Using YouTube 360 VR for Exploring the Depths of the Oceans

An commentary on using Youtube 360 using a National Marine Sanctuaries Lesson Plan and a National Association for Gifted Children Article

Credit: Noun Project

Science is a subject that the education system has promoted for many years. Technology is considered an essential part of the lives of practically every young kid. According to Cotabish (2017), “kids under 8 years old spend 65% of their online time on YouTube.” Based on the prevalence of technology, the demand to teach science, and the great experiences technology can provide, it is no surprise that Virtual Reality, VR for short, is beginning to be utilized in the classroom.

Beginning with the cost, “Google Cardboard Glasses are available from Amazon for less than $7 USD” (Cotabish, 2017). What this means is that students can use various smart devices provided by the school, preferably from a technology grant, and be able to cheaply add VR to the lesson plan. After setting up VR, students will be able to access 360-degree videos on YouTube, which tend to be narrated. While it is possible to view the 360-degree YouTube videos not using VR goggles but simply a device, the goggles add a level of immersion that engages students.

A Lesson Plan from NOAA Sanctuaries

The link to the full lesson plan:

Here is a video from NOAA Sanctuaries using YouTube 360 as part of a lesson plan. Credit: NOAA Sanctuaries YouTube

One organization which created a lesson plan revolving around 360-degree videos is NOAA Sanctuaries. In this lesson plan, three groups of students will elaborate on one of three different species of Hawaiian whales located at the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. (Office of National Marine Sanctuaries & National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association p. 1). While most of the project uses more traditional blogs and YouTube Videos, the very introduction to this activity uses the YouTube 360 video above. A narrator guides the virtual 360-degree tour of the Sanctuary. With VR goggles, students will be able to freely look around the Sanctuary and feel more connected with the environment the Hawaiian whales live in. This deep connection not only engages students, but also might induce a life-long passion for marine biology by seeing a deep-dive look at the ocean.

There are many possibilities beyond ocean exploring that YouTube 360-degree videos can provide. According to Cotabish (2017), “Moreover, teachers will certainly want to use VR as a virtual science laboratory simulator where students can perform lab experiments and safely perform dangerous experiments in virtual simulation.” For instance, a chemistry experiment can be performed without having the dangers of chemicals or heating devices present. This easily accessible, versatile, and inexpensive education tool is great to try and expand advanced technology use in the classroom.

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Cotabish, Alicia. (2017, December 12). Utilizing YouTube for Immersive VR Science Learning. National Association for Gifted Children.

“Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.” Office of National Marine Sanctuaries & National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. n.d. <>

NOAA Sanctuaries (2020, June 18). Explore the Blue: 360° Hawaiian Adventure {Video]. Youtube.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. mcfadd23 says:

    Hey Austin,
    Thank you for sharing your blog on virtual reality and how it is impacting education. I don’t have a lot of experience with VR but I have admired its capabilities. As you mentioned, the virtual 360 degree tour of the NOAA sanctuaries will engage students more in course content and lessons. What I like is how VR can be used in a variety ways in the classrooms. You can have students in a history course tour historic sites around the world without having to leave the classroom. And as you pointed out you can use VR in science classes too. I think laboratory stimulations would be a good and safe alternative for more dangerous science experiments. Another advantage of VR like Google’s cardboard goggles is its affordable. In the future I will try to incorporate VR in my lesson plans when appropriated, so my students can be engaged and see the world within the classroom walls.
    From, Joshua

  2. whaleyl says:


    I really enjoyed reading your blog about using 360 virtual reality to explore the ocean. This is such a creative idea and will really keep people engaged! The videos you included in the blog were so informational and very enjoyable to watch. I loved the part where you talked about students still being able to engage in things like this because virtual reality takes away the danger and hazardous part. Thank you for sharing this, I will definitely be keeping this in mind if I have my own science classroom one day!


  3. staracef says:

    Hi Austin!
    I found the video lesson for VR about showing students underwater could be proven as a beneficial lesson regarding the Sustainable Development Goals. It can show students the beauties of the world that not all may be able to explore and it can also show you how important and beautiful the world is and why we need to take action to save it.

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