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.
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.
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.