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The raspberry ripple

This week's Google Expedition takes us to Largs Academy in North Ayrshire for a VR trip inside the human digestive system to bring biology to life

Largs Academy’s Science department wanted to use Google Expeditions to encourage pupils to immerse themselves in a range of science subjects, exploring everything from the Northern Lights to the inner workings of the digestive system.

So when the Google Expeditions team visited the North Ayrshire school, pupils from year groups 8 to 13 donned their VR viewers to experience over 20 curriculum-based science trips.

‘We got senior members of the department to talk through a number of them in sequence, improvising a little bit with their own knowledge,’ explains Largs science teacher Dr Callum Mitchell, adding that one popular trip saw students transformed into raspberries as they passed through the digestive system to learn how each part functions.

As pupils move slowly through the oesophagus, teachers can quiz them on annotated questions that appear in the Expedition leader’s feed – such as ‘What function does mucus perform?’ or ‘What are enzymes?’.

Once they reach the stomach, the students (or rather, the chewed-up raspberry) can view several sites of interest, which their teacher can guide them towards, such as the cardia and the pyloric sphincter.

Once in the small intestine, the students are reduced to a soup of nutrients, fibres and liquids ready to be absorbed or discarded before they make their way through the large intestine where they are transformed into faeces, ready to be expelled!

One exercise teachers can set afterwards is for the pupils to explain the journey in their own words really connecting to the content in a new way after travelling through the process themselves.

According to Dr Mitchell, the 30-minute training session with Google beforehand was ‘very easy’.

‘These expeditions work very well alongside current teaching methods and it’s definitely something we’d dip into while going through a lesson.’

By sending participants virtually ‘inside’ the body, Dr Mitchell says the session had a significant impact on his pupils’ ability to gain and retain knowledge by making the subject matter ‘far more memorable’.