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Virtually transporting students from the classroom to the forest

A new suite of teaching resources has been launched to help geography teachers and Year 10 students learn more about Australia’s special forest landscapes, environmental change, and the use of geospatial technology to support sustainable forest management practices.

The ForestVR™ toolkit for schools enables students to examine the heart of Australia’s forests, through the wonders of immersive learning and innovative spatial virtual reality (VR) technologies.

The new toolkit for Year 10 teachers, Environmental change and forest management, has been developed by the Geography Teachers Association of Victoria (GTAV) in conjunction with ForestLearning to complement and enhance the existing ForestVR™ experiences.

Toolkit resources include teacher guides, interactive student PDF workbooks for print or online learning, lesson-by-lesson PowerPoint slide decks, KMZ/KML files for spatial mapping exercises, and accompanying online video tutorials.

“Although not intended as a replacement for actual on-the-ground fieldwork, ForestVR™ virtual excursions can offer unique and exciting immersive learning experiences for students, and can be a particularly powerful online learning tool,” said Beth Welden, ForestLearning Program Manager.

“We’re excited to be launching these new teaching resources, that will allow teachers to take the existing VR experiences to the next level and create even more impact for students.”

ForestVR™ uses 360-degree virtual photo tours and video experiences to educate students on the renewable cycle of forestry, and where our wood products come from, in an engaging, immersive way.

Since launching in 2019, ForestLearning’s ForestVR™ experiences have allowed students from F–12 to take VR tours of some of the major productive forest types found in Australia, as well as timber processing facilities and mills. Beyond this, by participating they learn about the uses of renewable forest products in buildings, flooring and everyday items like paper and cardboard.

The technology allows students to investigate each stage of wood’s renewable lifecycle, from ‘seed to shelter’. They will discover how forests achieve ‘sustainably managed’ certification and how forest managers work to protect the environment including trees, plants, animals, waterways and areas of cultural significance such as First Nations cultural sites.

ForestLearning’s ingenious use of VR technology has helped teachers overcome problems relating to the inaccessibility of physical forests and wood processing facilities. This has been particularly relevant during COVID-19 restrictions. It has also helped overcome some of the logistical, transport costs, and health and safety issues associated with visiting real-life forests and timber processing facilities.

“With sustainability as a cross-curricular priority, the ForestVR™ video experiences and photo tours will not only be beneficial for geography teachers but can also be used in many other subject areas to help bring Australia’s forests to life for students,” said Weldon.

Further teacher toolkits — for Year 8 geography, Year 9 design and technology and Grade 5 and 6 cross-curricula geography and design and technology units — are due to be released in time for semester two, 2022.

The VR experiences can be viewed using a headset, or an iPad or laptop — either on the ForestLearning website (forestlearning.edu.au) or the ForestVR App for iOS and Apple.

ForestLearning acknowledges the funds levy payers and the Australian Government provided to support the development of these experiences.


Posted Date: June 14, 2022

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