5 Virtual Field Trips You Don’t Want to Miss

Field trips have been a staple of the American education system for a long time. Getting students out into the community and the world-at-large helps them to see and study content firsthand. But field trips aren’t always possible. Besides being expensive, the process of boarding a bus, travelling to a far flung location, corralling a bunch of students, organizing lunch and bathroom breaks, and sometimes doing all of this without additional chaperones or adult help can be stressful for both teachers and students alike. When visiting a museum, a student who develops an interest in a particular artist gets rushed through the exhibit hall. At the zoo, a student who is fascinated by a certain habitat has to hurry up, read the plaque, and move on. Students don’t get a chance to move at their own pace and explore their interests during field trips.

But they can during virtual field trips.

Thanks to technology, virtual field trips of locations all over the world are available at the click of a button. Some virtual fields trips are simple photographic tours, while others are complex combinations of video and audio media that are more immersive. Let’s look at some of the benefits of using virtual fields trips in your class this year: 

Worldwide and Beyond

The locations for virtual field trips are endless. You can visit places all over the world. These visits to different cultures and different places helps students better understand people they aren’t usually exposed to. This exposure builds students acceptance and empathy, skills critical for their future in a connected world. And virtual field trips don’t stop at worldwide—you can take your students into space, too.

Firsthand Observation

Instead of students reading about a place or object, during the virtual field trip, students can observe it firsthand. You might never be able to physically take them through the castles in Germany or on a canoe down the Nile, but thanks to technology, students can experience those events and make personal observations.

Accessible to All

For many reasons, traditional field trips aren’t always possible for all students. Schools in rural locations may not have access to the same types of resources as metropolitan schools. And overnight field trips are not always possible. Students with certain special needs may not be able to attend in-person field trips due to sensory or mobility issues. Virtual field trips allow all students to experience a new place without financial strain, long travel times, or accessibility issues.

Virtual Field Trips to Check Out

The great thing about virtual field trips is that you can find ones that will take you to just about anywhere. Use a search engine to look up content topics and add “virtual field trips” to the search phrase. You’re sure to find something that will work. What’s even better about this wide variety of options is that students can access different trips in order to personalize their learning and experience. Not everyone has to the board the same bus on a virtual field trip—the world is open to their own explorations.

Easter Island

The site is put together by Nova and PBS. It includes photos and movies. Students can click through tours of the island and learn more about the archaeological process that take place when studying ancient structures. Students can even participate in the “Move a Megalith” game that lets them attempt to move one of the famous Easter Island heads.

The Louvre

This iconic French museum has several virtual tours that allow students to explore various collections. The Egyptian Antiquities tour is especially fascinating for students who have an interested in Egypt. The tour uses Flash player to give a 360° experience of the collection.

Museum of Natural History

The Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History is possibly one of the best virtual field trips out there. You can take a walking tour of each room in the museum. There is a map in the upper-right hand corner than allows you to navigate to different rooms, or you can follow the pre-planned tour and follow the blue arrow. In each room you can scan across all of the displays and exhibits and zoom in. Certain items are hotspots that contain additional information and features.

Cities Worldwide

The Virtual Journeys website makes it easy for you to explore today’s major cities all over the world. There are general overview videos of each city, as well as tours of major attractions or important places in each city.

Google Lit Trips

Using the power of Google Earth, students can follow the journeys of famous literary characters. Along the way, signposts will pop up that give additional information about locations, books, authors, and characters. The books represent on the Lit Trips are titles for students from K-12. The files are free to download, so students can complete over time.

Get your students thinking about the world around them and the one beyond their imaginations with virtual trips. Personalize the experience and let students pick where they want to go for a magical learning experience.

Amanda Ronan is an Austin-based writer. After many years as a teacher, Amanda transitioned out of the classroom and into educational publishing. She wrote and edited English, language arts, reading, and social studies content for grades K-12. Since becoming a full-time writer, Amanda has worked with a diverse set of clients, ranging from functional medicine doctors to design schools to moving companies. She blogs, writes long-form articles, and pens YA and children's fiction. Her first YA series, My Brother is a Robot, is slated for release by Scobre Educational Press in September 2015.

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