by Erin Dye
During the recent days of budget cuts, not to mention liability waivers and parents who are too busy to chaperone, you may have seen your field trip opportunities dwindle. You probably already know that some websites can help to fill the void. What you might not know is that there are virtual field trip apps and websites that not only present information to students but also get closer than ever to actually transporting them to those museums, theaters, and historic sites. Even more exciting—students can now visit the bottom of the ocean, explore the Moon, and even follow in the footsteps of the characters in the books they’re reading.
So, it’s time to go—everybody get on the bus Internet!
Science Field Trips
Not to be confused with Google Maps (which is also a fantastic resource), this downloadable desktop or tablet app allows your students to explore the Earth, the Moon, and Mars in stunning detail. You can also set and save your own paths and destinations ahead of time.
Google’s Cultural Institute
Want your students to learn more about the Great Barrier Reef without flying them to the coast of Australia and getting them scuba certified? Simply pull up Google’s street view-style underwater exploration of the reef. There are also tours of hundreds of other sites.
American Museum of Natural History
The Museum of Natural History’s website has a detailed 360° self-guided walk through its museum. You can choose your gallery ahead of time or just amble through the corridors learning about fossils, plants, animals, and big, big diamonds.
Creatures of Light
Also created by the Museum of Natural History, for their special exhibition on bioluminescence, this beautiful, free iPad app explores the glowing creatures of the air, land, and sea.
Arts Field Trips
The Metropolitan Opera
The Met’s iPad app provides interactive programs of their past three seasons, complete with audio and video of performances and summaries of the stories and productions themselves. The 2013–14 season includes classics such as Tosca, Rigoletto, and The Magic Flute.
Google Art Project
While asking students to perform an image search is great, it denies them the experience of a curated grouping of works. There’s almost no substitute for physically walking the halls of the world’s great museums. The exception to this rule? Google Art Project. Through this portal, dozens of the world’s finest museums offer virtual, street view-style explorations of their galleries.
Literature Field Trips
Google Lit Trips
Google Lit Trips allows your students to visit the real places mentioned in the books they read. All you need is the Google Earth app (desktop or iPad). For example, I recently toured 1940s Denmark on the Number the Stars tour, and then I trudged from Oklahoma to California with the Joads. These tours are organized by chapter so that students can really follow along.
The Secret Annex Online
It’s hard to visualize Anne Frank’s hiding place until you push aside the bookcase and walk through the hidden door. With the context provided by this 3-D model, students can truly relate to Anne’s experience in hiding.
This list could go on and on. Look for another blog post coming soon that gives some pointers on creating lessons around these activities. Until then—what have you used for virtual field trips?
*Update: See a sample lesson plan for The Secret Annex here.
Erin Dye is a consultant for Green Light Professional Development with extensive experience creating digital materials for interactive whiteboards and iPads. She writes about IWBs and free online resources for teachers.