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Virtual Field Trips: How to Extend Your Kids’ Learning Beyond the Virtual Classroom

Whether a museum, an overnight, or a park, we all have fond memories of our favorite field trips as a kid. But field trips are more than an exciting deviation from the typical book learning — they also provide many benefits. They provide an opportunity for the students to see in real life what they have been learning about. But how do we provide those benefits now that much of our lives are virtual?

Field Trips Provide Real-World Learning

Being able to learn beyond their classroom provides deeper insights about a particular topic. They are able to learn through seeing and interacting with the subject of learning. They are better able to put context around the topic by seeing it in action. They are also able to exercise some responsibility and independence as they are out into the world without their parents.

Field Trips Provide Academic Growth

While there is certainly evidence of better understanding of a topic when seeing it in the real world, there is also improved academic performance in general. At least one study has shown test scores improving after regular field trips. In addition, they expand academic learning opportunities. For example, the student may go to the capitol to understand how government works but in watching a debate on a bill, they will learn about the topic of that bill as well.

Field Trips Provide Cultural Growth

While the relishing experiences of field trips help the children to perform well academically and produce better results, it also helps them grow culturally. Field trips make them become a part of the bigger world, outside the walls. Field trips allow all the students to gain similar experiences even if they belong to different socio-economic backgrounds. Students who cannot enjoy these activities with their families due to lack of means can enjoy all of them being on the same ground as the other students. This allows them to perceive the world from a different angle and broaden their perceptions.

Field Trips Encourage Critical Thinking

Field trips improve the students’ ability to think critically about the various things they see and experience. They are able to understand the art, ask questions about history, and look at things from a completely different perspective. It allows them to explore their mind and judge the pieces of art that they view. Students can empathize with history in a better way. Field trips allow the students to open their doors to critical thinking outside the box of their classrooms.

But How do we Get Those Benefits With Everything Online?

The global pandemic of COVID-19 has impacted the academic lives of students. The traditional classroom learning has taken the shape of virtual learning and online classrooms. Whether or not this has been effective is a completely separate debate, but without a doubt the availability of physical field trips has mostly disappeared. Despite that disappearance, the ease of use of technologies has birthed a new opportunity: virtual field trips. While staying at home, children can gaze at art, discover science, experience outer-space, and visit museums through live streams. Even though these are screen experiences, they can be just as engaging, fun, and exciting as the physical trips. And, on the plus side, they don’t require school fundraising to be able to go. Here are 20 different ideas to experience the power of virtual field trips.

  1. Museums

You can visit the historical artifacts and art through live webcams of various museums. They offer you to have live experiences inside the museum while physically being at home. American Museum of Natural History offers a virtual tour of the museum led by Brian Selznick, the author of Wonderstruck. He takes you along with the company of some experts on the way. British Museum opens its doors for kids to view the era they are the most interested in through webcams. Metropolitan Museum of Art provides an interactive opportunity for the kids to view its corners that they can explore with the help of an illustrated map to find treasures in the museum’s collection. Museum of Science offers science lovers a virtual look at Boston museum’s arts and crafts by hosting live streams and webcams daily. The Vatican Museum offers a 360-degree view around the 9 rooms in the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel included.

2. Farms

With the virtual field trips to farms, you can view how they grow and harvest food that you eat and visit around. American Egg Board offers virtual tours of different egg farms. Elementary and middle school students can choose videos accordingly. In New York, Bright Farms show kids how the food is grown in their farm and how it is transferred to your nearby grocery store. They hold a very interactive web stream with a quiz in the end for a better understanding of the students. Farm Food 360 allows kids to understand different kinds of farms and food plants. You can visit dairy cow farms, orchards, sheep farms, milk, and cheese, or egg processing facilities according to your preference.

3. Landmark tours

Most of us planned on visiting some popular landmarks for sightseeing but corona became a pain-in-the-neck. Now when everything has become virtual, you can visit these landmarks through webcams. Buckingham Palace provides the sightseeing lovers a view of room-by-room and gazes at all the amazing historical objects there. Ellis island allows the viewers to look at how 12 million immigrants had between 1892–1954. What makes it even more exciting is the knowledge of live first-hand stories. You can also have a look inside George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, through the street view on the Google maps. Who doesn’t love The White House? Get to know about the people’s house. You can’t move around but you can definitely scroll around and click on what interests you.

