Tag Archives: virtual field trips

How to Plan a Virtual Field Trip

by Erin Dye

Virtual Field Trip

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A few weeks ago, I posted an entry on the many different virtual field trips that are available online or as apps. I promised that I’d also walk through how to plan an effective and fun virtual field trip. So here goes!

For the purposes of this exercise, I’m going to choose one of the sample field trips that I mentioned last time: The Secret Annex Online.


Virtual Field Trip: The Secret Annex Online


  • Students experience the setting for The Diary of Anne Frank.
  • Students work toward understanding the hardships Jews faced during the WWII era.
  • Students build proficiency with technology, benefit from global communication and creativity, and analyze and evaluate multimedia.

Time Needed: One class period

Preparation: Students should have finished or be in the process of reading the book The Diary of Anne Frank.

  • Discuss the people who lived in the Secret Annex and their relationships to Anne.
  • Review key terms and places, such as Amsterdam, Nazis, Judaism, Holocaust, persecution, and concentration camp.

Pre-Trip Discussion:

  • What is the setting of this book?
  • Why is it important to understand the book’s setting?
  • Why is it important to remember Anne Frank and her family and friends?
  • What will we look for during our tour?

Logistics: I suggest you project the website on your whiteboard and allow several students to take turns managing the controls. If this isn’t possible, set up students on individual computers. Note that the activity is Flash-based, so it won’t work on iPads. There is audio available for each room, so make sure the sound is on and working.

Steps of Field Trip:

  • Enter the house and click to open the bookcase to reveal the secret apartment.
  • Ask students which rooms they would like to view first.
  • Once inside a room, ask students for their first impressions. Click the screen to show the space rendered with furniture and belongings. This will help students feel how small the space is.
  • Ask students to discuss how it might feel to live in such cramped quarters.
  • Ask students to compare and contrast Anne’s own description of the apartments with what they are seeing.
  • Continue through the apartment all the way to the attic room. Ask: Why would Anne feel the need to come up here to escape the rest of the group?
  • When the tour is complete and each room has been examined, ask students to research what happened to the residents and how Anne’s diary came to be published.

Post-Trip Discussion: Discuss students’ answers to the questions above. Ask what new things they learned from visiting the Secret Annex. Ask: Why is it important to preserve spaces like this one for people to learn about and visit? How did this tour change your understanding of The Diary of Anne Frank?

Post-Trip Homework: Ask students to perform research about the making of the website. They may also research actual images of the site and compare them to the animated renderings.

These steps are useful for any virtual field trip, whether you’re visiting the opera, an art museum, a natural history museum, the Great Barrier Reef, or the moon.

You can always modify the questions and outcomes based on what you expect students to learn. For example, at an art museum, encourage them to compare and contrast works or perform a scavenger hunt through the galleries.

A virtual field trip is an easy way to engage your students, with even less preparation needed on your part than a real field trip. Say good-bye to the permission form and boxed lunch!


Erin DyeErin Dye is Manager of Consulting Services for Green Light Professional Development. She has extensive experience creating digital materials for interactive whiteboards and iPads. She writes about technology integration and GLPD’s work in local schools.

Today’s Virtual Field Trip Itinerary: the Opera, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Moon!

by Erin Dye

Virtual Field Trips

Take your students on a virtual field trip | Image courtesy of digitalart | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

Google Earth

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.

We also love the National Parks app (free) and the Florence and Rome Virtual History apps (not free, but well worth the cost).

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?

Bon voyage!

*Update: See a sample lesson plan for The Secret Annex here.

Erin DyeErin 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.