Augmented and Virtual Reality

The benefits of learning through VR, AR, and MR include increased content understanding of spatial structure and function, learning of language associations, long-term memory retention, improved physical task performance, and increased motivation and engagement

Virtual Lab Tour
Melanie Maas, our virtual and augmented reality expert explains VR/AR and how it can be used in the classroom.

Introduction to Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) immerses users completely into an artificial world.

VR uses technology to create the illusion of presence in an environment that isn’t really there (Virtual Reality Society, 2016). It can be used to help students better understand a concept that is being studied (e.g., space), by allowing them to experience that environment firsthand. VR can be used through a traditional desktop computer or through a fully immersive practice that requires the student to wear a head mounted display (Virtual Reality Society, 2016).  It offers the student a unique learning experience that they cannot get from looking at a textbook. Instead of reading about space, why not put the student there?

There are many different types of VR systems but they all share the same characteristics such as the ability to allow the person to view three-dimensional images. These images appear life-sized to the person.

VR Curriculum Connections: Primary (Grades 1 – 3)

Grade 2

Understanding Life Systems: Growth and Changes in Animals

  • All livings things are linked together. Students can observe how living and nonliving things work in conjunction with one another. For example, take a walk through the Amazon Jungle and see the birds are in the trees; the trees offer the birds shelter. These two things are connected
  • Taking a walk through the African Savannah or the Amazon Jungle and seeing how things are without the introduction of humans. After the VR tour discuss how things would look different if humans were introduced into the environment, what would happen? (Can “take a walk” as a class – instruct students to go to the left, straight, to the right).
  • Take your class on a tour of the Australian Outback, African Savannah and/or Amazon Jungle and have students discuss the differences and similarities between the animals and/or plants in each of the environments.
  • Have students select an animal and/or a plant and observe that animal/plant in its natural habitat. Have the student create a booklet that acknowledges where it lives, what its needs and characteristics are.

VR Curriculum Connections: Junior (Grades 4 – 6)

Grade 6

Understanding Life Systems: Biodiversity

  • Students will learn that living things (including humans) rely on other living things for the energy and resources they need to live. They will also investigate factors that alter various habitats and communities, including those factors that occur naturally and those that result from human action. Have students take tours of any of the destinations of the Destination disk or the Wildlife disk to further examine and review these relationships.
  • When assessing human impacts on habitats and communities, students may be given the task of considering human actions from a variety of viewpoints pertaining to a specific VR disk
  • Allow students to spend a period using the cardboard viewmasters to observe either a habitat of the teachers choice or their own choice. Have students classify the organisms they come into contact with and to expand on the roles and interactions of individual species within the whole.

Understanding Earth and Space Systems: Space

  • As an opening unit exercise, have students take a tour of space using the Space disk with the Viewmaster tool and take a tour of the Solar System to get familiar with objects that are in the sky, looking at their form, movements and interrelationships.

VR Curriculum Connections: Intermediate (Grades 7 – 8)

Grade 7

Understanding Life Systems: Interactions in the Environment

  • Students will take a virtual tour of the existing ecosystems using the Wildlife disks. They will walk through the ecosystems on their own, exploring the entire ecosystem while taking notes of what they see (both the biotic and abiotic elements). Once this has been done, they will investigate outside forces that may disturb the balance within the ecosystem. From there students will come up with ways they can make it their personal responsibility of protecting the environment.

Understanding Earth and Space Systems: Heat in the Environment

  • Students will take a tour of any area that they can enter virtually on the Destinations disks or Wildlife disks. While taking the tour, students will need to come up with possible ways in which heat can affect that environment; what would it look like, who would it affect the most, how?, what would change and how? etc.

Introduction to Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) allows virtual objects to be superimposed onto the real world.

AR is the blending of virtual reality and life. Users are able to interact with virtual content, while in the real world, and are able to easily distinguish between the two (McKalin, 2014). Educators can use augmented reality to create layers of digital information on top of the physical world that can be viewed through a digital device (Nesloney, 2013). Like VR, AR can be used in multiple environments. AR can be used to help students become more engaged in the concept/topic at hand. Rather than just looking at the textbook, or watching a video, students can see the topic come to life in a 3D model through the use of the digital device.  AR can be used to bring students’ learning to life. It can be used during a lesson, but can also be used in ways around the classroom that can be accessible for students to refer to when needed (e.g., a word wall or photo wall). Students are more likely to understand a concept, rather than just memorize, when their minds are being stimulated in multiple ways. AR provides an opportunity for educators and students to share in a learning experience that steps away from the traditional pen and paper and into a more technologically engaging experience.

