When I first started teaching we often went on field trips that did not connect to the content my students were learning. I found myself asking, “Why are we here? How does this deepen the learning of my students?” The field trips were always fun, but did little for furthering their learning.
Today is a much different story. I have learned to be thoughtful and deliberate when planning field trips, and although this takes more time on my part, I have LOVED how much more my students are engaged in our trips.
In many places in the world right now we are not able to go on field trips, but that should not stop you from teaching your students about the world around them and engaging them with the content they are learning about.
While the pandemic in the world is awful, I have tried to look for the positives. One big positive for me is the upswing of virtual field trips! I have been taking my students on virtual field trips for about 5 years now, but I love how many more there are today. So much can be learned without even leaving the classroom! And while we all don’t have a magic school bus like the great Ms. Frizzle, we can still spark student learning in creative ways.
There are a few different ways you can go about going on a virtual field trip.
- You can invite a guest speaker in and have them present “live” to your class.
- You can connect with a museum, cultural center, etc. and have them present to your students.
- You can create (or purchase) a virtual field trip in which students use Google Earth to explore different locations.
- You can watch pre-recorded field trips that take students around a certain location.
Here are a few ideas of trips to take:
- Many national parks will Skype/Zoom with your students. These lessons are VERY well done and they have a wide variety of topics. My favorite one to do is with Denali National Park on the science of sled dogs. The national parks and Google also worked together to create a dynamite resource for exploring 5 of the parks. Check it out here!
- During COVID times, many museums are doing virtual field trips with schools, which means you can “visit” museums across the country! This winter my students will be connecting with the Illinois Holocaust Museum when we read Number the Stars (please note, this field trip may not be available to schools outside of the area, but you can always request to receive a traveling trunk!). Here are a few of my favorites:
- Many of the museums are also moving their displays online. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC has really expanded their children’s section of the website. They have videos, artifacts sorted by time period and geographic location of origin, and so much more.
- Discovery Education has a bunch of FREE virtual field trips across topics! From a visit to the John Deere factory to Madison Square Garden and the NBA.
- If you are looking to explore using Google Earth, be sure to check out my friend, Michelle McDonald’s virtual field trips! She does an amazing job of teaching students about a location and then allowing them to learn and explore even more using Google Earth. My favorite are her National Park field trips (be sure to check out the Yellowstone Freebie), but she has a bunch of different topics for middle school social studies.
- Invite in (via Zoom/Google Meet) an expert in the area your students are learning about- a politician, scientist, doctor, community activist, etc. Have your students prepare questions for them and allow them to guide their own learning. My husband recently invited our friend who is a lobbyist into his political science classes to talk about her role in our state government. His students were SO engaged!
Field trips may look different this year, but it doesn’t mean you can’t give your students memorable and meaningful experiences!
Which virtual field trip would you like to try!? Tell us below in the comments!