An article in "THE Journal" titled "Making Virtual Reality a Reality in Today's Classrooms" prominently features the Fitchburg Public Schools and our ideas and methods for incorporating immersive education into our curriculum!

"Our district demographics are challenging," (FPS Assistant Superintendent Paula) Giaquinto explained. "We are an urban district in north central Massachusetts. Even though we are less than an hour from the ocean, many students have never been to the beach." These virtual field trips have brought Fitchburg students to the desert, the rainforest and the tundra to experience the Northern Lights.

Ms. Giaquinto recounts a story about a class who was viewing the YouTube movie Elephants on the Brink after reading parts of the novel A Long Walk to Water. "One child was so engrossed in the video experience that, when someone went by and brushed their shoulder, the child exclaimed 'the elephant touched me!' — these experiences are absolutely immersive."

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This is not your ordinary sandbox.

The students at South Street Elementary School have been in awe of the Augmented Reality Sandbox, which was officially introduced by Fitchburg Public Schools in November.

The sandbox -- a combination of a traditional sandbox, paired with a high-end gaming computer, digital projector and Xbox 360 Kinect camera -- work together to create an experience that allows students to manipulate and shape the sand and project a topographical overlay based on what they create.

The augmented reality (AR) sandbox allows users to create topography models by shaping real sand, which is then augmented in real time by an elevation color map, topographic contour lines, and simulated water. The system teaches geographic, geologic, and hydrologic concepts such as how to read a topography map, the meaning of contour lines, watersheds, catchment areas, levees, etc.

Read more here.

POP-UP LIBRARIES cure boredom!

Next time families are stuck at the laundromat or waiting to be seated for dinner, they’ll likely have a box of books to read, thanks to School Committee member Sally Cragin and Assistant Superintendent Paula Giaquinto.

The two introduced the new POP-UP Library boxes at School Committee. The plastic bins will be placed in business around town – “mostly places the adults are busy with an adult task and the kids need something to do,” Giaquinto said. The mindset is that kids should have access to books wherever they are, especially when they have extra time on their hands.

Books will be marked with stickers and families will be asked to return them to the box before they leave. Volunteer “librarians” will oversee the maintenance and swapping of titles, with support from the district, which will supply the books. Restocking will occur every eight weeks.

Read more here.