PHOTOS BY VERA OLINSKI
On left, Media Specialist Benjamin Joseph teaches children while using Google Expedition.
By Vera Olinski
VERNON — Google visited Cedar Mountain Primary School, Dec. 7, to share their new Google Expedition Augmented Reality Pioneer Program. Through cutting-edge technology, students and teachers explored forces of nature: tornadoes, hurricanes, erupting volcanoes, earthquakes; the solar system, asteroids; and dinosaurs in the Cedar Mountain Media Center through hand held devices. Media Specialist Benjamin Joseph was the mastermind behind the opportunity, as he diligently stays up-to-date on the latest technology through various on-line forums, social media, and conferences. Joseph said, he signed up, and Google responded very quickly. He added, this is 21st century technology that kids will not only be growing up with, but some of these children might be making their own app someday - opening the world up around them; “We're very excited.” The opportunity was not just technology for technology's sake, but actual learning - along with faces lighting up with wonder and many “Ah-ha” moments. As the students went on a 21st century walking scavenger hunt through the media center, a little voice cried out, “I found it!” [the tornado] “We found it!” [the hurricane] “I found a big hole.” “That's the top of it,” Joseph said. He continued teaching, “Did you notice the hurricane was a little different? The tornado had a funnel; for the hurricane, “There's just a big hole. Tornadoes and hurricanes are kind of like the earth's air conditioner. They cool down the earth, and they suck up that warm air into the atmosphere. Look for the volcanic eruptions.” “Found it! Found it!” exclaimed a little boy, “Look! Look! Look at the lava!” “See if you can go find the earthquake,” Joseph said, “It often happens on the West Coast in California.” “Found it! I found three already,” exclaimed a little girl. After going through the solar system to the earth and moon, Joseph said, “Let's go somewhere hotter in the solar system. The star that the whole solar system rotates around.” A little girl ended up in the middle of the sun. “Mr. Joseph, we found Saturn,” a little boy informed. One teacher explained the technology was a good extension of their lessons, which also allowed students to satisfy the need to walk during class time. As students floated around a planet with an asteroid belt, Joseph explained the asteroids are like little rocks, being pulled by and around the planet. He also pointed out dwarf planets and noted, they are old planets, without the hot, active core of new planets. At the end, Joseph asked the students if they could go home and teach their parents. He explained, their parents might not know what augmented reality means, but the students could tell them how they visited and saw different planets, using a cellphone device which Google provided. Glen Meadow Middle School and Vernon Township High School Technology Coach Jackie Vanorden, who coaches teachers and students in technology for grades 6 through 12, visited Cedar Mountain to see the new program. She said, “I think you see that same wonder even at the upper levels. So to be able to see the K-1 kids, as our trail blazers, using this program- it's really exciting.” Principal Rosemary Gebhardt added, Cedar Mountain was the first in the district to use the Google Expedition Beta.