4. Aquariums

Aquariums are everyone’s favorite. You can pick your favorite live webcams and enjoy the mesmerizing tour while laying in your bed. Georgia Aquarium’s Ocean Voyager Webcam is our personal favorite, especially the view of the whale shark, you should definitely log in to see that. Jellycam at Monterey Bay Aquarium provides a soothing view around the aquarium. National Aquarium provides a self-guided tour where you can view around the way you want just like you do traditionally. The Maritime Aquarium provides a very interesting live stream for all grades. You can talk to the research vessel captain and ask about the water pollution or anything you want.

5. Planetarium

Planets, stars, galaxy, sunrises, solar eclipses and so much more! This sounds so enthralling. International Space Station-NASA has provided videos where you can tour the ISS with the astronauts. Did you know that NASA has teamed up with Google to provide you an Interactive Mars Virtual Tour? You can click around the terrain, travel to various mission sites, and learn about absolutely whatever you want. Through Stellarium Web, kids have the opportunity to delve into the experience and view more than 60,000 stars up in the sky. You can gaze around the breathtaking constellations at night no matter what corner of the world you live in.

6. National parks

You can view the Yellowstone National Park while staying at home and roam around the Fort Yellowstone, Fountain Paint Pot, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Mammoth Hot Springs, and many other places. Yosemite National Park has an incredibly interactive virtual tour that makes you view many different parts of the park e.g. Diving Board, Tuolumne Meadows, Nevada Falls, Ahwahnee Hotel, Swinging Bridge, and Hetch Hetchy.

7. Volcanoes

The US Geological Survey looks over the volcanoes in the country. You can log onto that, click around, and gain information on whichever volcano you want to know about through a very interactive live session.

8. Live animal cameras

Visiting the zoo, without visiting the zoo? Yes, that’s what live animal cameras present. You can explore the wildlife through live animal cams from many different zoos which is just as fun and engaging as the traditional way. San Diego Zoo Live Cam allows you to look at baboons, penguins, pandas, giraffe, and many more. Want to look at lions? Log onto the Smithsonian National Zoo came to see lions, giant Pandas, elephants, and Naked Mole Rat. My kids can spend hours watching some of the silly things these animals do!

9. Nature Lab

The Natural Conservancy offers an excellent interactive live stream where the viewers are offered 11 different online field trips that include exploring any rainforest to unlock the mysteries of a coral reef.

10. Castles around the world

3D Mekanlar offers the experience to virtually explore any castles you want from around the globe. You can go to Bayern, Jerusalem, or Alexandria while sipping coffee at home.

11. Towers around the world

3D Mekanlar also offers an exploration of the towers around the globe. If you were planning to visit the Eiffel Tower this summer? You don’t have to cancel your plans anymore, instead, you can also go on visiting the Kuwait Towers Atomium Towers of Brussels.

12. The Great Wall of China

Want to visit the wonder of the world? You can have a bewitching virtual tour of the fortification. Jinshanling to Simatai, watchtower, and winter are the three available options.

13. Easter Island

Want to know the story behind the enormous stone statues that stand tall in Easter Island? Nova’s online adventure “Secrets of Easter Island” allows you to unleash the hidden mystery.

14. Lakes

You can have a quick, interesting, and engaging virtual tour from the Great Lakes Now. Coastal wetlands, algae, and lake sturgeon are all the components of the tour.

15. The Smithsonian

The National Museum of Natural History provides an absorbing self-guided room-by-room tour of the permanent, past, and current exhibits. Send your kids to the second floor Bone Hall to have a look at the different kinds of skeletons.

16. Birthplace of Music

Music lovers can have an interactive virtual field trip with photos, videos, audio, etc. and visit around the music locations such as Vienna, Austria, Cleveland, Ohio, etc.

17. Son Doong Cave

National Geographic allows a wonderful virtual tour to the largest cave in the world located in Vietnam. Click on the interactive map to have an immersive experience. Make sure to keep the sound on.

18. Turn Back the Clock

This museum takes the viewers through seven decades of history with compelling stories, pop culture artifacts, interactive media, and much more.

19. M&Ms Factory tour

The Food Network hosts an amazing virtual tour of the factory of M&Ms and shows the viewers how the delicious candy is made. Don’t miss it out!

20. Discovery Education

This is a fascinating virtual tour for kids that shows the plants that manufacture cars of the future to a lab that researches nuclear energy.

Technology has indeed made things so much easier and fun and accessible to all. So, take advantage of the wonderful opportunity and explore the world through virtual field trips.

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