As the excited little boy jumped up and down, he couldn't contain his glee at what he was seeing in his classroom: "It's a GIRAFFE!"
The giraffe wasn't actually there, of course. For one thing, the ceiling in the science classroom at St. Patrick Catholic School in Arroyo Grande are nowhere near high enough to accommodate the notoriously tall animal's height.
The giraffe did look like it was in the room though, appearing on a dozen phones held by the first-grade students as they learned Wednesday morning about animals' camouflage with Google Expedition, an augmented reality program that helps students view first-hand science and historical concepts.
"It's just a great opportunity for our kids and our staff to learn this new technology that is out there," teacher Glenn Loayza said. "It's something I think is the wave of the future."
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Loayza said he first became aware of the pilot program about three years ago, and he immediately thought it would be a great tool at St. Patrick.
"Our kids are highly engaged with it, and it takes objects and makes it into 3-D experiences," he said. "And it brings the curriculum alive."
That certainly seemed true based on the reactions of students during the 30-minute lesson.
As an instructor looked on, students gathered around provided phones pre-loaded with the Google Expedition app. As they moved around, different animals would become visible, overlaid on top of the classroom.
After students found each of the animals — which included zebras, fish and the aforementioned giraffes — they would talk about how its camouflage works in the wild, answering questions about predators and prey and their natural habitats.
"We saw cool animals, " first-grader Russel Hohman said after the lesson. "It was amazing."
Hohman said his favorite animal was a fish that blended in with a rock.
The camouflage lesson was just one of several throughout the day; other students saw dinosaurs, bugs, the solar system, machines, the human circulatory and nervous systems, DNA and World War I trench warfare, depending on grade level.
Loayza said he plans to bring Google Expeditions back into the classroom in the near future, and he hopes teachers will eventually be able to create their own versions to create curriculum around.
"I think it's here to stay," he said. "I think it's just touching the tip of the iceberg."