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The City Journals

Augmented reality helps teach students about famous historical figures

Mar 16, 2020 01:04PM ● By Julie Slama

Bella Vista third grader Sarah Van Wagoner shared what she learned about Susan B. Anthony on her poster, in a booklet and through her augmented reality video. (Julie Slama/City Journal)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Bella Vista Elementary’s twist on the traditional wax museum is a hit with students and parents alike.

A common third- or fourth-grade assignment across the Salt Lake Valley is to participate in a wax museum. Traditionally this means students learn about someone famous who has made an impact on society, then they write reports, create posters and dress up as the characters, ready to recite their story.

But Bella Vista third-grade teachers have added a spark to this established approach.

“We wanted to take them there, where this person who was famous met challenges and overcame them so they could understand more about that moment in history,” third-grade teacher Rebecca Allen said. “We added a piece of technology where students create a video in front of a green screen and using HP Reveal, they are able to trigger their image into augmented reality. It’s been cool to see the students at a factory, a battlefield, standing up somewhere, fighting for what was important.”

These videos are seen by holding an iPad up to the students’ images on their display boards. Parents who came to see the wax museum could watch the augmented reality that included sounds, graphics and pictures to enhance the experience, Allen said.

Students also shared in-person about their famous person’s life. They researched, created a timeline and a booklet about the person. On the poster boards, students included their person’s portrait they created during their art time.

“They could choose who they wanted, but it had to be someone in the ‘Who Was’ books from our classroom library as all the work was done at school,” Allen said about the month-long project. “It’s been so much fun to integrate all the different areas — history, research, writing, communication, art, technology — as they learned about that person’s culture and impact.”

Third-grader Zinnia Bell said she liked not only making the movie, but also sharing what she had learned about Jane Goodall through the portrait and booklet.

“She picked Jane Goodall because she loved animals,” her mother, Ciara, said. “But by doing this, she became motivated to learn more about her. She would tell me things she learned about her; she became more passionate.”

Zinnia’s classmate Sarah Van Wagoner knew Susan B. Anthony was on a dollar coin, but Sarah learned more than the facts about Susan B. Anthony’s life through this experience.

“I learned she made the world a better place,” she said. “She stood for women’s rights, against slavery, for colored people’s rights. I learned I need to stand up for myself and not let things bring me down, to do whatever I can to fix things that aren’t right.”

In her video, Sarah, dressed in a black dress with a lace collar made from a doily and a silhouette on the broach, stood in front of a projected image of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s home.

“It was the home of her close friend, and just down from there, Susan B. Anthony spoke at the first women’s convention,” she said. “She believed everybody has equal rights and so do I. She made an amazing impact on the world.”

Sarah’s mother, Jessica, said her daughter has learned more than research and preparation for the wax museum.

“The students’ skills sets, in these four weeks doing one project, has taught them so many skills from start to finish, from learning about their person to performing on video; it has been amazing,” she said, acknowledging the changes in the program since when she was Sacagawea during her wax museum school days. “It’s been a big confidence-booster. They have a sense of accomplishment, dedication and commitment.”

Allen said students also have become empowered and want to learn more.

“They’ve learned about each others’ famous person, listened to their classmates, watched their videos,” she said. “Now, they’re wanting to read about their people and learn more about the impacts they made.”