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Take a Vacation with Virtual Reality in the Classroom

July 9, 2019

By: Kendall Hunt RPD with contributions from the writing team of By Design Science grades 1-8

In the summer, many families pack their bags and hit the road, bound for some exotic site or tropical paradise. That wanderlust is something that teachers understand, although they know it by a slightly different name: field trips.

The connection between summer vacations and school field trips is an easy association to make. Both journeys offer multiple benefits to their participants. According to Carla Fried of UCLA, “taking vacations improves our health, boosts job performance and triggers more creativity.” Field trips have similar value for students: Alyx Kellington from Americans for the Arts states that field trips expand the curriculum, strengthen observation skills and content knowledge, and develop children’s cultural awareness.

Unfortunately, field trips and vacations have another connection: they’re on the decline. American workers use fewer of their paid vacation days than do individuals in many other industrialized nations, and museums, zoos, and other cultural attractions have experienced great decreases in student tours.  Lack of time, lack of resources, and inconvenient locations are all factors that can turn a field trip into a “staycation.”

But now, even students who are sticking close to home can experience the adventure of a remote desert, a secluded forest, a relaxing beach … or even a distant planet in outer space!

How? With virtual reality, of course!

The Kendall Hunt Religious Publishing Division (RPD) has partnered with VictoryVR to offer an innovative virtual reality science curriculum that lets students take a field trip without venturing beyond their classroom! The VR equipment immerses viewers in a 360° interactive experience, allowing students to experience content in hands-on ways. With content correlated to the ByDesign Science program and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), students explore locations that enhance their learning while reinforcing grade-appropriate science standards in meaningful, memorable ways.

Here are just a few of the unique locations where VictoryVR can transport students:

  • Redwood Forest, California
  • Apache Point Observatory, New Mexico
  • Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
  • The solar system
  • The human cell

As you can see, virtual reality “vacations” can actually take students a step beyond the traditional “in-person” field trip. What field trip, after all, can offer students a look at their cells from the inside or a glimpse of the stars and planets miles from our Milky Way? Maybe a “staycation” has its perks!

Students love the VictoryVR curriculum’s 48 virtual field trips, virtual stories, and gamified learning experiences. You’ll see students’ engagement soar as they become eager, active learners who better understand and retain the material. The VR experience optimizes student concentration, and they’ll have so much fun they won’t even realize they’re learning!

Of course, they are learning, because although vacations and field trips can be fun, it’s important that content comes first. The VR science units are aligned with appropriate ByDesign Science chapters, so teachers can easily find relevant units that will increase student interest and expand their learning. Grade 5–8 instructor Jenienne Kriegelstein appreciated this when she trialed a VR unit with her students: “The informative presentations are planned around ByDesign’s unit topics; they are varied in format, interesting, and challenging, and they share experiences I will never be able to provide for my class.”

Other features of the VictoryVR program that instructors love include the teacher mini-lessons with nationally recognized teacher Wendy Martin, as well as the assessment feature, which can be linked to the cloud for ease of record-keeping. How many traditional field trips offer resources like that?

So, next time your lack of summer vacation plans has you feeling down, remember the benefits of a virtual reality “staycation.” With a customized curriculum and VR, the four walls of your classroom hold possibilities far beyond those of any typical field trip. In planning your fall curriculum, consider the ByDesign Science curriculum and VictoryVR virtual reality to give your students a taste of the unknown. Experiencing the world outside of their local community is only a headset away!

If you could take your students anywhere with VR, what would be your dream destination?