By Luca Morgante and Simon Peterson
On Thursday, October 6th, the entire grade 9 class, as well as some grade 11 Media Studies and 12 World Issues students, took a virtual reality field trip, guided by a Syrian refugee named Sidra, to experience a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan.
Ms. Bader-Shaw arranged the experience with Hot Docs for Schools, which is partnering with the United Nations to bring what is the UN’s first VR documentary film into a few Toronto schools.
As the grade 9s walked into the Black Box, they were greeted by facilitators and tables piled high with VR headsets. After the ecstatic look on their faces went away, they were led in an engaging conversation about what to expect in Zaatari, the refugee camp that is the focus of the documentary film, The Clouds Over Sidra.
The real fun for them started when they were seated in chairs spread out across the theatre and given their very own VR headset. After some technical set up, everyone was good to go and the movie started. As the 8-minute film played, boys could be seen grabbing for objects, spinning their heads and even trying to give some of the kids in the film a high-five. Here are some of the reactions shared after viewing the film:
“It really emphasizes what virtual reality is.” (Jack Smith)
“I think one of the best VR scenes for me was when they were talking about the clouds and the sunset, and you got to see the overview of the camp. It was stunning and very cool to see.” (Zack Kingsley)
“You are really immersed in that you are there on the soccer pitch, watching the guys play. It’s a feeling very different from the one you have watching a regular film. You really feel like you’re there.” (Madame DeBlois)
“You get a real sense of what is going on in refugee camps.”(Jack O’Shea)
“It’s kind of like a human connection, and that’s what’s powerful about it.” – Jack Sutton
The film gave people a real look into the eyes of the refugees living there, and I don’t think they will ever forget this experience.