AR Curriculum Connections: Primary (Grades 1 – 3)

Grade 2

Understanding Life Systems: Growth and Changes in Animals

  • Look at animals and plants in 3D and outline their characteristics – go beyond; outline the similarities and difference between different animals and plants – how they look, what they eat, how they move, where they live, etc. – go beyond; outline the differences between certain kinds of plants and their characteristics. 

Understanding Earth and Space Systems: Air and Water in the Environment

  • Look at a 3D representation of the different kinds of weather patterns that are apparent in the seasons. – Go beyond; Look specifically at how water and air in the environment are a major part of the environment.

Grade 3

Understanding Structures and Mechanisms: Strong and Stable Structure

  • Look at the specific properties that materials have and how the different materials a structure has determines the purpose it is used for – go beyond; look at how simple machines help to move objects (looking at the AR object, students will be able to look at why/how these machines are able to move objects) – go beyond; look at properties and materials that makes these structure strong and stable. 

AR Curriculum Connections: Junior (Grades 4 – 6)

Grade 5

Understanding Life Systems: Human Organ Systems

  • Explore the human body and look at how organ systems are components of the larger system (the body), and how they work together, and affect one another.

Understanding Structures and Mechanisms: Forces Acting on Structures and Mechanisms

  • Look closely at gears and how they are an integral part of our everyday life in the sense that they are specialized wheels and axles that can be found in many objects we interact with every day. Go beyond; explore the forces that are within our environment that act upon structures and mechanisms. Look at how these forces can be measured to determine how they would affect a structure and mechanism

Grade 6

Understanding Life Systems: Biodiversity

  • Look at how plants and animals are interdependent and adapt to meet their needs based on the resources that can be found around them. Use scenarios, how this plant or animal would change if (blank) was removed. Go beyond; look at how diversity plays a critical role in the health of plants and the ways in which humans can impact this diversity.

Understanding Earth and Space Systems: Space

  • Look at the various components that are found in Space and how earth is apart of this large interrelated system. Examine the technologies and scientific advances that have enabled human travel to space and we study space.

AR Curriculum Connections: Intermediate (Grades 7 – 8)

Grade 7

Understanding Earth and Space Systems: Heat in the Environment

  • Examine the sources of heat that are found in space and how this heat is produced.
  • Examine that heat is a form of energy that can be transformed and transferred and the ways in which heat has both positive and negative effects on the environment.

Grade 8

Understanding Structures and Mechanisms: Systems in Action

  • Examine the form of a structure and how it is dependent on its function. Critically examine a structure of your choosing and its purpose. Go beyond; understanding that all systems have an input and an output and how these systems are built to optimize human and natural resources.

Augmented Reality Resources

Mobile Apps: 



  • The Numberlys by William Joyce
  • The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce
  • Idinosaur by Dr Darren Naish BSc MPhil
  • Iscience: Elements, Forces and Explosive Experiments! by Mr Clive Gifford
  • Istorm: Wild Weather and Other Forces of Nature by Anita Ganeri
  • Princesses and Their Pals 3D Popar Toys
  • Bugs 3D Interactive Children’s Book Popar
  • Construction Machines 3D Popar

Introduction to Mixed Reality

Mixed reality (MR) merges real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualizations where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time. This is sometimes referred to as hybrid reality.

More information to come!


Maas, M. (2016). Augmented and virtual reality for education. Retrieved from:

McKalin, V. (2014). Augmented reality vs virtual reality: What are the differences and what are the similarities? Tech Times. Retrieved from,

Nesloney, T. (2013). Augmented realities brings new dimensions to learning. EDUtopia. Retrieved from,

Virtual Reality Society. (2016). Virtual reality in the classroom. Retrieved from,

Information for this page provided by Melanie Maas & Maya Staresinic

For more information, including lesson plan examples, visit Melanie’s website.