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Virtual Reality Bringing Tangible Results in KSD

Virtual Reality Bringing Tangible Results in KSD
A student raises his hand during a virtual reality lesson

The students explored outer space without leaving their desks.

They zoomed past Earth and Mars, Saturn, Venus and more – the planets appearing before their eyes in brilliant color and 3D.

If they reached out their hands, it felt like they could make contact.

"It was pretty fun," said Eben, an eighth-grader at Mid-Columbia Partnership. "It felt like I was actually moving around."

That's the idea.

Eben and the other students in Julie Rheinschmidt's earth sciences class wore virtual reality headsets to get an immersive view of the solar system.

Kennewick School District recently secured four classroom sets of virtual reality equipment, with a handful of teachers already trained in employing them to bring lessons to life. Another 45 teachers across the district are scheduled for training at the end of January. They'll teach lessons in everything from science to math, world language, geography, literacy, history and social studies using the equipment.

The new virtual reality offerings align with the district's strategic goal of creating an environment where all students are engaged learners.

A federal grant totaling $75,000 is covering the cost of the headsets, software and training.

"For students, virtual reality inspires that excitement and passion for learning. It encourages them to want to learn more," said Tina Brewer, the district's director of professional development and assessment and one of the authors of the grant. 

The virtual reality lessons also help students make career connections, showing them how concepts and subject areas relate to the real world – and their futures.

At Mid-Columbia Partnership, Rheinschmidt has been using virtual reality to great success.

Along with exploring the solar system, her students have attended astronaut training in a pool and discovered how sound waves travel at different speeds.

"I have found that the VR headsets have made my students more excited and engaged in the classroom. (They) open up so many new opportunities for students to explore," she said. "I believe these VR simulations will help students retain more information through these memorable, impactful experiences."

MCP student holds up virtual reality headset


An MCP student wears a virtual reality headset


An MCP student smiles during a virtual reality lesson


A class at MCP explores the solar system using virtual reality


A student explores the solar system using virtual reality


MCP teacher Julie Rheinschmidt


Close-up of a student at MCP wearing a virtual reality headset


Close-up of a virtual reality headset