CNN Crew Visits the UP Home, Releases Documentary

January 17, 2019 - 2:00pm

Washington, IA (January 17, 2019) – This past summer, Middle School Teacher Connie Svenby was contacted by the Cable News Network (CNN) asking if they could showcase a story they had seen on the local ABC network, KCRG.  The story was about middle school students visiting the United Presbyterian Home earlier that year and interacting with residents using Google Expedition Virtual Goggles.

Connie had purchased these goggles in September 2017 after Superintendent Jeff Dicks asked her if there was anything she had been wanting to enhance her Extended Learning Program (ELP) at the Middle School and High School in Washington.

“My Superintendent told me that he had read somewhere that using these goggles with residents in a retirement community was beneficial for the residents, but also the students. He asked if I would be interested in bringing them to the United Presbyterian Home and I replied ‘Absolutely!’” Said Connie.

Connie worked with UP Home’s Wellness Director Amy Kleese to make it happen. In January 2018 students from the Washington Middle School made their first of several trips to campus. They would pair up and sit with residents  showing them how the goggles worked and would view various places of interest using these virtual reality goggles.

“The residents get paired up with a middle school student and then sit together or in small groups.  They put the virtual reality goggles up to their face and immediately see various scenes, as if they were there in person,” said Kleese who described the experience when the students visit campus. “The goggles have a 360 degree view and often times residents and students will be looking right to left, up and down and turning in circles.  If we have a resident that has a hard time turning, the student will push them around in their chair or wheelchair.  One student will read about the place they are visiting during their experience.  Some places they have ‘virtually visited’ include Paris, the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Yellowstone Park, The Taj Mahal, Buckingham Palace, The Statue of Liberty, and many more.”

CNN contacted Connie over the summer and loved that middle school students were interacting and teaching the residents this technology but also that the middle school students were learning from the residents. 

“This experience is important for both generations.  The students become the teacher and take our residents to places maybe they haven’t visited before allowing them to explore and learn about places in our world along with the history of that place.  Sometimes a resident has been to that particular place and using the goggles they remember, reminisce and recall feelings of their past experience.  In that way the resident becomes the teacher as they share the life experience information with the students reversing the student-teacher role,” said Kleese

CNN decided this was a great story to tell so in September of 2018, nearly a year after the goggles had been adopted in Washington, CNN visited the UP Home to do a special documentary. The crew, which was mostly from New York City, filmed a segment on Washington Middle School students interacting with UP Home residents using the Google Expedition Virtual Reality goggles, as they had done in the past.  After meeting several residents, film personnel interviewed residents Jim Schmidt and Marion Turnipseed in front of the cameras to talk about their service during WWII. 

The UP Home has shared the link on our Facebook page for people to enjoy -