expands your classroom like the "Big Bang"—shattering the walls in a shower
of information and new opportunities for your teacher's toolkit. When the
dust settles, one question remains: "How do you incorporate the abundance
of resources that the Internet brings?" The answers are as plentiful as
the stars in the cosmos. But one way you can use the Internet is to take
your students on a virtual field trip.
I did a Google Search of "Virtual Field Trips" I got 82 pages of virtual
field trip links.
the Internet doesn't mean you must forget everything you already know.
Originally, the idea of field trips was as controversial as the Internet
is now. Everything kids need to know is in the textbook, right? Hardly!
Over the years, the idea of using field trips to provide opportunities
for extending learning through firsthand experience has become commonly
accepted. The traditional field trip requires planning and preparation,
participation, and follow-up, all needing a great deal of time and energy.
does a virtual field trip! However, the expanded range of experiences extends
to the limits of your imagination, and sometimes beyond!
Putting Costs in Perspective
On a traditional
field trip, permission slips must be sent out and collected to cover liability
problems that a trip can raise, such as accidents, injuries, etc. Funds
to cover the costs of transportation, entrance fees, and meals must also
be collected and deposited. A school bus in my district in Florida costs
$45 for the first 3 hours, then $5.15 for each additional hour. After 50
miles an additional 80 cents per mile is assessed. An average bus holds
about 65 students. If you planned to go on a daylong (6-hour) field trip
to your local museum, the beginning cost for a bus would be $60.45, about
$2 per pupil in a 30-pupil classroom. On top of the transportation costs
you must add the entry fee to the museum, as well as any food or refreshments
necessary for the trip. The total for the trip would be approximately $10
to $15 per student. It's not that it isn't worth it, it's that there is
another way to offer similar experiences for your students without traveling!
trips are computer-generated environments that offer media-rich interactions
with a particular location, such as laboratories, museums, parks, zoos,
even other countries. The components of a virtual field trip include content
background information, images/animations, QuickTime movies and VR, sound/music,
video, online forums, additional links, educational materials, and more.
The experience enables students to make learning connections that extend
the content into a context. Virtual field trips are often free, but some
do require subscription rates for multiple trips. But the best part is
trips can be incorporated into your curriculum in four distinct ways. They
can be used as:
tool when a site visit is out of the question
a focus activity
prior to a class taking an actual field trip
and reflecting follow-up activity for students after they have been on
a field trip
tool for you to share your own travels
So What's Out There?
When I did
a Google Search of "Virtual Field Trips," I got 82 pages of virtual field
trip links! Of course, quite a few were repetitive, but the surprise was
that most were not. Just as a "real" field trip is an event—time away from
the everyday learning of the classroom—all of these sites represent an
event, a step outside the self-contained classroom into the classroom without
walls. The old phrase "a classroom without walls" has now come to include
a rich array of experiences that show the inter-relatedness of the inhabitants
of our planet.
at a few of the virtual field trips you can take on the Internet:
So, grab the
chart I've created (below) as your guide and hop on board! How are you
going to effectively use a virtual field trip in your classroom?
Kayak Expedition: BigChalk's Virtual Sea Kayak Expedition provides
firsthand accounts of real-life sea-kayaking adventurers exploring Central
American oceans, rivers, canals, and jungles.
Forest: Congo Gorilla Forest, also from BigChalk, brings the Bronx
Zoo's exciting rainforest exhibit to an online audience, exposing students
to life science (biology, ecosystems, biomes), animal behavior, the experiences
of research scientists, conservation issues, life in the rainforest (for
both people and animals), and much more.
"A Day in
the Life" of Colonial Williamsburg: Another from BigChalk, A Day in
the Life presents the experiences of six social classes in 18th century
Colonial Williamsburg, highlighting issues of social class, work, economy,
politics, slavery, domestic life, education, and entertainment through
the eyes of individual people.
History: This trip—the final one mentioned here from BigChalk—answers
the question, "What does America's past sound like?" Explore and connect
to 10 eras of America's past through the "sounds of history"—music, literary
readings, excerpts from political speeches, everyday noises, nature sounds,
etc.— from the Smithsonian "Folkways" collections.
from Classroom Connect. Explore deforestation (an area the size of Belgium
disappeared last year), mining, biopiracy, and endangered species among
other things to better understand how events and activities in the Amazon
region affect life in the U.S. and vice versa.
from Classroom Connect. CyberTrips Egypt walks students through the world
of pyramids and the people of Egypt. CyberTrips Washington, DC, guides
students on a tour of our country's government. CyberTrips Mt. Everest
and the Himalayas takes students to one of Earth's most interesting geographic
features and helps them learn about the people of the Himalayas. CyberTrips
Kenya summons students to a safari to experience the diverse cultures and
wildlife of this exotic land. CyberTrips Paris invites students into the
food, history, art, and lives of the French people. Each trip addresses
mapping, customs, language, music, and religion of each area studied.
Group: Trips provide K-12 students a fully interactive exploration
(live audio and video two-way discussions are possible) of the lives, cultures,
traditions, and challenges facing their contemporaries around the world.
Island Odyssey: This year focuses on islands and compares New Zealand
with its smaller "offshore" islands. It focuses on endangered species,
introduced species, and connections between people and the environment.
Meet the people of NASA and look over their shoulders as they make NASA's
goals a reality. Whether in the area of aerospace design or training for
space walks, NASA Quest is a rich resource for educators, kids, and space
enthusiasts who are interested in meeting and learning about NASA people
and the national space program.
Xcursion Central: Xcursion Central offers a collection of Internet
field trips that addresses a wide variety of content in multiple subject
areas for multiple age groups and provides tools and resources for all
levels of experience. From simply taking an Xcursion to using the Xcursion
authoring tool to create your own, there's something for everyone. Assessment
is based on Gardener's Multiple Intelligences.
CERN: This one's an exploration into the particle accelerators and
the people, place, tools, and ideas of CERN (The European Center for Nuclear