By Teachers, For Teachers
Some of the biggest days students look forward to in their school year are the field trips. Oftentimes these trips take students to places or events they have never had the opportunity to go to. There, they learn many things through hands-on experiences and experts in their field. When field trips get cancelled or particular places are too far away to venture to, there is another option that teachers are turning to in order to be able to provide students with these educational experiences.
Virtual field trips take students to places such as museums, national monuments, and events without the students ever leaving their seat. And the best part? No permission slip is needed. Below are some great virtual field trips for every grade level, kindergarten through high school.
In kindergarten and first grade, a popular field trip is going to a farm. Whether students are growing up in a small rural community or a city, the farm has much to offer. One virtual field trip called Farm Fresh 360 takes students on a Canandian farm tour. Students can learn what life is like on a dairy farm, on a grain farm, a sheep farm, or even a mink farm (just to name a few). Young learners can watch the production of milk and cheese as well as learn about a day in an apple orchard. Additionally, Google Cardboard can be used to experience life in a farm in a virtual, 3D-reality component. This field trip is one any elementary student would be happy to go along for.
Whether students are researching an animal for a paper or working on skills such as comparing and contrasting various animals, the zoo is an excellent virtual field trip for second graders. One particularly great one is the San Diego Zoo. The website has live cams and videos of some of their most popular animals including apes, elephants, and tigers. The website, geared toward kids, also includes behind-the-scenes videos and stories of life in a zoo, as well as printable activities and online games. Students are sure to get lost in the engaging and exciting lives of zoo animals.
The National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD, is an exciting virtual field trip perfect for third graders. The National Aquarium Virtual Tours website is easy for students to self-guide themselves through. There is a map of the aquarium where students can pick if they want to take a peek in at the alligators or sea turtles, the Amazon River or the Channel Islands. By clicking on an animal, fun facts become visible. While this virtual tour is not live, it does an extraordinary job making people feel like they are right there in the aquarium with the animals.
National Parks are popular vacation destinations and are also great virtual field trips for young learners. Yellowstone National Park, in particular, provides the opportunity for a virtual field trip experience that would be beneficial for students in grades 4 or 5. Yellowstone is the home to the Mammoth Hot Springs and the Mud Volcano, and students are now able to get a feel for what a trip there would be like. The interactive maps on the website take you right to those popular park locations, as well as a live-stream of the Old Faithful Geyser. There is a bounty of information to dive into on this site.
For middle and high schoolers, the door to virtual field trips swings wide open. Not only would these students be able to benefit from any of the above mentioned trips including the farm, zoo, aquarium, and national parks, but there are hundreds of others to choose from. For starters, The National Museum of Natural History’s virtual experience is informative and exciting. Students can visit the ground, first, and second floors in room-by-room tours of their permanent, past, and current exhibits. The Bone Hall is a visitor favorite, where students can look at all different kinds of skeletons.
Another great virtual field trip idea for high school aged students would be a visit to Ellis Island. To take a unit on immigration to the next level, explore Ellis Island through a 31-minute video clip of interviews and photos from this historic immigration inspection station.
What average field trip takes students to The Great Wall of China? This virtual field trip does. The Great Wall is a 2,000 year old ancient structure that stretches more than 3,000 miles across several provinces of northern China. The virtual tour gives users the options of three different versions: Jinshaling to Simatai, watchtower, and winter. Each experience is unique in itself and engaging to viewers high school on up.
A last virtual tour to note is the 360 Cities virtual website. This site boasts being the largest collection of 360 degree images and videos from around the world. It provides kids with the opportunity to see stunning panoramas across the world. The search bar allows you to type in destinations such as the Trevi Fountain, Mississippi River, or DisneyLand. Not sure what you want to see? The world map shows all the places there are virtual tours of. It would be easy to spend many minutes or even hours getting lost on this site.
With the many options for virtual field trips for students in grades K on up, disappointment doesn’t need to set in when students aren’t able to go on a physical trip. From the zoo to the Great Wall of China and beyond, virtual field trips are taking students wherever they want to go and to places they’ve never even imagined. Check them out. You never know where you might end up.
Michelle is an EdTech teacher and holds an M.A.Ed. in EdTech from Concordia University St. Paul, MN.