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Phoenix K-6 School Taps Power of VR and Storytelling to Bring Subjects to Life for Students


PHOENIX – ASU Prep Pilgrim Rest announced a new partnership with Dreamscape Learn, making it the first elementary school in the country to offer students a dynamic new learning experience that blends the power of experiential pedagogy, cinematic engagement, and advanced virtual reality (VR) technology. 

Using the Dreamscape Learn platform, ASU Prep Pilgrim Rest teachers and grade 3-6 students can attend class in any imaginable virtual location relevant to their subject matter — generating unprecedented student excitement and engagement in subjects including STEM, social studies, and language arts. That might mean exploring ancient Egypt from inside King Tut’s tomb or studying the ocean from the perspective of an oceanographer 30 meters below the surface.

“We are deeply grateful to bring this level of technology to the Pilgrim Rest community,” said Richard Yarbough, President of Pilgrim Rest Foundation, Inc., a philanthropic arm of Pilgrim Rest Church, where the school is located. “Dreamscape’s immersive classroom gives students access to knowledge and experiences they may not otherwise encounter, whether that’s a trip to a world-class art museum or a tour of the surface of the moon.”

In the years following the pandemic, U.S. schools have seen an unprecedented spike in student absences across the United States. Over one-fourth of students were chronically absent in the school year 2021-22 — a significant increase from the pre-pandemic figure of 15. Researchers cite student disengagement at school as one of the key factors contributing to chronic absenteeism, making learning recovery challenging.

“We see a tremendous opportunity with this technology to spark excitement, curiosity, and persistence in our students. When lessons leap off the page and into the real world, kids not only engage more deeply with their schoolwork, but they also see the value and relevance of their education in their everyday lives,” said Marissa Schneckloth, Principal. “ASU Prep Pilgrim Rest was founded with the goal of creating educational opportunities for underserved students, and thanks to Dreamscape, they can experience the power and joy of learning in an entirely new way.”

A collaboration between Arizona State University (ASU) and DreamWorks Motion Pictures co-founder and award-winning writer Walter Parkes, Dreamscape Learn provides VR-enabled courseware and a teaching platform that enables educators to conduct class from vividly rendered locations that are impossible to visit in person.

The installation of the Dreamscape Learn Pod at ASU Prep Pilgrim Rest is the result of a long-standing relationship between ASU Prep and Pilgrim Rest Foundation, Inc., which enlisted the support of partners including the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Public Service (APS), Phoenix IDA, and Salt River Project (SRP) to help fund the school project.

Dreamscape Learn is designed to integrate seamlessly into current lessons. Educators can lead students to explore ancient civilizations, distant planets, microscopic organisms, and underwater ecosystems, all from within their school walls. Research at ASU, where a similar installation is already successfully serving students at the collegiate level, has confirmed that students performed better in courses that integrated this new approach to teaching and learning.

“We want to enable students to become explorers and scientists. Our technology can turn schools into departure hubs from which students journey right to the middle of the subject they’re learning,” said Josh Reibel, CEO of Dreamscape Learn. “We know from the learning sciences that students learn best when we employ a variety of pedagogical modalities. Students learn from text, from lecture, from visual and audio media, from hands-on experience and from each other — the critical piece is creating curriculum in which students both learn by doing and learn in order to do.”

Dreamscape Learn will be implemented into the Pilgrim Rest curriculum beginning this spring and will continue to evolve during summer school and throughout the 2024-25 school year, as Pilgrim Rest expands from its current PreK-6 enrollment to encompass seventh and eighth graders, as well. Families interested in enrolling can learn more online at asuprep.asu.edu or by calling 844-692-3372.

About Dreamscape Learn

Dreamscape Learn is a collaborative venture between Dreamscape Immersive and Arizona State University, merging the most advanced pedagogy with the entertainment industry’s best emotional storytelling. Dreamscape Learn redefines how we teach and learn in the 21st century, while aiming to eliminate student learning gaps. Learn more at DreamscapeLearn.com

About ASU Prep Pilgrim Rest

ASU Prep Pilgrim Rest, located on the campus of Pilgrim Rest Church, gives families in the Eastlake community of Phoenix a new option for students in grades PreK–6. With a focus on community integration and innovation, ASU Prep Pilgrim Rest delivers a STEM- and art-focused program designed specifically to serve students of color. With the support of Arizona State University, it is creating new pathways to college, making higher education a reality for students of all backgrounds. For more information, visit asuprep.asu.edu.

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