Forestry gets a 360 view with virtual reality filming

School students will soon get a 360 degree view of the forestry industry thanks to cutting edge virtual reality filming just completed on the North Coast.

ForestLearning, an initiative of Forest and Wood Products Australia, is working with Forestry Corporation of NSW and other leading forest growers and manufacturers of wood products on a series of virtual reality 360 tours to take students on virtual excursions of ‘forest to frame’ operations.

Ultimately students will be able to see where the sustainable timber used in their lives comes from, said ForestLearning Manager, Beth Welden.

“Students will be able to follow the complete renewable wood cycle, from seed to forest to timber and wood fibre product, and back again to another batch of seeds being propagated and seedlings planted to replace those that were harvested,” Ms Welden said.

“We have just finished filming on the North Coast, covering a range of forestry operations, including the Grafton Nursery, Divines State Forest native forestry operations and Hurford Forests.

“We also captured virtual tours in the Hurford Hardwood green and dry mills, which are otherwise inaccessible to school groups.

“We were very fortunate to interview Forestry Corporation Aboriginal Partnerships Liaison Officer, Rachael Cavanagh, and her daughter to give students a virtual reality glimpse of work being done with the region’s Aboriginal communities.

“We also identified some commonly found bushfoods. The wombat berry found at the site, for example, tastes like bubblegum and sure to appeal to a young audience.

“We are really excited to be using the 360 filming technology to immersively tell forestry’s sustainable and renewable story — students will be able to see firsthand how forest, wood and wood fibre product operations work using a technology that they can engage with.”

These tours will be launched in July on the ForestLearning website (www.forestlearning.edu.au) along with a number of other platforms, including YouTube360 and Vimeo. They will be compatible to use on VR Headsets, iPads, and PC and Mac computers, making them accessible in any classroom.

The teaching and learning resources are being written by practicing teachers in partnership with the Geography Teachers Association of Victoria and the Design and Technology Teachers Association of Victoria to ensure they are useful teaching and learning tools, aligned to the Australian Curriculum.

“We are also delighted to learn last week that the Australian Government has committed additional funding announced on International Day of the Forest, for ForestLearning to extend the renewable forest and wood story for Northern NSW – a newly announced Forest Industry Hub region,” Ms Welden said.

Hurford Hardwood director, Andrew Hurford, was only too pleased to be involved and interviewed within the ForestVR Education toolkit for schools.

“The 360 filming is definitely a unique and imaginative opportunity to tell wood’s story as the ultimate renewable resource.

“It’s like nothing I’ve seen before – both the filming and the end result.

“The camera captures everything around it in a 360 degree sphere, so when you are presenting, you are talking to a camera and an empty room. The difference is, you can interact with it in the same way as you would with a school group on a real school excursion.

“The 360 tours and videos themselves are really quite amazing to see, and will give the students for the first time a great opportunity to engage, and virtually, visit all aspects of the renewable forest and wood products industries that are not usually accessible to school groups due to safety precautions.”

The ForestVR Project is being coordinated by ForestLearning, who works to provide Australian educators with free teaching and learning resources aligned to the Australian Curriculum and with a focus on Australian forests and sustainable timber products.

ForestLearning is supported by the Australian Forest Education Alliance, a network of forest educators and forestry communication specialists from organisations across Australia.

Media contact: Rod Campbell 0428058549