THOMASVILLE — Thanks to the implementation of innovative technology, Thomas County Central High School students now have the tools to visit national landmarks, foreign locales, world-famous museums and various other places without stepping a foot off the campus. 

This year, Thomas County Schools purchased a set of virtual reality goggles and expeditions for TCCHS students to explore topics in academic and vocational platforms the school currently offers. 

“Being a rural school district, so many of our students never get to experience what it is like to visit interesting places around the world like the Great Barrier Reef, or places in our own country like the Grand Canyon,” Thomas County Schools Science Coordinator Dr. Scott Sweeting said. “This is getting them as close to actually being there as they can possibly get. To experience is to learn, and that is what our students need and deserve.”

For example, nursing students may view up-close lessons on human anatomy. Science classes can learn about the world’s oceans and insects like the jungle nymph. History students may walk the hallowed halls of The White House or pay their respects at memorials such as the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum. English students can explore the homes of beloved authors and poets. Agriculture students may visit farms to see how they run and how livestock and crops are grown and maintained. Fine Arts students may learn about the making of musical instruments or visit the homes of some of the world’s most celebrated artists. Also, various colleges have virtual tours posted to give students a glimpse of their campus and programs. 

This week, students in science teacher Richard Faucett's classes took a virtual field trip to the Grand Canyon and Yorkshire, England, to study landforms and the different types of rock there. Computer science instructor Mark Thompson had students journey inside a computer and its software to see how they operate. And business teacher Mindy Pierce’s classes observed a day in the life of an entrepreneur/computer software engineer, an advertising executive and a finance director.

“I wanted my students to experience the VR goggles to take them on an exciting field trip without leaving the classroom,” Pierce said. “Students were able to see their work environment and explore what a day in the life of a business professional looks like.”

Pierce adds the VR goggles are just one example of how Thomas County Schools continues to be an innovative leader in instructional technology.

“Being a teacher in CTAE, it is important to me that my students begin exploring possible career paths while in high school,” she said. “In CTAE, we aim to provide real-world learning experiences to help guide that discovery. When students experience a career with VR technology, they can immerse themselves in the virtual environment and get a feel for what it would be like to actually work in that industry.”

Junior Ben Tabacchi, 16, one of Mark Thompson’s Intro to Digital Technology students, likes the sense of being somewhere else that virtual reality provides.

“I think it’s great that the school has these because it’s a fun and interactive way to learn,” he said.

Junior Aysha Butler, 16, liked how real everything seemed.

“It feels like you’re really there, and it helps me learn about the inside of computers,” she said. “I feel it’s (using the VR goggles) a great way to learn for visual and interactive learners like me.” 

Teachers sign up to use the VR goggles by emailing TCCHS Media Center Specialist Brett James or Digital Learning Specialist Lindsay Thompson. A shared Google Calendar organizes the schedule.

“Mr. James and I have encouraged our teachers to browse the list of Google Expeditions to find one that fits their classrooms' needs and schedule a time to use the VR goggles in our media center,” Thompson said. “It is a fantastic experience for the students and teachers alike.”

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