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Teaching science with augmented reality


Creating virtual reality in the classroom: What do these terms mean?

XR- Extended Reality

the emerging umbrella term for all immersive computer virtual experience technologies. These technologies AR, VR, and MR.

Augmented Reality (AR)

When virtual information and objects are overlaid on the real world. This experience enhances the real world with digital details such as images, text, and animation. This means users are not isolated from the real world and can still interact and see what’s going on in front of them.

In this example, while looking through my cell phone we can see this three dimensional CRISPR enzyme floating in three dimensions.

Crispr AR Augmented Reality enzyme protein

Photo by RK (c) 2019

Virtual Reality (VR)

Users are fully immersed in a simulated digital environment. Individuals must put on a VR headset or head-mounted display to get a 360 -degree view of an artificial world. This fools their brain into believing they are walking on the moon, swimming under the ocean or stepped into whatever new world the VR developers created.

Virtual Reality

A team of researchers at ESA’s mission control centre in Darmstadt, Germany, are investigating new concepts for controlling rovers on a planet and satellites in orbit. Image from the ESA, esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2017/07/Reality_check

Mixed reality (MR), aka Hybrid Reality

Digital and real-world objects co-exist and can interact with one another in real-time. This experience requires an MR headset… Microsoft’s HoloLens is a great example that, e.g., allows you to place digital objects into the room you are standing in and give you the ability to spin it around or interact with the digital object in any way possible.

Microsoft Hololens XR MR AR

Image from Microsoft

Excerpts of these definitions from Bernard Marr, What Is Extended Reality Technology? A Simple Explanation For Anyone, Forbes, 8/12/2019

Augmented reality in science class

When students actively participate in augmented reality learning, the class is effectively a lab, as opposed to being a lecture.  Here we are studying ecosystems with an app from the World Wildlife Foundation, WWF Rivers.

WWF Rivers AR Augmented Reality app Kaiser Ecology

Photo by RK (c) 2019

This student has their head in the clouds 😉

Kaiser AR Augmented Realitt Ecology WWF Rivers

Photo by RK (c) 2019

Here we are using the Google Expeditions app, on a Pixel 3A smartphone. The plug-in is “Earth Geology” by Vida systems. For more details see Google Expeditions – Education in VR.

As we walk around the room, we see the Earth and all of it’s layers in a realistic 3D view. Here we stood above the arctic circle, and took screenshots as we moved down latitude, until we were above the antarctic.

Augmented Reality AR Earth Science Inner Core Mantle

Photo by RK (c) 2019

Augmented Reality AR Earth Science Inner Core Mantle 2

Photo by RK (c) 2019


What kind of learning standards do students address when using augmented reality science lessons?

Learning Standards

NGSS Cross-Cutting Concepts

6. Structure and Function – The way an object is shaped or structured determines many of its properties and functions: Complex and microscopic structures and systems can be visualized, modeled, and used to describe how their function depends on the shapes, composition, and relationships among its parts; therefore, complex natural and designed structures/systems can be analyzed to determine how they function

Massachusetts Digital Literacy and Computer Science (DLCS) Curriculum Framework

Modeling and Simulation [6-8.CT.e] – 3. Select and use computer simulations, individually and collaboratively, to gather, view, analyze, and report results for content-related problems (e.g., migration, trade, cellular function).

Digital Tools [9-12.DTC.a] – 2. Select digital tools or resources based on their efficiency and effectiveness to use for a project or assignment and justify the selection.

American Association of School Librarians: Standards Framework for Learners

1. Inquire: Build new knowledge by inquiring, thinking critically, identifying problems, and developing strategies for solving problems

Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles

AP-CSP Curriculum Guides
LO 3.1.3 Explain the insight and knowledge gained from digitally processed data by using appropriate visualizations, notations, and precise language.
EK 3.1.3A Visualization tools and software can communicate information about data.
EK 3.1.3E Interactivity with data is an aspect of communicating.

