Guest blog by Leslie Drake, Librarian from Martha Reid Leadership Academy in Mansfield ISD.
No one could have ever imagined we would be missing our students, co-workers, and our school families. These are unprecedented times and we are looking for ways to assist our students and their new teachers in order to keep some semblance of learning to happen, yet not becoming an overwhelming burden on all. Spring is when the fun stuff happens: proms, graduations, class parties, and field trips. Field trips are something that almost every student looks forward to even if it is only for getting to leave school for a day, and we don’t get to have those in person, and hands-on experiences this year. That is where the world of virtual field trips can open a whole new content area for you to teach. Many zoos, aquariums, national parks, and museums are putting up some form of these field trips and can help you plan meaningful instruction.
Not all virtual field trips are created equal. Some are simply webcams of animals or hastily put together museum rooms, which are still great. I could watch the sea otters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium for hours and be happy. However, if you are planning a lesson around it your creativity skills will need to come into play.
There are a few things you need to keep in mind as you are planning a virtual field trip, much like a real one you have to have chaperones, buddies, lunches ready, and a plan.
- Where are you going? What content area will you focus on? What do you want them to learn? Will you do this via a group platform like Teams or Zoom and participate all at once or will this be a self-directed assignment?
- Students need to have something to produce from the trip otherwise it will likely not be meaningful. It can be as simple as drawing the plants and animals from that region or part of a larger writing project.
- Be sure and ask them for feedback. Did they enjoy it? What did they like best/not like at all? This can spark some great discussions on your virtual class meetings.
- Make sure it is easily accessible, and will not put any undue stress on your families. Some are hard to access or require a lot of maneuvering that might not work for certain age groups.
I stumbled across what I think maybe the perfect virtual field trip and is suitable for all ages in my assignment of collecting virtual field trip links to post to our district elementary library resource website we were making a couple of weeks ago. Google Arts & Culture has an expansive library of field trips from Alcatraz to Ford’s Theater, but one of these shines brightly. The Hidden World of National Parks consists of five parks: Kenai Fjords, Hawaii Volcanoes, Carlsbad Caverns, Bryce Canyon, and Dry Tortugas. They are narrated by actual Park Rangers and they take you on an incredible journey. The imagery is stunning and the information is engaging. The best thing is all you need is a computer or phone!
No matter your subject or grade level, there are many teachable activities and ways to have your class engaged while maintaining our social distance.