-by David Schleck
Kevin Rickard’s students have become virtual tour guides this summer. The Birdneck Elementary fifth-graders are also developing their critical thinking, coding and teamwork skills while having fun along the way.
On a recent morning, pairs of students huddled at their Chromebooks, adding special effects to photos Rickard has taken of familiar Virginia Beach locales – the Birdneck playground, the amusement park at the Oceanfront, and the boardwalk at 24th street.
The district’s Title 1 program has special cameras to help students learn how to create 360-degree virtual experiences using a coding program.
“You’re going to take the 360 images I took and create a virtual tour,” Rickard said to the students. “Let me show you how you can add your avatar. I’ll make myself a redhead, and I’ll place myself by the stop sign in this photo.”
The students’ creative ideas splash across their computer screens. They learn how to make snowflakes fall on their virtual beachscapes and birds flutter over the school grounds.
They research the facts they want to include on their tours. What would a visitor to the oceanfront want to know? How about someone visiting Birdneck Elementary?
This year Virginia Beach City Public Schools Title I summer learning camps extended STEM lessons from two weeks to the entire summer term, said Megan Petermann, Summer Learning Camp coordinator.
“The kids love it because they get to come in and apply their STEM knowledge,” she said. “The teachers love it because during the summer they’re getting STEM ideas they can share with students the following school year.”
For more information about summer programs, visit the school system’s website.