Buffalo, Iowa — Nestled on the banks of the Mississippi River, this small Iowa town may seem an unlikely place to launch a groundbreaking initiative to move science curriculum from the pages of textbooks to the world of virtual reality; but like the garage that birthed Hewlett-Packard, great ideas always start in unlikely places.
At 1:30 PM, January 17th, Buffalo School and VictoryVR combined to introduce the first virtual reality curriculum based on the national science standards to the 270 students enrolled there. After brief remarks by the school principal, Heidi Gilliland, the Superintendent, Art Tate and VictoryVR founder, Steve Grubbs, three students donned the Oculus Rift headsets and began exploring our solar system.
“Very fun” was how 5th grade student Shelbi described it. As cameras clicked, reporters watched and administrators chatted, the three students were lost in their own world traveling from Jupiter to Mars and then back to Neptune.
Art Tate, Superintendent of the School District explained his motivation, “We can’t let these students fall behind.”
Steve Grubbs, founder of VictoryVR, said it was growing up in the household of a teacher that motivated him to take his love for technology and turn it into national science curriculum.
Students also learned about the Water Cycle in a separate virtual reality science unit. Wendy Martin, runner up for national best teacher on ABC Television, walked the students through a water molecule science experiment, while Chad Pregracke, CNN International Hero of the Year, invited students on his garbage barge as he cleaned up the Ohio River just outside Louisville.
“Virtual reality gives students the ability to block out all that is around them and be immersed in what they are learning. Never has there been anything invented that can education students so deeply for a cost that is reachable for every school in America,” said Grubbs. “They talk about a 10x improvement in Silicon Valley. Well, if you learned science from a textbook, I think you would agree we have achieved that with this rollout.”