Special Education MCAS accommodations

For teachers in Massachusetts: Special Education MCAS accommodations



Graphic Organizers, Checklists

And Supplemental Reference Sheets, for use by students with disabilities.

The approved graphic organizers, checklists, and supplemental reference sheets listed in the table below are for use by students with disabilities who have this MCAS accommodation (A9 from the Accessibility and Accommodations Manual for the 2018–2019 MCAS Tests/Retests) listed in their IEPs or 504 plans.

The Department encourages schools to familiarize students with these tools, since students should be comfortable using their graphic organizer or reference sheet during MCAS testing.

Only the approved organizers and supplemental reference sheets listed below may be used for next-generation ELA and Mathematics MCAS testing and text or graphics may not be added. It is permissible to remove selected text or graphics.

The sample Science and Technology/Engineering (STE) reference sheets listed below may be used as is, or may be used with selected text and graphics removed; however, additional Department approval is required if any text or graphics are added, or if a different reference sheet is created.

Approved ELA
Graphic Organizers
Approved Supplemental Mathematics
Reference Sheets
Sample STE
Reference Sheets
Download Word Document  MCAS Grades 3 and 4: Short Response Questions Download Word Document  MCAS Grade 3 Download Word Document  MCAS Grade 5
Download Word Document  MCAS Grades 3-4: Essay Download Word Document  MCAS Grade 4 Download Word Document  MCAS Grade 8
Download Word Document  MCAS Grades 3-4: Story Download Word Document  MCAS Grade 5 Download Word Document  MCAS High School Biology
Download Word Document  MCAS Grades 5: Essay Download Word Document  MCAS Grade 4 Download Word Document  MCAS High School Physics
Download Word Document  MCAS Grades 5: Narrative Download Word Document  MCAS Grade 5
Download Word Document  MCAS Grades 6-8: Essay Download Word Document  MCAS Grade 6
Download Word Document  MCAS Grades 6-8: Narrative Download Word Document  MCAS Grade 7
Download Word Document  MCAS Grade 10: Essay Download Word Document  MCAS Grade 8
Download Word Document  MCAS Grade 10: Narrative Download Word Document  MCAS Grade 10

Note: If you have a problem printing a graphic organizer please call Student Assessment at 781-338-3625.

MCAS Test accommodations

Here are both the standard and non-standard MCAS test accommodations. The IEP team should work with the parent to set up accommodations that best fits the student’s needs.

MCAS test accommodations for students with disabilities


MCAS Alternate Assessment (MCAS-Alt)

MCAS is designed to measure a student’s knowledge of key concepts and skills outlined in the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks.

A small number of students with the most significant disabilities who are unable to take the standard MCAS tests even with accommodations participate in the MCAS Alternate Assessment (MCAS-Alt).

MCAS-Alt consists of a portfolio of specific materials collected annually by the teacher and student.


Here are some samples of alternate assessments, and how teachers would grade them:

Examples of MCAS Alternate Assessment

Evidence for the portfolio may include work samples, instructional data, videotapes, and other supporting information.

Last Updated: March 22, 2017



Organic molecule models

At Seaport Academy, science education isn’t about drills and worksheets. We motivate students with hands-on activities, interactive apps, three dimensional animations, connections to the world around then, and labs.

Here we’re learning about organic molecules by building three dimensional models, and using magnetic board manipulatives.

Building molecules kit

Our smartboard is also a magnetic workspace.

Building organic molecules on board

Learning Standards

2016 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework

HS-LS1-6. Construct an explanation based on evidence that organic molecules are primarily composed of six elements, where carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms may combine with nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorus to form monomers that can further combine to form large carbon-based macromolecules.
• Monomers include amino acids, mono- and disaccharides, nucleotides, and fatty acids.
• Organic macromolecules include proteins, carbohydrates (polysaccharides), nucleic acids, and lipids.