Elementary school gets high-tech 'augmented reality' sandbox for lessons on environment

Treadway Elementary School in Leesburg has just been gifted an augmented reality sandbox.

“It’s cool and it’s scientific,” student Charlie Ghent said.

This is not your average sandbox.

“I have learned how water moves and the different elevation of mountains and stuff,” student Austin Sayre said.

The sandbox is in the school’s STEM lab.

“[It] allows the kids to explore and discover things that you can talk about and read about in class, but you can’t visualize,” the school’s STEM Facilitator Lori Vroman said.

Leesburg’s GIS team worked with the district’s IT department and the county commissioners to donate the sandbox to the school last week. It teaches the kids important lessons about erosion, climate, and water flow.

“They get tired of the same old ways we learn, like through books and things like that,” Vroman said. “They want to work hands-on. This, they’re interested in it. It’s a lot like their video games.”

The sandbox works with the help of a 3D projector. When the students put their hands in the sand, the animation moves with their touch.

Every child in the school has been invited to check out the sandbox. It’s something, teachers say, that will open doors for the students down the road.

“I think we’re building background knowledge that they’ll be able to draw upon later and use in future studies,” Vroman said.