It's part of exchange programs between the United States and various Eastern European countries to promote cultural interaction.

SARASOTA -- The muted sounds of Russian narration rose above a demonstration of virtual reality technology at Ringling College of Art and Design's library Friday morning.

A group of five Russian teachers and scientists watched as Ringling professor Martin Murphy displayed a virtual reality tour of a home at one point, the inhalation and exhalation of human lungs at another and, finally, the interior of a Salvador Dali painting. The technology, as it often is, was greeted by sounds of amazement, as each teacher placed a mask resembling goggles over their face and found themselves transported to a new world.

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In a way, the Russian math and science teachers had also been transported to a new world for a week through the Open World Leadership Center's program on Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The organization facilitates exchange programs between the United States and various Eastern European countries to promote cultural interaction. The Russian teachers came to Sarasota to learn more about the area's education programs.

Math teacher Liudmila Vainer has already discovered ideas she hopes to take back to her classroom. Vainer feels strongly that STEM education should not simply be the sake of education itself, but to create work that can help the public good. Vainer does not speak English, but she was assisted during the interview by a translator, Vera Paponova, who helped facilitate the trip.

Vainier was particularly inspired by a presentation she saw at Out-of-Door Academy, where she said students were able to construct a deck that overlooks the school's pond. They then used the pond to conduct research.

Vainier said STEM education exists in schools in Russia, but she called the effort mostly "local."

"We have come to the conclusion that it's a serious issue for the faculty in Russia, and it's a question of motivation and how to motivate," Vainer said.

As one of the trip's organizers, Joan Emrich, said, she and the design team spent about three months talking with local education leaders and figuring out the best places to take the Russian delegates. They spotlighted many of Sarasota's education highlights this week, from the Ringling Museum to Sarasota High School and Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium.

"Seeing it all come to fruition has been very satisfying," Emrich said.

As the group toured Ringling College, a few teachers stopped to spin on the library's top chairs designed by Thomas Heatherwick. For a brief time, the teachers were students again for the day, giggling and laughing as the chairs spun around and around in the Florida sun.