More than 400 students at Cumberland Elementary School marveled at 360-degree views of the Martian landscape, Yosemite Valley, and coral reefs Thursday without ever leaving their Sunnyvale campus.
They embarked on virtual field trips thanks to the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program, which combines Google’s Street View panoramas with virtual-reality viewers for an immersive educational experience.
Teachers led the excursions by choosing from more than 100 expeditions, all guided from a tablet. Students followed along with cardboard viewers that use phones for a screen. Their teacher used arrows to draw their attention to points of interest, and worked off of Google’s accompanying notes and their own classroom instruction to encourage students to share observations, questions, and insights.
“Letting them experience and notice for themselves the similarities and differences among the parks based on their location, built so much context for our current study of California’s regions,” said fourth-grade teacher Alisha Zare.
Her students observed how the calm waters of San Francisco Bay contrasted with the choppy ocean waves viewed from Pigeon Point Lighthouse. They marveled at the height of redwood trees in Big Basin State Park, viewed El Capitan from the perspective of an ascending climber, and then plunged into the sea to examine sharks up close.
Students spun around in circles to see the world round them, crouching down to see the ground and often reaching in front of where their viewers showed turtles or intriguing plants.
Fourth- and fifth-graders visited state and national parks and monuments, while third-graders explored different biomes. Younger students traveled to Antarctica, visited the California Academy of Sciences, and went on an ocean safari.
“These experiences are ones I would never be able to offer to a class as a whole, as we simply wouldn’t have the time and resources to take a road trip to visit all the parks across California,” Zare said. “But virtually, the possibilities are endless!”
Google Expeditions is welcoming schools to register for a free visit by the Expeditions team. For more information about Google Expeditions, visit https://www.google.com/edu/expeditions/.
Contributor: Darienne Stewart