Education Grant to Bring Virtual Reality to Sugar Creek Elementary School

Education Community Engagement
 The Beyond the Books Education Foundation awarded its $10,000 Beyond the Box grant to Sugar Creek Elementary School Speech-Language Pathologist Karen Slothower. (Photo: Breanna Grow/AdaptBN)

The Beyond the Books Education Foundation awarded its $10,000 Beyond the Box grant to Sugar Creek Elementary School Speech-Language Pathologist Karen Slothower. (Photo: Breanna Grow/AdaptBN)

Over 500 students at Sugar Creek Elementary School will have access to virtual reality technology this fall thanks to a local education grant.

The Beyond the Books Educational Foundation awarded its $10,000 Beyond the Box grant to Sugar Creek Speech Language Pathologist Karen Showalter to purchase a customized Google Expeditions classroom kit for the school.

The kit, complete with 36 VR devices, will be available for all 544 students at Sugar Creek to use with their teacher and classmates in the school’s Media Center.

“Every teacher dreams of being Mrs. Frizzle from the book series The Magic School Bus,” Showalter wrote in her grant application, 'Modern Day Magic School Bus.' “With the purchase of Google Expeditions equipment, the teachers at Sugar Creek will be able to take their students on over 700 virtual 3D field trips without ever leaving the school.”

The virtual field trips, or “expeditions,” use sound and 3D visuals to help students explore distant sites -- from the moon to the Galapagos Islands -- they will likely never visit in person.

BTBEF Board President Paula Pratt said a foundation committee considered five grant applications from Unit 5 and District 87 educators for this year’s $10,000 grant.

“We could very clearly see that there would be a significant impact for students of all grade levels at the school and the broad impact it would have on children’s learning,” Pratt said.

She said the expeditions also help teachers expand their curriculum, introducing students to new interests and future areas of study.

“The key to this program is the relationship between background knowledge and a student’s ability to achieve and learn more. Without knowing some information about the subject, it’s difficult to learn more. ”

The Beyond the Books Education Foundation will award 34 grants totaling $65,717 to area schools during April and May, with 788 grants totaling $665,280 awarded since 1992.

The Shirk Family Foundation has funded the Beyond the Box grant since 2010.

Detailed grant and recipient information for the 2018-2019 school year will be available at www.beyondthebooksbn.org in late May.