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 Virtual Reality Headsets Enhance Engagement at SOAR Academy East Mesa

Students using virtual reality headsetsFor some students at SOAR Academy East Mesa, instruction now includes virtual reality headsets where they can not only learn about underwater ecosystems, but also experience them in 3D. 

The virtual reality headsets are providing students a variety of experiences, interactions, and 3D modeling that are not possible with traditional academic materials and are serving as a powerful tool to tie the math and science curriculum together with “real world” experiences.

One of student said “I loved the virtual reality experience because it felt like I was actually there. This was something new that we have not done and I can easily remember everything that we saw!” 

Teacher Phil Leonelli says he enjoys watching his students engage with and explore virtual reality. 

“Virtual reality is a new frontier for students and goes far beyond traditional book work for science instruction,” he said. “This technology allows us to be transported instantaneously around the world. It has come in leaps and bounds in the last few years and I am excited to see how it evolves to support our students’ learning.”

The virtual reality experiences were an adjunct to the environmental justice curriculum the students were learning. They were able to immerse themselves in underwater ecosystems to see the impact that humans have on their environment and the planet.

After the experience, students expressed interest in exploring places around the world, including museums and places of cultural significance. 

“I felt like it was nice, a fun experience, and we could probably go on field trips with them as well,” said another student. “Everyone in the classroom liked it! I can see how we could use it for learning about a lot of different topics.” 

Principal Nathan Head said he’s excited for his students to use the virtual reality headsets as a learning tool. 

“Virtual reality experiences layered with our curriculum is another way for our students to make stronger connections to the content,” he said. “I think it will be a great way for our students to better retain the information and make it more engaging. We look forward to continuing to pilot the VR headsets and how best to utilize the technology to make gains in learning.”