Kingsland High School recently joined a number of local area high schools in the formation of the first Minnesota Network for Virtual Reality Education Pathfinder, or VREP for short.

VREP is an initiative to expand student learning and interest through virtual reality and three-dementional (3D) programming.

This new kind of learning and teaching will challenge students and expose them to 21st century skills, including research, communication, teamwork, problem solving and technical reading skills, to name a few.

The program originally came into existence in 2006 when a high school in Iowa received a donated virtual reality system. With the assistance of the Mayo Clinic, a course was designed using open-source 3D modeling software (Blender) that allowed a small team of students to design projects of high interest. The program, now called VREP, evolved into what is a nationally recognized initiative in Minnesota, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Connecticut.

Kingsland High School is just starting to get its feet wet with VREP. A team of seven students were trained in Rochester in mid-February. Their training consisted of using the Blender software and operating the high-end computer with such features as 3D goggles and projectors. Our team will spend the remainder of the school year, as well as this summer, to master the software and equipment.

For the start of the next school year (2012-2013), team members will have an opportunity to sign up for an independent course of study entitled VREP. The students will have an opportunity to earn high school credit through the creation of projects. They will be expected to produce four projects per semester. Two of the projects will be of student interest and the other two will support learning within the classrooms.

Projects produced by students will be presented to a panel of teachers for evaluation and grading. Projects will be tied to state and national standards as well as to our local curriculum. Students will need to clearly articulate what they have learned in the process of development. VREP isn't for all students. It will require a high degree of self-discipline, maturity and independence.

I encourage a visit to the VREP website (www.vrep.org) to learn more about this exciting initiative. Additional students will be selected and trained during the next school year.