It is undeniable that COVID-19 has changed life as we know it. But as every industry around the world adapts to the ‘new normal’, some innovative and engaging options are emerging for education. One such innovation is the virtual field trip.
Virtual field trips are an exciting way to visit places around the world, at any time, without leaving the comfort of the couch or classroom. It creates an interactive, stimulating, and enriching learning experience for learners by enabling them to learn about history, discover science, appreciate art, and even explore space using technology.
Benefits of virtual field trips
- Brings learning to life: Learners may forget an article they read about space, but they are less likely to forget watching interviews with astronauts, touring the International Space Station, or roaming the surface of Mars.
- Broadens horizons: Virtual field trips enable learners to explore places and ‘meet’ people that they might not have been able to visit or meet otherwise. Unlike traditional field trips, it exposes them to places outside their geographic region.
- An unlimited resource: Distance, time, and money are irrelevant as learners can virtually visit anywhere and can instantly access current, applicable, and detailed information related to their ‘trip’.
- Interactive experience: By offering a bird’s-eye view or a 360-degree rotation of a location, virtual field trips create a highly interactive experience that gives learners the freedom to discover and learn at their own pace.
- Inclusive: Virtual field trips cater to all learning styles – while audio-visuals and narratives guide auditory and visual learners, kinaesthetic learners can benefit from manipulating and moving objects by clicking on them.
Where to go
Keen to plan your first virtual field trip? Several museums, zoos, historical sites and natural wonders around the world offer virtual tours – many even include related information and educational projects and activities. Here are a few suggestions:
- San Diego Zoo: The zoo’s website contains videos, activities, and games, plus they have live cameras on 11 different animals. Children can check in on the elephants and giraffes or take a peek at what the penguins and koalas are up to.
FUN FACT: The San Diego Zoo houses over 3 700 animals of more than 650 species, and was a pioneer in the concept of open-air, cageless exhibits that recreate natural animal habitats. It is one of the few zoos in the world that houses and successfully breeds the giant panda.
- African safari: WildEarth offers live ranger-hosted sunrise and sunset safaris from Djuma Private Game Reserve in The Sabi Sands, and Beyond Ngala Private Game Reserve close to the Kruger National Park.
FUN FACT: You can send in questions, which the guides will answer live during the safari.
- Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History: If learners are curious about fossils, ancient mammals, dinosaurs, or just about anything else, then let them (virtually) step inside the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, which boasts more than 500 million specimens of plants, animals, fossils, minerals, rocks, meteorites, and human cultural artefacts.
FUN FACT: The museum features a collection of 46 complete dinosaur specimens, including complete skeletons of a T-Rex, a Megacerops and a Triceratops.
- The Louvre: Children can immerse themselves in art and history at what is arguably the most famous museum in the world – no plane ticket to Paris or passport required!
FUN FACT: The Louvre is the biggest museum in the world. If you were to spend 30 seconds on each piece of art in the Louvre, it would take 100 consecutive days to get through them all – without sleep, breaks, or mealtimes.
- The Great Wall of China: China’s most famous attraction is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It boasts a history of over 2 000 years, making it one of the most impressive ancient structures on the planet.
FUN FACT: The Great Wall of China is the longest manmade structure in the world, with a total length of approximately 21 196 km.
- Mars: Learners can explore the surface of the planet with NASA’s camera on Mars. During the trip, learners will find out how the rover got to Mars, and they will learn about the rover itself and how it walks across the planet’s surface.
FUN FACT: Mars, also known as the Red Planet, is the fourth planet from the sun and is named after the Roman God of War.
- The Great Barrier Reef: This engaging and in-depth interactive journey, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, will let learners explore one of the greatest wonders of the natural world.
FUN FACT: The Great Barrier Reef makes up 2 300 km of Australia’s coastline and is home to 1 500 species of fish, 600 coral species, and 30 different whale and dolphin species.
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- Ancient Egypt: You don’t need a time machine to discover Ancient Egypt! This virtual field trip enables learners to explore the magnificent structures of Ancient Egypt, including pyramids, sphinxes, and temples.
FUN FACT: The Great Pyramid of Giza, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu, it is the oldest of the Ancient Wonders of the World and the last one still mostly intact. It was the tallest manmade structure in the world for more than 3 800 years.
Focus on nature and conservation
For virtual field trips specifically focused on nature and conservation, check out Nature Lab. It offers several virtual excursions that allow learners to do everything from exploring a coastal rainforest while in a canoe to unlocking the secrets of coral reefs. Each of Nature Lab’s virtual field trips contains a video, teacher guide, and educational activities. The site is also a fantastic resource for any lessons relating to nature, conservation, and the environment.