Since 1997, the Marine Discovery Centre in South Australia has existed to empower primary school students through inspirational and interactive discovery. Operating out of the Star of Sea School, the Centre works with primary schools, government departments, local government and South Australian businesses on a range of environmental and sustainability initiatives to foster interactive learning and marine protection.
Being a self-funded organisation, Tim Hoile, Director of the Centre applied for, and won a federal improvement grant and was set on using the funds on VR Technology. “I did a huge amount of research as it was a small grant and we wanted to get the best quality product. We also needed it to be backed up with support and ready-to-use resources” says Tim. “We organised a demo and it was clear to me that ClassVR was by far the best fit for our Centre. A set of eight is perfect for our rotating school groups, the support was evident from our first enquiry, there is amazing content already available and it is definitely the best value for dollar. To top that off, our own IT specialist was equally impressed and was happy with all the technical aspects”. What excited the Centre further was the ability to be able to develop their own content.
ClassVR is now fully immersed into the day-to-day activities of the Centre, “ClassVR literally gives the students another dimension. The students have a deeper understanding of the marine world; they are fully immersed, taking in so much during each short VR experience. For example, when swimming with the sharks they learn about food sources, electro-magnetic fields and internal aspects of the Great White. What they learn ‘by accident’ is what is so impressive”.
At the end of 2017 the Centre decided to create their own, underwater content and employed Carl Charter from 360 Underwater to help out. “As part of the project I was given a brief to compare two ecosystems; a healthy marine environment and a not so healthy one. We filmed at two local jetties, one in an industrial, urban area with storm water inflow and another in a popular diving area that boasts an established ecological community. This was a very good comparison as it clearly shows how an environment can impact the marine life”. Carl used a three fisheye lens camera rig to create the video and had to pick his filming days carefully so that all the conditions where perfect. Michael Mills, HeapsGood Productions, facilitated the process and added the guiding voiceover, “it was important to ensure that the VR user felt like they were the diver, so we were mindful to encourage them to question and explore when informing them of what they were seeing”.
The final product is not only educational but is just spectacular to watch. Other videos that are soon to be available at the Centre explore Leafy Sea Dragons, Sea Jellies, Sea Lions (watch out as one of them tries to gobble you up!), a bob of giant Australian cuttlefish and most unusual, an aggregation of thousands of local Port Jackson Sharks.
“ClassVR is certainly a highlight to all our visitors, the immersive experience is engaging, and dramatically increases their understanding of what our marine world can offer. It is a personal experience and we are delighted to be able to customise it.”
From environmental advocacy, to the pursuit of improved learning outcomes, the Centre provides a highly tangible and measurable benefit to students and the wider community. Now ClassVR contributes to this!