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Danz Elementary students, seniors go on virtual underwater excursion

By Heather Graves

GREEN BAY – The residents at Bornemann Senior Community are not likely to travel to the depths of the Great Barrier Reef of Australia or explore a shipwreck off the coast of Indonesia anytime soon. But thanks to their buddies from Danz Elementary School those bucket list trips were in their grasp, at least virtually.

Over the last few weeks, fourth- and fifth-grade students from Nicole Lemmens special education class at Danz, have visited the Bornemann Senior Community to interact with its residents.

Amy Sterckz, lead district technology integrator, said the students have visited the senior community three times.
The first visit was spent discussing places the residents have traveled to.

The second was to discuss places they’d like to visit. And the third visit was Friday, June 7, for the virtual field trip.

Along with their senior community buddies, students went on an underwater excursion with the help of the district’s virtual reality kits.

Staff said the visits to Bornemann has given the students the opportunity to form relationships with people from a different generation.

“Through their relationships with the residents, Danz students have practiced their writing, interviewing and listening skills while conversing about travel experiences,” Sterckz said.

During their virtual field trip, students and residents visited underwater locations in Australia, Heron Island, Indonesia and Ecuador.

Sterckz said the virtual reality devices are used for more than just events like this.

The district has six virtual reality kits and each kit has 10 devices.

As a district, a schedule is set up every year in order to rotate the kits throughout all of the schools.

Sterckz said teachers use the devices as an additional resource in their classrooms to further the students’ understanding of a given topic.

“I will have one of the kits at one of my buildings for about two weeks and all the teachers know about it,” Sterckz said. “They might use the kits to take the kids to the moon if they are studying outer space. Or they might take them to an ecosystem to study if they are studying different land forms. There are hundreds and hundreds of options for our kids to see that we can’t put them on a bus to go see.”

Libbie Larsen, library media specialist at Danz, said the second grade class used the devices to help them study natural disasters.

“The teacher was having them bring out their books and they were making connections with what was in their books and what they were seeing in the virtual reality googles,” Larsen said. “The kids were getting really excited.”

Sterckz said that high school students use the virtual reality devices to travel to different colleges or learn about different jobs they are interested in.

“A lot of colleges have virtual tours now instead of face-to-face tours,” Sterckz said.

Danz staff said having this opportunity to connect with the residents has left lasting impressions on the students, and they plan to continue its relationship with Bornemann for many years to come.

Teachers said the partnership has helped show the students that they are part of a larger community.

School Board President Brenda Warren even got in on the fun – getting a shot to explore the waters of Indonesia.

“This is such a great opportunity for the kids,” Warren said.

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