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Students Awed by Virtual Visit to Roof of the World

Virtual Reality Enhances Lesson on Mount Everest

As Jill Smith readied for a lesson on Mount Everest, those in her classroom giggled with anticipation: The mountain wasn’t coming to them; they were going to the mountain.

“If you are one of those people who tends to get motion sick, remember who is holding the goggles to your face: you,” Smith cautioned students. “If you start to feel queasy, put it down.”

Smith tapped at a tablet she held in one hand, bringing the famous and formidable Nepalese mountain’s base camp into view for her students. A chorus of “oooooohs” erupted as students found themselves transported to the site of the tallest mountain above sea level in the world.As their begoggled heads bobbed from side to side and up and down, Smith told them about the area’s history, geography, topography, culture and notoriety among climbing enthusiasts.

Student Natalia Rodriguez rests her eyes after a few minutes at Mount Everest base camp

Students have already read about the mountain, so when they see things familiar to them they offer what they know.

One remembers something called the Khumbu icefall: “There are a bunch of blocks of ice, and during the day when it gets warm they shift and stuff, so (climbers) leave at midnight.”

Points out another: “There’s a lot of tents, and prayer flags.” Yes, Smith tells them, the Buddhist flags — the word for which translates to “wind horses” in Tibetan — are meant to promote peace, compassion and wisdom, and to bless climbers and their guides.

The 3-D scenic postcard viewers many adults played with in the 1960s and ‘70s are all grown up

Foundation Grant Funds Viewers

Smith and teacher Sarah Youngs received a $9,665 grant from the East Grand Rapids Schools Foundation to pay for the 32 View-Master virtual reality viewers, 32 iPods, a cart to house it all and an iPad for teachers to lead the group.

With the seventh-grade social studies curriculum being geography, it lends itself to being used for the entire class, Youngs said, which is about 240 students. It could potentially be used by all students in the middle school.

Youngs said all teachers are being encouraged to try the equipment in their classes. There are more experiences available for social studies and science, and some that can relate to foreign language and art as well. There are even career discovery experiences that could be used by school counselors, she said.

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East Grand Rapids Schools Foundation

View-Master Deluxe Demonstration

Seven Things You Should Know About Mount Everest

Studying Mount Everest is a whole lot cooler when you can visit — virtually

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.

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