ForestVR™ expands to offer teachers and students a deeper look into Australia’s forests
ForestLearning’s hugely successful ForestVR™ technology is set to expand with the development of ten new engaging, immersive and educational virtual reality (VR) experiences. Set to be released in June, the experiences will continue to allow teachers to take students of all ages into the heart of Australia’s forests, without leaving the classroom.
These new video resources are embedded across three different themes including adaptations of Australian trees to suit their environments; careers in the forest and wood products industry, and the concept of putting trees to work on agricultural farms for multiple benefits, also known as Agroforestry.
By offering students 360-degree experiences and virtual tours, they will be transported directly into Australia’s forest and wood products industry, and discover how forests are managed sustainably, and why wood is the ultimate renewable resource.
Launched in 2019, the original ForestVR™ toolkit was designed through extensive consultation with teachers and the forestry industry, with the goal of educating students on the renewable cycle of productive forests to create wood products like timber and paper in a new way.
With the onset of restrictions on excursions in Australian schools due to COVID-19 soon after its launch, ForestVR™ provided a timely solution to geographical access problems, while also overcoming the safety issues associated with visits to physical forests and timber processing facilities.
This latest suite of VR experiences represents a significant expansion to ForestVR™, and is testament to the popularity of ForestVR™ amongst Australian teachers.
“Teachers across Australia have told us how they have found ForestVR™ to be a technology-rich and highly effective way of engaging school students, by allowing them to visit places they wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to access during a school field trip,” explained Beth Welden, ForestLearning Program Manager.
“With this latest suit of experiences, we hope to provide even more meaningful educational opportunities, aligned to the Australian Curriculum, that educate students on a range of new topics and themes such as adaptations, biomes, sustainability, renewable resources, solutions for climate change, and careers.”
The new ForestVR™ experiences will include the Forest Science Explorers series, developed for primary school students. It invites students to visit four of Australia's unique forest types – the wet eucalypt forests of Tasmania, cypress pine forests of western Queensland and New South Wales, dry eucalypt forests of eastern Australia, and Jarrah forests of Western Australia.
Within each forest 360-degree environment, students are invited by foresters to help uncover clues about the special adaptations of trees to survive their unique environments, including factors such as climate and bushfire frequency.
Students can also discover how forest science is used every day to sustainably manage and regenerate these environments for today and all generations to come for a range of outcomes. Students will be introduced to managers of these forests to learn about protective processes related to the environment, biodiversity, recreation, Indigenous Australian cultural practices and heritage. In addition, forest managers will share details on how these multi-use forests help provide sustainably managed wood products.
Meanwhile, the Careers in Forests and Wood resources will give students a first-hand insight into what three different careers in forestry and wood processing involve.
Experience a day-in-the-life of Environmental Forester and Ecologist Jack Carter of Australian Bluegum Plantations as he carries out wildlife surveys, native forest regeneration, the building and installing of nesting hollows. This work is conducted with a view to ensuring Australia’s hardwood plantation forests, and all of the timber products sourced from them, remain amongst the most sustainable in the world.
Get to know Forester Courtney Pink of SFM Asset Management, who works to grow and produce timber, while sustainably managing and protecting the environment, including trees, plants and animals, waterways and Indigenous Australian cultural sites.
Students will also meet Wood Processing Cadet Kayla Martin of AKD Softwoods, as she undertakes a wide range of exciting work opportunities throughout her cadetship that exposes her to nearly every aspect of the business. Learn how she is using these experiences to refine her practical skills and knowledge and develop her future long-term career in wood processing.
And finally, the Agroforestry: Trees at work on the farm 360-degree experiences and virtual tours will allow high school students to pay an immersive visit to three different farms around Australia that are successfully incorporating trees into their farming landscapes to achieve a range of economic, social and environmental benefits.
This theme will be of particular interest to teachers looking to showcase achievable and sustainable practices that could help Australia become carbon neutral by 2050.
“I have used the existing ForestVR™ experiences in the classroom to great success, with students highly engaged around an environment they might not otherwise get to experience,” said Grant Dooner, Technology Educator at Champagnat Catholic College in Pagewood.
“A lot of material available to Australian teachers online is American and doesn’t always fit the Australian Curriculum or context. The Australian-produced ForestLearning materials, including ForestVR™, help overcome this issue.
“It’s fantastic to see these resources and experiences continue to expand, and I look forward to using them in the coming year.”
ForestLearning acknowledges the funds provided by levy payers and the Australian Government that supported the development of these experiences.
ForestVR™ experiences and accompanying teaching resources are free to downlaod at the ForestLearning website - forestlearning.edu.au - and are housed on the ForestVR app for IOS and Apple devices. All 360-degree experiences and tours can be viewed using a VR headset or classroom iPads, laptops and smart boards.
ForestVR™ teaching resources that accompany these tools and support teachers to use them have been developed by the Geography Teachers Association Victoria and Design and Technologies Teachers Association Victoria. Each resource provides teachers with a range of classroom and at-home tools such as teacher guides, interactive or printable PDF student workbooks, video tutorials and PowerPoint slides, all aligned to the Australian Curriculum.
These resources have been designed to support teachers to embed VR and other digital technologies relevant to their subject areas, including spatial mapping exercises for Geography teachers, and design thinking activities for Design and Technologies.