In the Spotlight: Christina Feldhus, of LEES, VR Field Trip

Innovation flourishes at Thompson School District elementary schools.  Teachers at Laurene Edmonson Elementary School, a STEM school with 1:1 iPads and Nearpod subscription , are truly redefining learning experiences for students.

Before Nearpod, 4th grade teacher Christina Feldhus would have had to submit special requests to take her students to see the Cliff Dwellings at Colorado’s Mesa Verde National Park.  In fact, the preventative distance from Loveland would have made this trip nearly impossible.   But as part of their Colorado history unit, Ms. Feldhus wanted to bring the Cliff Dwellings to life for her students.   She wanted to do more than give a lecture and show slides.  So on a snowy Monday in November, her 4th graders were warm in their classrooms while exploring the inner rooms of the Cliff Dwellings.  I had the privilege of joining them.

She began the lesson by asking students to consider what questions they had about the Cliff Dwellings.  After sharing, they were directed to log onto Nearpod and access the VR (virtual reality) video tour for Mesa Verde.  These fourth graders got right to work.  Armed with their personal questions and a graphic organizer for recording, each child toured the park looking for different things.

One student was looking at construction.  “How do you think those stones are being held together?” he asked me.  I encouraged him to explore further and get a close-up view.  After more investigation, he said, “That looks like mud and water mixed to make a special kind of cement!”  He then went right to work recording his findings.

Another student was looking at the weather.  This VR was recorded on a sunny day and he noted: “The Cliff Dwellings have a lot of shelter too.  It’s not like they were living outside.  I bet when it rained everything was OK because the houses are built into the side of the cliff so all the water ran down and didn’t flood their homes!”  He too went right to work recording his thinking.

Ms. Feldhus found a moment to chat and shared with me that the teachers in her school “are loving using Nearpod on their iPads.”  The lessons are easy to create, and many more exist in a communal bank of lessons created by other teachers.  Students are 100% engaged.  With the availability of VR, students were in control of their learning for this “field trip”.   Not once did the teacher have to ask everyone to “stay together”.  They were freely exploring their own questions, at their own pace.   It’s this kind of innovation that transforms learning for students from traditional sit-and-get to a personalized journey of exploration.

By Jeannie Sponheim

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