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Healthy Living Projects in VR

Over the last term and a half I’ve been working with some amazing staff and students at Safa British School here in Dubai. As a part of their dedication to promoting the Sustainable Development Goals as well as covering core Science themes, the students have been learning about healthy living this term and I was more than happy to supplement their curriculum with some VR-enriched projects. I coordinated one core project as a part of their Computing curriculum and also facilitated a special enrichment project with a couple of students.

The CoSpaces Edu project

I’ve written about CoSpaces here on the site before and it’s definitely one of the VR platforms which has garnered the widest acclaim and adoption levels in schools so far. For the Year 6 computing project I used CoSpaces Edu with students to let them present information about healthy living in a fresh, engaging way (rather than a PowerPoint!)

In the first session they created their free accounts and then explored the platform - testing some of the example projects available in the gallery. This was important as I needed them to have some sense of what was possible and what types of assets were available to them before they began designing projects for themselves.

The following session gave them offline time to plan their project. They brainstormed a wide range of possible ideas and filtered these down to the one core concept which they wanted to take through to the design stage.

Session 3 saw them beginning the design of their project within CoSpaces. Shout out to the wonderful James McCrary for hooking us up with 30 day Pro licenses Whilst these were not technically essential for the project (as the basic version of CoSpaces comes with a decent amount of assets as well as the ability to search online and import additional ones) it was nice to give the students more tools and it would become more important at the coding stage.

So as the projects evolved, the coding began. Students were familiar with block-based coding so I gave them the freedom to incorporate the code elements as they saw fit. Many chose to use conditional programming to make objects interactive – from characters speaking to the user to inanimate objects coming to life or sharing facts when clicked. One clever student actually designed a quiz game where an incorrect answer transferred you to a separate scene – where you found yourself in a jail cell (“it’s healthy eating prison” she told me.)

In the final session, students evaluated their projects (and I assessed them) but they also got to experience them in VR. The school uses Class VR headsets which makes accessing CoSpaces projects easy as you can drag and drop links to spaces directly into the Class VR interface and then push these to the headsets.

I also took one of my Oculus Quests in to test and using the Firefox Reality browser, I found that I could log into CoSpaces and open a project then click the VR icon and enter the space in a fully-immersive way with the quest controllers automatically mapping to control movement and interaction. Very cool.

The Mindshow project

The second project I coordinated at the school was a special enrichment project in collaboration with Sophie Barber – the Head of Creative Arts. Sophie dropped into one of my AMA (ask Me Anything) sessions to enquire about anything new and innovative for performing arts. I showed her some clips of previous Mindshow projects I’d worked on and she was excited to have some SBS students try it out.

The following week she selected a couple of talented performers from Year 6 and I led them through a demo session with Mindshow. We decided to also focus on their healthy living topic and I knew that there was a great option within the app – the fridge setting. So we explored the fridge and its contents and came up with the idea to frame the piece like a news report, sharing a healthy options and an unhealthy option for each segment. Having paired the food items accordingly and saved the scene, the students went away to do a little research and write their script.

(side note - how cool is that for a space to do VR in?!)

The following week we recorded the segments using a Vive Pro. As Mindshow has a 30 second limit on clips, we recorded and exported each piece of the project separately and then I dropped them into Corel Videostudio to sequence and trim off any lead-ins/outs. I also filmed the two girls as they recorded and if you click on the video below you can watch some footage of them in action as well as the full version of their final project.

I want to say a huge thank you to the staff and students at Safa British School. Everyone was both welcoming and engaged with the projects I coordinated at the school and it was my absolute pleasure to work with them all.

You can find out more about using CoSpaces Edu here.

You can find out more about using Mindshow here.

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