Flexibility is a foundational part of the gig. Testing standards change, so you update your lesson plans for the year. New state requirements become law, so you work with school leadership to make the proper adjustments. But what happens if the need to evolve springs from somewhere outside the world of academia?
In March 2020, COVID-19 closed brick-and-mortar classrooms, forcing many in the K–12 community to have to adapt in ways they never imagined. Teachers are trying to maintain a sense of normalcy for their students, but how can they do so when they’re not even in the same room?
This is where virtual field trips solidify their place in a teacher’s bag of pedagogical tricks. Not even a national health crisis can keep you from taking students on a virtual field trip. Plus, these trips provide a sense of adventure, a welcome feeling for students cooped up at home.
Keep reading for a list of teacher resources and tools that empower you to take your students to a different place.
Virtual Field Trips Defined
What is a virtual field trip, exactly? Virtual field trips are digital learning experiences that allow students to explore a topic under a different light. Though students never leave the classroom, these cyberspace forays reinforce textbook and lecture content.
Virtual field trips are available for nearly any subject area, including reading comprehension, social studies, science experiments, history, anthropology, and more. These resources are a great addition to your classroom whether you’re facing unforeseen changes to your plans or putting together a new unit under normal circumstances.
Check out a few of our favorite virtual field trips. All of these resources are available to your class with just a few mouse clicks.
Discover Educational Digital Field Trips
The world faces many challenges. Among these obstacles stands the existential threat of climate change. In designing their science lessons, teachers have rightly started to include hands-on climate change activities to illustrate how kids can help curb the issue of a warming planet. This virtual field trip will help students learn the importance of keeping our environment habitable for the next generation and beyond.
Tundra Connections takes students to Canada, where they will witness a polar bear migration. During this digital excursion, your students will discover vital information about the Arctic ecosystem. Plus, there will be polar bears hanging out the whole time. What’s not to like about that?
Soar With Wings
Field trips—whether they’re virtual or not—instill students with a lasting and foundational educational standard. We’re talking, of course, about SEL. In the Soar With Wings virtual field trip, your students will tap into the core tenets of emotional intelligence. As outlined in the field trip description, the curriculum reinforces awareness of self, personal responsibility, intelligent decision-making, understanding of others’ needs, and relationship-building skills.
Yes, this is in fact a field trip, even though it focuses on social–emotional learning. Students spend time with a group of their peers, all of whom face choices. The content illustrates how words and actions impact others, highlighting the importance of considering decisions carefully and controlling our reactions.
Tech for Tomorrow
Technology. There’s no escaping it.
The sudden need for off-site, online learning has shown why we need to integrate technology more thoroughly into K–12 education. That means teachers must understand how to make the most of these tools—and so must your students.
Discovery’s Tech for Tomorrow helps out with that. This virtual field trip takes students to some of the most innovative technology hubs in the country, showcasing the work of the industry’s foremost professionals and thought leaders. Some of your students may end up developing this kind of technology in the future, and who can predict the positive impact they will make? Science, after all, is rooted in dreaming and imagination.
Virtual Field Trips Around the Country
The Seattle Aquarium
In this field trip, a diver and a docent team up to show your students the intricacies of aquatic ecosystems. These environmental scientists deliver relevant information about the local ecology in the Pacific Northwest, and show how those aquatic environments positively impact the lives of the humans who live near them.
Why does Washington State’s water sometimes appear green? How many predators do salmon have? This virtual field trip answers these questions and delivers vital scientific facts about the importance of treating the world with respect.
Mission: Census (A Virtual Field Trip to the U.S. Census Bureau)
Why is the census so crucial? This virtual field trip takes a fun Mission Impossible-style angle, showing students why this constitutional mandate is so crucial.
How many representatives does your state get? How many hospitals do you need in your area? These questions reveal why the census matters.
This digital trip is ideal for students of all ages. Following the storyline of a middle schooler and high school senior, this field trip highlights how census information helps build a community based on its need.
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
The Smithsonian Museums (note the plural) are a vast network of buildings that house the relics of human progress. For educators, that means there are unlimited learning opportunities in this famous museum network in Washington, D.C. Luckily, virtual field trips give students the opportunity to take a closer look at what the Smithsonian has to offer.
The National Museum of Natural History provides a hands-on, self-guided experience that takes your class through current and past exhibits. Note that this virtual field trip relies on you to navigate and explore these various educational delights.