“OK, so the main person doing the dissection wears the dark augmented reality glasses and the overseeker wears the blue glasses.”
Welcome to Ms. Janesa Martinez’s seventh-grade Living Environment class at South Orangetown Middle School, where students have been learning about plant life–more specifically, flowers.
Why flowers? “The flower holds the reproductive center of a plant,” asserted Cate O.
That reproductive capacity contributes to the ecosystem in many ways, including food production. “When you bite into an apple, you are biting into the ovary of a flower–and the seeds are the eggs,” Ms. Martinez explained.
Students have been studying the parts of a flower, their roles in reproduction and adaptations that provide plants with a competitive edge. “Why is the stigma sticky?” Ms. Martinez asked, while pointing to a diagram on the classroom smartboard. “To trap pollen.”
After the brief classroom recap, students headed to the SOMS zSpace Lab for an augmented reality (AR) dissection exercise to review flower parts.
“This is better for visualizing because you can see the parts in 3D, not just as a drawing. Before, I’d thought the inside of the ovaries were just eggs,” noted Maya, while wielding a stylus to remove the eggs and rotate a 3D rendering of a flower ovary for examination. “It’s much easier to use than a real flower, which is more fragile and could be accidentally torn apart.”
Before setting foot in the zSpace Lab, students complete background research on the topic they’re studying. For her part, Ms. Martinez teams up with Enrichment and Technology Teacher Mr. Andrew McIntosh to identify an augmented reality exercise that aligns with a particular lesson. “Students use zSpace to do their field work. It can change their impression of the content,” explained Ms. Martinez. “But it’s not about coming here to ‘get answers’–it’s about exploration. After a few minutes, they return to class and put it all together.”
The zSpace tool was first introduced at SOMS last spring with the installation of six workspaces in the Challenge Lab. Ms. Martinez was an early adopter of the new technology and worked with Mr. McIntosh to integrate AR exercises into a unit on viruses last fall. Since then, SOMS opened a dedicated lab outfitted with 14 zSpace workspaces, adjacent to the school library.
Ms. Martinez looks forward to returning to the lab for an upcoming unit on cells. “We’ll use both this approach and the microscopes,” she said. “We’ll be able to dissect organelles and look inside. It’s going to be so cool.”