Schools to learn secrets of Australian forests through new immersive ForestVR experiences
Following the success of the ForestLearning initiative’s inaugural suite of free ForestVR experiences last year, new virtual tours and video experiences are currently being filmed.
The immersive experiences will shed light on the science behind the sustainable management of Australia’s different forest regions, the benefits of growing more trees on farms, and some of the exciting career opportunities in the forest and wood products sector.
Since its initial release, the ForestVR technology has received widespread praise from teachers. It allows them to take students on virtual excursions to difficult-to-access locations, while exploring forest and timber processing and the sustainable nature of the sector.
The free VR experiences, produced by ForestLearning in partnership with Australia’s peak teacher association groups and members of the forest and wood products industry, can be accessed using digital and cardboard VR headsets, iPads, laptops, or smart boards for whole-of-class activities.
The new ForestVR experiences and virtual tours are already being filmed at various locations around the country, to create immersive learning experiences for use in primary and high school classrooms across Australia.
A total of five new VR experiences will be produced using the footage captured, ready for the 2022 school year. These include:
- the primary school virtual experience, ‘Forest science explorers’
- the high school focused ‘Agroforestry — trees at work on the farm’
- three two-minute career snapshots (forester, environmental forester/ecologist, and wood processor) that highlight the diversity of work tasks and career pathways possible within the forestry field.
The primary school experience, ‘Forest science explorers’, will take students on a virtual trip around Australia to compare and contrast sustainably managed productive forest areas in Tasmania, Western Australia, Western Queensland, and the dry eucalypt forests of the east coast. Students will compare the features of each forest type and learn about the operational adaptations required for successful forest management in each local environment.
The science behind these forests will be explained, along with how this knowledge is being used to ensure forest sustainability and health, now and into the future.
The high school experience, ‘Agroforestry — trees at work on the farm’, will capture the broad range of applications and benefits of trees on farms, using footage taken at Deans Marsh in southern Victoria. This vision will be combined with imagery from other agroforestry sites around the country to give students varied examples of how trees can improve farming landscapes for profitability, the environment and to successfully address land degradation issues like evaporation, salinity, and erosion.
Two of the three career snapshots filmed in the Green Triangle region have just been completed, with the support of the Green Triangle Forest Industries Hub. The footage allows students to virtually walk through the forestry estate alongside two foresters — Courtney Pink of Sustainable Forest Management, and Jack Carter from Australia Bluegum Plantations — to learn more about their working lives.
ForestLearning Program Manager, Beth Welden said it was exciting to see the suite of popular and innovative resources expand in this way.
"Ever since the release of our original ForestVR experiences last year, teachers have told us how valuable these meaningful, immersive activities have been for truly engaging students around contexts of sustainable forestry and wood products.
"We're delighted to be able to expand the offering, particularly at a time when such uncertainties exist around travel, continued school lockdowns, and the environments in which students will continue to learn.
"Whether in the classroom or at home, these experiences will continue to provide teachers and home learning parents with fun and informative learning activities, transporting students deep into the heart of our Australian productive forests, without even having to step outside the front door," Welden said.
An initiative of Forest and Wood Products Australia, ForestLearning continues to use virtual reality (VR) as a tool to help school students of all ages experience the wonder and science of Australia’s forests, without leaving the classroom.
With funding from the Australian government’s National Forest Industries Plan, in partnership with FWPA and industry organisations, has developed these new experiences to be accessible for all schools and the public via the ForestVR app, ForestLearning.edu.au, primezone.edu.au and peak education careers websites such as myfuture.edu.au.
To learn more about ForestLearning’s ForestVR toolkit for schools, visit www.forestlearning.edu.au