Third-grade students at F.E. Bellows Elementary School traveled to the Amazon rainforest and explored a variety of destinations without leaving their classrooms as part of Google’s Expeditions program, which allows students to experience a virtual 3-D environment.

Using Google’s viewers and smartphones, the students – who had been studying the Amazon rainforest and animal adaptations in their classes – visited the Borneo rainforest, as well as a school, playground and factory where local farmers bring their crops. William McKeon, the library media specialist at the school, used the Expeditions program application and tablet to guide them along their virtual trip. 

“Being able to virtually step onto the forest floor and look up through the understory and onward towards the canopy gives the students a true understanding not only of the different parts of the rainforest, but they also get a feel for the vastness and importance of the forest,” McKeon said. “A close-up look at animals of the rainforest is an exciting way to view animal adaptations in a ‘natural’ setting and bring into view what was only an abstract idea for most.”

The students also learned about the preservation of trees and animals that are threatened by clear-cutting practices. In addition, they became acquainted with indigenous people and sustainable practices, which the students will further explore during their study on Latin America in fifth grade. 

Melanie Kramer, a third-grader, said her favorite part of the experience was feeling like she was actually in the rainforest. 

“You get to see everything,” she said. “You just look into the glasses. I learned that people are living in the rainforest and making their habitat smaller.”