3 Ways to use Virtual Reality in Science
Science is one of my favorite subjects to teach because it directly relates to students’ lives. Unfortunately, most science instruction takes place indoors, away from things they are learning about. I struggled with making science lessons more tangible for students. But with virtual reality, I’ve found 3 interesting ways to bring the real world back into my science lessons!
1. Strengthen Science Vocabulary
Vocabulary is such a huge part of science learning, but it’s also one of the biggest weaknesses for my students. They can often read the words fine, but struggle to retain. This is largely because they haven’t made any meaningful connections to their definitions. Virtual reality places students right in the middle of that learning and shows them the concepts they read about. For example, the lesson Energy and Motion: Catch a Wave introduces key vocabulary like transverse waves and amplitude and then transports students to a beach where they use that vocab to describe the waves they see. That immediate, real-world connection makes all the difference in successfully learning that concept.🌍 Real-world contexts make all the difference in understanding #science! Get #VR in your classrooms! 💻Click To Tweet
2. Make Data Meaningful
I recently went on a science teacher retreat where we hiked trails and waded through rivers to collect data for an experiment. All of our research was done on the field, so when we returned to the classroom to crunch numbers, we could draw upon our experiences to make sense of the data.
Unfortunately, time is short and budgets are slim, so as much as we’d like to bring our students into the field for every exploration, it’s a lofty goal. VR can increase accessibility to these kinds of experiences for your students, so they can feel like they’re on a field trip without ever leaving the classroom.
Let’s say your students are tracking weather and climate data for the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Costa Rica and record that it receives an average of 102 inches of rainfall per year. After studying that data, engage them in a virtual field trip there to see what kinds of vegetation and landscapes correspond with that amount of precipitation!
3. Contextualize Abstract Science Concepts
As students progress through school, science begins to expand beyond their personal experiences and existing schema. VR is great for creating those quick, engaging moments that students can draw upon in later discussions and labs. This lesson on the physics of movement is a great example of this in action. It starts off with key vocabulary like kinetic and potential energy, moves into a VR activity to explore these concepts in relation to baseball, and then applies this scenario to the critical content of the lesson. Although you can’t “see” energy, with VR, the once abstract concept of energy is made tangible and relatable for students. There are so many great lessons in the Nearpod library that use this same practice to make science meaningful to all learners.
I highly recommend you explore VR in your science classroom this fall!
Helpful Tips to Get Started with VR:
- Virtual reality works on any device without affecting the experience. Don’t let your lack of VR headsets keep you from exploring with your students!
- Make sure you set your procedures ahead of time. VR is exciting, but you don’t want students wandering around with devices or losing sight of the lesson’s focus.
- Looking for VR Science Lessons to begin with? Nearpod has partnered with Lifeliqe, BBC Video, Nasa eClips, PhET and more! These standards aligned lessons leverage a full lesson that infused virtual reality.
Nearpod also has virtual reality specific science lessons that you can download.
Kali is a tech-savvy elementary teacher whose passion for all things STEM fuels her innovation in the classroom and inspires other teachers to begin their own #edtech adventures.