March 2018
Youth Matters

4-H Extension Corner: Google Expeditions

4-H virtual reality program provides exciting expeditions for youth.

 

A Sparta Academy student in Evergreen using Google Expeditions to take a virtual field trip to an active volcano.

4-H and Google have teamed up to bring computer science education to youth across the country. The new program teaches young people both technical skills such as coding and essential skills students will need in the future such as teamwork and resilience. It also helps students learn skills they will need to approach problems in a fundamentally different way across every discipline from business to engineering to the arts.

Google Expeditions is a virtual-reality teaching tool. You can swim with sharks, visit outer space, walk through a museum and more, without leaving the classroom. There are almost 500 different expeditions available and more in development.

"Using the technology and software, agents can take 4-H’ers on a virtual field trip almost anywhere in the world. They can also give the students a perspective they usually otherwise couldn’t have such as an underwater adventure or a top-of-a-mountain expedition," said Janet Lovelady, a 4-H Foundation Regional Extension Agent serving Franklin County.

Alabama is one of 22 states using the program this year. The collaboration includes an effort to reach communities where youth traditionally have limited access to computers, internet or computer science training. Alabama 4-H has two kits – one located in North Alabama and the other in South Alabama. All 67 counties can schedule a time to use one of the kits. So far, Lauderdale, Etowah, Chambers and Conecuh counties have conducted programs with the equipment.

A 4-H regional agent or other county staff plans and implements the programs. The virtual-reality kits have been used for school clubs, school enrichment, county events and special-interest clubs.

Each kit comes with a tablet and 10 virtual-reality units with phones and a router. The equipment is set up with the Google Expedition app, https://edu.google.com/expeditions/#about. 4-H agents download the expedition for their programs while they are connected to Wi-Fi. The router sets up a small local network so the devices don’t have to be connected to Wi-Fi.

"This is an important feature because it enables agents to take the experience to many more youth than we might otherwise be able to do," Lovelady added.

Lovelady has conducted an Ancient Egypt Expedition with gifted classes at two schools to expand and enrich an academic unit they were studying. She also set up an exhibit at the North Alabama State Fair so her teen leaders could showcase the technology.

Lovelady also set up expeditions with the Lauderdale 4-H Computer Science Club to Space and to the Deep Sea.

 

Donna Reynolds is the communication editor of news and public affairs with ACES in Auburn.