BCM and Reality Garage develop VR curriculum for BHS

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Boulder High School digital arts instructor Dave Blessing and student mentor Paul Mealey assist students with the virtual reality project editing

Boulder Community Media (BCM) partnered with the Reality Garage and Boulder High School (BHS) to integrate virtual reality digital programming into the traditional arts.

The acronym, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), is commonly associated non-artistic endeavors.

There is a new iteration that moves STEM into creative industries called STEAM with the “A” representing “arts”.

The digital age added a new dimension to traditional analog art media – paintings, written pages, sculpted forms, animated digital books, 3D movies, and stories told in video game environments.

What if the the otherwise non-artistic skill of virtual reality is integrated into the arts?

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A grant was received from the Best Buy Foundation to develop a VR curriculum and camera operation manual.

The Boulder Virtual Reality (BVR) project was recently completed and does just that, thanks to a small grant from the Best Buy Foundation.

The grant enabled implementation of Phase II of a three Phase project.

During the fall 2018 – 2019 semester at BHS, 19 students were taught about virtual reality by teacher Dave Blessing and Reality Garage owners Bob Ottinger and Brenda Lee.

Reality Garage is a Boulder-based virtual reality technology development company.

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Bob Ottinger from the Reality Garage answers a student’s question.

Students learned hands-on job skills in the classroom work and also in the field where they operated a couple types of cameras.

They then learned how to manipulate the photos and videos into completed “stories.”

The BVR developed two manuals, VR Filming Techniques Curriculum, and VR Camera OperationsThe students completed 13 VR photo projects and 15 VR video projects during the semester.

One student emerged as a mentor who assisted other students and another is working as an intern at Reality Garage.

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Northern Arapaho singer Alison Sage demonstrates traditional drumming and singing.

Phase I was funded by a grant from the Wyoming Arts Council.

The Wind River VR Pilot Project introduced virtual reality as a new medium to tell traditional Northern Arapaho stories in a more relevant way to tribal youth.

BCM collaborated with Makerspace 307 in Fort Washakie, Wyoming who recruited four tribal youth to participate.

VR trainer, Glenn Reese, worked with the students in basic camera operation.

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Northern Arapaho artist Robert Martines talks about tribal tradition.

Northern Arapaho artist Robert Martinez discussed with the students the importance of passing tribal traditions to future generations.

Robert worked with the youth as they drew pictures illustrating an Arapaho folk tale, “The Fox and the Wood Tick,” as told by tribal elder Merle Haas.

Alison Sage is a singer member of the Northern Arapaho Eagle Society. He explained how tribal stories and experiences are preserved through song and drumming and worked with the students with expressing themselves through music.

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The Wyoming Arts Council funded Phase I

The crew then traveled to the nearby Arapaho Ranch to integrate flat art and original music with virtual reality.

A virtual reality camera was set up and students displayed their art work. An original music soundtrack was improvised on the grand piano in the ranch house.

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Arapaho elder Gary Collins, BCM VR trainer Glenn Reese and Alan O’Hashi pose with Arapaho storyteller Merle Haas.

Merle Haas read The Fox and the Wood Tick in the Arapaho language. The virtual reality footage of the students with their art work was set to the Arapaho language narration and the student-composed music.

Over time, classrooms will be moving away from “learning” a subject to “feeling” the content through immersion.

To this end, the BVR Phase III project is underway. A third small grant was received from the city of Boulder Arts Commission.

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A marker designates the Fort Chambers site.

That project adds virtual reality to telling the story of a Fort Chambers, which was constructed on the outskirts of Boulder.

The sod fort no longer stands, but was the training facility for the 3rd Volunteer Cavalry who killed Arapaho and Cheyenne tribal members at the infamous Sand Creek Massacre.

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The BAC funded the Phase III Fort Chambers VR project.

Students will be creating a virtual Fort Chambers that the viewer and walk through, to the narration of Arapaho tribal members who recount the stories told of the massacre by their ancestors.

The BVR is an engagement tool that in Phase III will teach students the use of a software called Tilt Brush and a program called Unity which will allow a student to explore, experience or be involved as if they are actually present in that environment or place.

Northern Arapaho story told in virtual reality

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Wyoming Community Media’s Alan O’Hashi and Glenn Reese teamed up with the Maker Space 307 to teach students about virtual reality.

The Northern Arapaho Tribe has a tribal priority to reintroduce and preserve the Arapaho language.

Even though the language is taught in school, students spend the majority of their time at home or in the community interacting with family and friends where there is inconsistent reinforcement of cultural cues learned in the classroom.

How can a traditionally oral language be made relevant to young people who are digitally connected to games, and other mass media screens?

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Glenn Reese sets the Vuze camera at the historic Arapaho Ranch mansion.

To answer this question, Wyoming Community Media and it’s producers Alan O’Hashi and Glenn Reese teamed up with Lorre Hoffman and the Maker Space 307 summer youth service learning program, based in Fort Washakie on the Wind River Reservation.

Four students participated during the three-day class and production project.

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Arapaho Gary Collins and Arapaho story teller Merle Haas pose with Alan and Glenn after she read the Fox and Woodtick in Arapaho

Northern Arapaho elder and story teller Merle Haas wrote down a short story passed down to her from her great grandfather, Chief Yellow Calf.

“The Fox and the Woodtick” teaches a lesson about “thinking outside the box.”

Northern Arapaho Eagle Drum Society singer and drummer Alison Sage spoke about the traditional importance and healing properties of making music.

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Artist Robert Martinez gives a workshop about tribal art and how it is still a story telling medium.

Artist Robert Martinez gave a presentation about how tribal artwork has evolved over the years and continues to be an important means of storytelling.

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Eagle Drum Society member Allison Sage demonstrates his original songs.

We worked closely with Bob Ottinger and the Reality Garage in Boulder, Colorado who loaned us a Vuze virtual reality camera, a Samsung 360 camera and a high speed computer.

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The Reality Garage in Boulder, Colorado loaned the project the Vuze camera and a high speed lap top.

When it was all said and done, the youth combined their self-composed music and original art to tell Merle’s folk tale in two dimensions and 360 degree virtual reality on location at the historic Arapaho Ranch Mansion north of Thermopolis, Wyoming.

This is a pilot project that demonstrates an efficient way for tribes to present traditional language and cultural preservation efforts in a not-so-traditional format to tribal and non-tribal cultures.