Right Before Their Eyes -- Trenton Catholic Academy students participate in the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program where 3D objects appeared directly in front of them with augmented reality. Photos from Trenton Catholic Academy's Facebook page
Right Before Their Eyes -- Trenton Catholic Academy students participate in the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program where 3D objects appeared directly in front of them with augmented reality. Photos from Trenton Catholic Academy's Facebook page

By Rose O’Connor | Correspondent

Students in both Trenton Catholic Academy’s Upper and Lower Schools recently looked down into the eye of a hurricane, walked among dinosaurs and saw Michelangelo’s famous 15th  century sculpture, The Pietà, all in one day.

No, the students didn’t have to weather chasers or time travelers, nor did they have to travel to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to accomplish their goal. These exquisite sights were brought to the Hamilton Township school Dec. 12 as part of the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program, where 3D objects appear directly in front of the students with augmented reality. Through Google Expeditions, the students’ classroom environment was changed by the objects that appeared right before their eyes.

Teachers from TCA received training from Google prior to the class sessions and students, while working in groups, had the opportunity to explore the augmented reality for 30 minutes..

As the lessons were selected ahead of time that corresponded with classroom curricula, students viewed the objects through a phone on a “selfie-stick” and were able to view the objects including a human heart and a World War I aircraft from various angles.

The teachers, who viewed the objects on a separate device, controlled the objects displayed along with a short description attached.

As Google Expeditions is a pilot program with Google, students and teachers needed to report any malfunctioning devices or glitches with a representative from Google, who was present to train the teachers and collect data throughout the day-long event.

“You can see every detail of the landforms!” said Germaine Bryson, a third grade student who viewed mountains, volcanoes and canyons with the AR device.

“There is so much more detail than there are in the textbooks and in pictures,” classmate Angelina Morales said.

‘It looks so cool!  You can see his teeth!” Luis Santiago said, as his teacher brought forth a Tyrannosaurs Rex on his device.

Gwen Mayoros also found looking at the dinosaurs close up to be a learning experience.

“I liked how you could zoom in and see just by looking at the dinosaurs whether or not it was an herbivore or carnivore,” she said.

The students in all classes were both visibly and audibly excited as each new object appeared.

Cianni Willis’s Upper School biology class used the AR device to better understand DNA.

“I like using the AR device.  It was easier for me to understand DNA transfer when it happens right in front of me,” she said.

Like the students, faculty members also enjoyed “Google Day” and having their learning augmented for a little while.

“Seeing Michelangelo’s sculptures is definitely on my bucket list,” Upper School Art instructor, Colleen Stano shared.

“I may not be able to see all of them in this lifetime, but it definitely seemed like they were right there in front of us! I am glad my students had the opportunity to see these works of art up close,” she said.

Middle school social studies teacher, Noreen Schwinger offered, “I found the Google Expedition absolutely spectacular!

“The students were amazed that a three dimensional image is in the room, but yet they cannot touch it.  I used the Expedition to enhance what the eighth graders already knew about World War I and I truly hope we have an opportunity to use this software in the future.”

Upper School Robotics coach, Michael Knowles also looks forward to pilot new and innovative projects in the future.

“The students and teachers both enjoyed the Google Expeditions learning experience.  The enthusiasm among the children and the teachers was palpable and other administrators and staff members stopped by to see what was going on that had everyone so excited. The AR lessons enhanced the classroom instruction and we hope to continue to partner with Google in the future with pilot programs. It’s safe to say our students had a lot to share with their parents when they came home from school that day.”