SPARTA, NJ – Students at the Sparta Middle School traveled to Versailles, the Acropolis and the moon last week.

French teacher Douglass Crouse saw that Google was accepting applications to have Google Expeditions come to the school to let students try the app. “So we applied and we were chosen,” Principal Michael Gregory.

Throughout the day students in three teachers’ classrooms got to try out the Google app.  Students were each given a cardboard version of a View Master to peer through.  This was not their parent’s View Master, however.  Inside of the cardboard goggles was a phone. 

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Using the Google Cardboard app, teachers from all grade levels and subjects could choose from 100 possible Expedition topics.  They chose topics that supported what they were teaching in their classrooms. 

Lisa Kaplan’s science class were looking at the moon.  Crouse’s class toured the Palace of Versailles.  Thought they also went to the moon because “why wouldn’t you go to the moon,” said Crouse.  Margaret Trum’s Ancient Civilization class was walking around in the Coliseum after having visited the Parthenon and Acropolis.

The teacher controls the lesson from an iPad.  Kaplan had the moon expedition on the iPad.  Icons displayed on her screen, telling her where her students were looking as they saw Astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s moon walk.  In addition, Kaplan had annotations on her screen describing and discussing the sights. 

Assistant Principal Tracy Rivera said, “Google expeditions gave students an opportunity to experience virtual field trips that not only relate to curriculum but make learning exciting, engaging and sent them on a journey they won’t forget.”     

Collectively the students said, “Wow” “Oh my gosh” “Cool” “Did you see that?” as the Expeditions began.

One French students said, “It’s like you’re there but you’re not there.”

Another of Crouse’s students said, “I like that you can see things that are so far away,” as he walked through the halls of Versailles.

The students were engaged in the lesson, asking questions and helping each other, sharing what they knew, pointing out items as they came into view. 

“The kids are feeding off the excitement of the teachers,” said Rivera. “This creates a whole new learning experience.”

The Google representative came to Sparta Middle School with boxes of Google Cardboard for the students and teachers to try.  They sought feedback from the students as to how they would improve the Expedition experience.  Some of the suggestions the students made included adding “a headband so you don’t have to hold it up to your face.”  Another suggestion was to add animation to the app.

Sparta school district has begun using Google Apps for Education as a platform for going paperless in the classroom, to manage assignments as well as school and student communications.  This year each school has at least one teacher piloting Google Classroom.

The Expeditions is an app that will be available to download to a phone.  The phone is put into the back of the Google Cardboard goggles.  Many of the Expeditions are geographical, science or social studies based.  There are a large number of ‘day in the life’ options as well.   The students can see what it is like to be an engineer, a pediatrician, a veterinarian, a social worker and many others. 

When the students in Kaplan’s class were getting ready for the period to end one child said, “Can we do this every day?”