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Friends’ New Immersive Virtual Reality Education Program

by Friends of the San Juans on March 12, 2021 No comments

“I had never seen salmon in their natural habitat so vividly, so it surprised me how much personality they had. The way the fish moved was just so majestic.”

We have successfully launched our exciting new youth program! Over the past month, Friends staff have been online and in person with Lopez High School’s Marine Science class and Spring Street International School’s Environmental Systems class, taking students underwater along our shorelines and up the Skagit River with spawning salmon — using virtual reality!

The goal of the program is to provide students with a next-to-real life virtual experience of swimming inside critical nearshore habitats. Along the way, they learn about marine food webs and about career possibilities in marine conservation. With this program, Friends gives students the tools and resources to help them be civically engaged and stewards of our precious marine environments.

One high school student from Spring Street said, “I found the whole experience very cool. I felt like I was swimming underwater with the fish. This is an experience I had never experienced in real life, but now I feel that I have.”

Click here to see Shorelines and Salmon: Friends of the San Juans’ Immersive Education 360VR!

A screenshot of salmon from the video.

For the ultimate immersive experience, we recommend using virtual reality headsets to view the video, like the Oculus Quest units that students use in the classroom. The next best option is an inexpensive cardboard viewer you can use at home, like Google cardboard headsets that use your smart phone to transform the 360˚ YouTube video into a virtual reality video. If you don’t have access to a headset, though, just open up the link on your smart phone and use the YouTube app to view it from there. Don’t forget to move your phone around while you watch!

A student using the Oculus Quest headset in the classroom for the full, immersive VR experience.

This flexible program offers a 3-5 day curriculum package that can include:

  • A field trip to a nearby beach for forage fish sampling (with Covid safety protocols in place);
  • Presentations on our marine food web and its connection to healthy shorelines;
  • A primer on virtual reality technology and a VR classroom experience with our virtual reality film by Friends Marine Science Coordinator Jess Newley; and
  • An action day where students are given tools for civic engagement and local stewardship projects.

We look forward to expanding this program to the broader Salish Sea region next year.

If you are a teacher or know of a student group or club that may be interested in the Immersive VR Education Program, please email Jess at [email protected].

Friends of the San Juans thanks the Keta Legacy Foundation and the Wheeler Foundation for their support of this program and all those who helped us launch it through the Give Big event last Spring!

Friends of the San JuansFriends’ New Immersive Virtual Reality Education Program