Leona Libby students take a virtual field trip to Mars

Leona Libby students explore Mars with virtual reality headsets. Teachers are able to use this technology to further education.

WEST RICHLAND, Wash. – Students at Leona Libby Middle School were able to take a field trip through outer space. They visited another planet with virtual reality.

"I told the kids today that we're taking a field trip to Mars, but we're in the classroom," said Trevor Macduff, a science teacher at Leona Libby Middle School.

The smartphone-based VR viewer is cutting edge technology that brings virtual reality field trips to the classroom.

Educators said the goal is to expose students to places they wouldn't be able to see otherwise.

On Monday, Mr. Macduff's science class explored terrain on Mars.

"We have all these fabulous resources and virtual reality is a huge piece of this engagement,” Macduff said. “So the kids start off the project highly interested, highly engaged, and they feel like they've actually been on Mars.”

His students are working on building a model of a terrarium on Mars. To understand this, they’re learning about ecosystems, food chains, energy cycles and nutrient cycles on this planet.

Macduff tells his students that science begins with observation. He said the VR headsets put students in the driver’s seat.

“It was incredible, I think it’s amazing,” said Riley Heidegger, a 7th grader. “You actually felt like you were there, it was so realistic."

He said this tool allows them to explore Mars and collect data about the planet in an engaging way.

"It's not me standing giving a lecture about how many kilopascals there are in the atmosphere,” Macduff said. “It's them kicking rocks on and hitting buttons on their consul and collecting data as if they were actually Mark Watney.”

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