BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ A virtual/augmented reality program grant that was awarded by the Berkeley Heights Education Foundation (Ed. Foundation) to James Finley, District Supervisor of Science and Art in the Berkeley Heights schools, has been named the 2019 Marsha Miller Grant for Outstanding Innovation.  Each year, the Ed. Foundation distinguishes one highly innovative grant that provides a unique educational experience for students in Berkeley Heights in honor of Ed. Foundation founder Marsha Miller.  “We are thrilled to provide this innovative technology for cutting-edge use to enhance learning in a wide range of disciplines.” said Elizabeth Kane, Ed. Foundation President.

Virtual reality headset kits were purchased in conjunction with the Business Technology Grant Program to initiate virtual/augmented reality learning opportunities for students at both Columbia Middle School (CMS) and Governor Livingston High School (GLHS). “These headsets allow students to immerse themselves in their learning by visiting historic places, reliving events or stories, exploring scientific phenomena in three-dimensions, and creating VR/AR works to understand concepts across all curricula.” said Mr. Finley. 

Mr. Finley initiated the virtual reality program at CMS with the assistance of Kevin Rafferty of the district Technology department.  Jeremy Marx piloted the virtual reality equipment in his 8th grade Social Studies classes to aid student study of propaganda, and students in Ashlee Combe’s CMS 8th grade French class used the technology to take a virtual “tour” of Québec.   Mr. Finley plans to further expand the virtual/augmented reality program into other classes at CMS and GLHS in the coming months.

During the 2018/2019 school year, the Ed. Foundation awarded approximately $30k in grants, programs and technologies across the school district.  The Ed. Foundation is a volunteer-run nonprofit organization that raises funds to enhance educational excellence in the Berkeley Heights Public Schools by sponsoring programs that support innovative instruction, strengthen school-community ties, enrich students’ appreciation of the arts and humanities, and augment technology resources throughout the district. To learn more about the Ed. Foundation, please visit the website at https://bhedfoundation.org/