virtual reality education student

School District 49 students will soon have the opportunity to use a virtual reality system thanks to a DoDEA grant.

The district announced in a Monday news release that it was chosen for the third year in a row to receive the DoDEA Military-Connected Student Academic and Support Programs grant.

It is among 36 other districts in the country to receive the funds in 2018. The $1 million grant brings the total amount of grant money D49 has received from DoDEA in the last three years to $3.5 million, according to the release.

“This year’s grant award of $1 million will allow School District 49 the opportunity to purchase, and implement zSpace technology across the district,” the release said. “These immersive virtual learning labs will undoubtedly increase both exposure and interest for our students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.”

The 2018 grant, called Expeditions, will add to the efforts of the district’s 2017 grant, Illuminating Goals and Nurturing Interests Towards Engagement.

“The funding supports programs for all students, especially our military-connected students, focused on S.T.E.A.M. based fields,” the release said. “The Expeditions grant will build three static labs and one zSpace lab on wheels for which the district will re-purpose retired bus 37 to create the mobile learning space. Together these classrooms will provide endless learning opportunities for our students.”

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The zSpace mobile unit was in D49 classrooms earlier this year when it caught the attention of teachers, administrators and students, the release said.

The technology consists of stations with a large screen connected to computers that teachers and students can use to understand or explain difficult classroom material.

“I found it mind boggling,” a student said in the release. “You can actually see what you are learning.”

DoDEA Education Partnership Grants have provided more than $450 million in resources since 2009 to about 2,900 public schools nationwide.

The purpose of the grants is “to support research-based strategies that enhance student achievement and increase college and career readiness,” the release said.

D49 virtual learning classrooms will go online by the start of the 2019-20 school year.