January 4, 2019
Arizona State University sustainability scientists Rimjhim Aggarwal and Ariel Anbar were recently awarded a Grand Challenges Explorations grant, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This grant enables the professors to pilot a project that will train students to create virtual field trips as a way to narrate their own place-based stories regarding the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and share with peers globally to motivate youth action.
Virtual Field Trips (VFTs) are online, immersive experiences that allow users to explore various aspects of a topic or place using 360-degree imagery, videos, photos, sounds and other media. Typically, VFTs are produced so people can visit places that are difficult, dangerous or expensive to access, or are too fragile or sacred to handle many visitors. Because VFTs offer many different elements to investigate, users can choose what to learn more about and this “learning by exploration” experience is different for each person.
Until now, only trained professionals have been able to create VFTs, so this valuable resource is underdeveloped. Streamlining the process to enable students to make them will allow many more topics and stories to be explored, not just by ASU students but also by youth around the world.
In their virtual storytelling, students will focus on SDGs one through six: no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, and clean water and sanitation. Though these issues are vast and complex, they can be felt and understood on a personal level. Aggarwal said she will challenge students to tell visceral stories that VFT users can relate to — which will hopefully encourage them to take action and think about solutions.