Virtual Indiana visits coming to Zionsville Community Schools

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Indiana History is coming to Zionsville classrooms through virtual reality. (submitted photo)

By Heather Lusk

It will be a busy summer for Kyle Beimfohr, who plans to visit 16 historic sites across Indiana, creating virtual reality tours for Zionsville Community Schools.

The VR tours, funded by a Zionsville Education Foundation grant, will help enhance the fourth-grade curriculum when students study Indiana history but visiting historically significant sights in person isn’t feasible.

Beimfohr, who leads technology integration for ZCS, had the idea after his grant request was approved a year ago for VR headsets for all of the schools to use. The Google Expeditions app utilized by the headsets provides plenty of global material but lacks content related to Indiana.

“That spawned the idea of the Imagine Grant of developing our own content so that our students could experience that,” he said. “It’s great to see one innovative grant spawning another one.”

Beimfohr is partnering with technology integrators from two other indiana school corporations to complete the work and share the material and workload.

The three met before May to capture photos, video and the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It required a full day, with one person capturing 360-degree photos, another capturing still images for more detailed material and a third person recording the educational information so that a lesson plan can be built. Beimfohr plans to create professional development for teachers for each of the locations. The biggest challenge has been scheduling times to collect material when crowds are lower.

Locations such as the Indiana Dunes, Corydon State Capitol Building, West Baden Springs Hotel and the Coffin State Historic Site are among those selected by Beimfohr after speaking with teachers to ensure the material is relevant to what is being taught.

Beimfohr’s goal is to have as much material available as possible by August when school starts.

In the first year they’ve been available, the 30 VR headsets have been used by each of the schools roughly three-fourths of the school year.

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