also been using it when studying cells or the heart.”

It’s not just Geography classes that are using the gear. “In English last year we used it when reading the The Canterbury Tales to take the students inside the Canterbury Cathedral,” Smith adds. “We also tried a few different apps last year that offer VR. I think we are just at the beginning of what we can do with it.”

Smith says the technology is also being used in ways they hadn’t anticipated. “We even had a few students approach us to ask if they could use it to present a book report they made into VR,” she says. “That was a use we had not even contemplated! I love that they thought of it.”

To learn more about how the East Grand Rapids Schools Foundation serves all of our students and schools, visit What We Do and click on Grants.