The world at your feet: Preparing students for real life with VR

I am a teacher in the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) and as an active patrolling member of Tamarama Surf Lifesaving Club, I am passionate about beach and water safety.

Earlier this month, 160 students from Navitas English Bankstown visited Tamarama Beach for a migrant beach safety day. For my high level 2 and 3 AMEP class, this day was a culmination of weekly lessons on rip currents, marine life and surf lifesavers – each lesson contained a component in virtual reality (VR).

In these lessons, VR allowed students to experience a rescue from a rip current, learn about sharks in Australia and also experience what a day on patrol is like for surf lifesavers. The resources for the VR content came from Google Expeditions, and I also created VR video firsthand from Tamarama Beach using an inexpensive 360 camera and the image sharing platform ThingLink.

At Tamarama Beach in real life, students learnt about the meaning of different warning signs, how to call for help when in the water, and they watched a demonstration where bright coloured dye was put in the water to highlight the rip. It was wonderful to hear from my students that visiting the actual Tamarama Beach felt familiar to them because they had already been there in VR.

Watch the video below for a recap of the day:

By first helping students become familiar with content before an excursion through virtual reality, they will be more motivated, engaged and have an enhanced ability to recall information. By introducing students to the new environment of an upcoming excursion through VR, students are also able to feel more comfortable, allowing them to gain a sense of well-being, community and belonging.

Tamarama has been running these successful days for over a year now, with the aim to educate new arrivals to Australia about safety at the beach in an effort to prevent drownings. You can learn more about the migrant beach safety days here.

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