Buffalo Elementary School students learn through virtual reality headsets

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BUFFALO, Iowa — Students at Buffalo Elementary School are the recipients of three Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets programmed with content from Davenport-based Victory Enterprises.

"My favorite part about doing the virtual reality is probably just being able to go from Buffalo school automatically to space in two seconds," said Shelbi Buchanan, a fifth grader at Buffalo Elementary School.

Buffalo is the first school in the country to use the content. Students got to try out the headsets at an unveiling on Tuesday, January 17 inside the school's new lab.

The headsets look like high-tech goggles; the students see a 3D 360-degree moving picture of various subjects. The learning tool is currently geared toward older grades at the elementary school.

Acquiring the Oculus Rift VR headsets started with ramping up Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) curriculum at Buffalo Elementary School, where 270 children attend.

"A couple years ago Buffalo teachers got together and talked about what we could do to enhance student engagement and of course enhance their academics and success," said Heidi Gilliland, Principal of Buffalo Elementary School.

A new lab was built during the summertime and students have been using it since the beginning of the school year. During that time Steve Grubbs, the CEO of VictoryVR, started talking about the possibility of bringing virtual reality inside the classroom.

Now, students can sit in on a science experiment, go to outer space to learn about the solar system, or stay closer to home with a field trip to Nahant Marsh in Davenport.

"I am hoping to visit china one day with this, because, just so I can know a little more about it ... and maybe visit NASA where you know, and see the astronauts there," said Buchanan.

There is also a barge trip with Quad City Environmental Activist, Chad Pregracke that was filmed in Ohio specifically for students at Buffalo Elementary School.

The headsets were paid for through a grant from the Bechtel Trust and Foundation. They come with a 5-year subscription to a content library from Victory Enterprises.