Virtual Reality Lab at Manch Elementary
Below is the rationale from our principal, Mr. Danowski, for the vision behind the Virtual Reality Lab.
Over the past 15 years of working in education, I continue to hear from teachers that students in low income, Title I schools do not get the same life experiences that other students get around the district (field trips, vacations, etc). Most teachers feel that the lack of these experiences is one of the reasons why students do not acquire vocabulary. One of the best vocabulary strategies that teachers can use is Realia. Realia is a term for real things, concrete objects, that are used in the classroom to build background knowledge and vocabulary. It provides the students with experiences to build and an opportunity to use all the senses in learning. It allows students to see, feel, hear, smell, and sometimes even taste the object being explored.
The "30 million-word" gap is arguably the most famous part of a landmark study, Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young Children, by the late University of Kansas child psychologists Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley. In this study, the authors make the case that students in low income, poverty areas do not receive the same experiences as students in more affluent areas, inturn these students do not have the ability to gain and use the same amount of vocabulary as other students in higher income areas.
In the Spirit of Victory
From the Grant: “This legislation provides an exciting opportunity for districts and schools to fully address the barriers to improved school performance in order to increase student achievement. Because of additional challenges for low-income students, Senate Bill 432, the Victory Schools program, is designed to meet student needs at the lowest performing schools within the highest poverty zip codes throughout Nevada. The goals of the program is to focus on students reading at grade level, and being prepared for rigorous curricula.”
One of Manch’s ideas to meet the needs of our unique school community is a Virtual Reality Lab. One where a teacher can guide students through different realities to gain a better understanding of vocabulary and the world outside of their own. How will this look at Manch ES? Manch ES has Wonders as its’ reading curriculum, purchased through the Victory Grant. Next year, a teacher can work with the VR Coach to create a “Preview” of units/stories to come weeks in advance.
For example: students in third grade will read a Chinese Fable involving a Panda. The VR Coach can create and research “expeditions” on China, including important landmarks such as the Great Wall of China and Pandas. The VR Coach can take student to the Great Wall of China along with taking them to see Pandas thriving in their own habitat while systematically using vocabulary from the story.
The VR Lab will be a catalyst to engage our community. The staff plans to start weekly or bi-weekly “vacations.” Parents will be able to sign up in the front office (probably by grade-level) for these different vacations. Parents will be required to come to school 15-30 minutes before their “vacation” and meet with the many services that Manch offers to parent; Community in Schools, Boys Town, FACES, School Social Worker, Counselor, Health MED (PBIS), SafeKey, etc. Staff will also use this time to survey the community and share important messaging from the school or CCSD. We are calling this the “Timeshare Model”.
This VR Lab can be something that the community can be proud of as there is nothing like this anywhere in the world. This has become more than just a room with VR equipment. It will be the centerpiece of the school. A school that is attempting to change decades of poverty and low expectations. This room will show the community that Manch is a special place to take their students and will offer an experience that inspires everyone who enters it. This lab has the full support of our SOT.
The principal has lobbied to the state that this idea will not only assist low income students with vocabulary acquisition, but also inspire students to want more. Studies show that most students that live in poverty do not leave a two mile radius around their home. This experience will help students see outside that lens and will inspire students. The VR Lab was approved directly by, then Deputy State Superintendent with the Nevada Department of Education, Brett Barley. At the time, there was even talk that this VR Lab could be the first of many labs that could be placed in different low income schools to give other students a similar experience and opportunity for learning