Redlands Unified goes virtual for Smiley Heritage Tour
Source: Redlands Community News
The Redlands Unified School district has been sending fourth-grade students on the Smiley Heritage Tour since the early 1980s. Due to COVID-19, last year was the first time students could not participate.
This year, the district decided to go virtual to keep the history alive.
“A whole grade level lost the experience last year,” said Jamie Cortz, director of instructional technology and accountability. “It was a big deal to the district, and when this school year began, all field trips were canceled again. So, we decided to make the tour virtual so students still had the opportunity to have this experience even though they can’t go in person.”
The tour is hosted by A.K. Smiley Public Library Heritage Tours. It features 17 historical stops around the city, such as the Library, Mill Creek Zanja, Burrage Mansion, and Kimberly Crest. Cortz said the district and library representatives Serena Davis and Tish Sandos spent six months collaborating to gather information, video, and photos for the virtual experience. It went live on the website in May, 2021.
“We made trips to locations and recorded drone footage,” said Cortz. “We reached out to people in the community to get voice audio and recreated the entire tour virtually. We even added ArcGIS elements and incorporated fun educational materials like an escape room game where students had to answer questions about the tour to ‘get off the bus.’ Our mindset this year was we didn’t want COVID to take away the tradition from kids, so we used an innovated approach to overcome it.”
Project leads Olivia Davison and Jennifer Hunt wanted to make the virtual tour as robust as the in-person one.
“It’s a half-day tour when kids go in-person,” said Davison. “We wanted all of the 17 stops on the virtual tour. However, on the normal tour, kids only get off the bus at six locations. A lot of it is driven. But we still wanted to incorporate all the locations and not take away anything. At the beginning of the virtual tour, students have a numbered map that shows all of the locations with facts about each.
“For the six stops, it is interactive with an introduction and welcome videos from library docents, photos, drone footage, and ArcGIS story maps. We went to each stop and took 365-degree images of every room the students would see if they were off the bus. We added click points to take them to new rooms and give information about each. Not only can they see outside but inside of the buildings as well. We also got students to narrate some of the information.”
Davison said the virtual tour was made as inclusive as possible.
“For our English as a Second Language (ESL) students, they can have all of the text on the screen read to them by a digital translator,” she said. “They are able to choose the language they want which was something they couldn’t do on the in-person tour.”
Unlike the in-person tour, the virtual tour is available for students to take on their own time, as many times as they want.
“We made the map easy to follow so students could drive along with their parents if they wanted,” said Davison. “We actually got quite a few emails from parents saying they did visit the locations in-person.”
If possible, the district is hoping to resume the in-person tour next year. But have no plans to take the virtual tour down.
“We see this as more of a community resource now,” said Cortz. “Kids can look at it prior to the field trip and get excited, but also families can share this with kids of all ages. Even adults are interested.
“We have talked about sharing this with our new teachers when they are hired so they can virtually tour the city and know a little bit about the community.”
As of June 2, 2021, the virtual tour has hosted almost 7,000 visitors.
To take the virtual tour, visit https://sites.google.com/redland…/smiley-heritage-tours/home
For more information, or to volunteer with Smiley Heritage Tours, contact email@example.com.