Virtual Field Trips for Students

Instructor: Rachel Tustin

Dr. Rachel Tustin has a PhD in Education focusing on Educational Technology, a Masters in English, and a BS in Marine Science. She has taught in K-12 for more than 15 years, and higher education for ten years.

This lesson will look at the framework for planning and executing a virtual field trip with students. This will include how to approach the overall road map for the field trip, planning checkpoints along the way, and ideas for having students reflect on their experience.

Virtual Field Trips

As a teacher, we are taught that it is essential to learning to give our kids real-world experiences. Let them dip their toes in the ocean, listen to the words of Shakespeare echo in the Globe Theater, touch the controls at NASA, and stand in the shadows of the trees at Gettysburg.

The grim reality of teaching is that for the majority of us in the classroom, these types of hands-on experiences are few and far between. The cost of transportation, field study fees, and the ever increasing number of students on free and reduced lunch make experiences like these an impossible feat.

The Internet, however, has allowed teachers to bridge the gap and allow our students to see the world without the cost or paperwork involved in a traditional field study. Let's go through some steps you can take in planning your virtual field trip.

Travel the World: Plan an Itinerary

First, consult the standards/objectives you are trying to teach or enrich. Consider the key concepts, terminology, or people you want your students to explore in depth. Have a list to keep you on track as you plan out the stops students will make on your virtual field trip.

Determine whether or not you want students to take the journey individually, or in small groups. You may even choose to have students take different routes so that they can come back later and share with one another.

Next, plan your road map, a fun layout of the virtual destinations you want them to see. In some cases, it may be a single destination such as the Louvre Museum in Paris. In other cases, it may be a series of destinations such as visiting each planet in the solar system or the sites that are relevant to Shakespeare.

Virtual Field Trip Road Map
Virtual Field Trip Road Map

Occasionally, you might use a pre-made virtual field trip, but normally you will have to make changes and personalize it for your goals.

Make sure you include an itinerary with clear stops marked out for them on the route. If they are visiting multiple websites, you should make a list of the exact URL links your students will need to complete the trip. Otherwise, it is easy for students to get lost on a website and never reach the points you want them to on their tour.

Passport Stamps: Key Takeaways for Students

Once you have your itinerary created for students, decide what they need to take away from each stop. Create a way for them to 'stamp' their virtual passport, a virtual or physical passport notebook students can write in and track progress. For each stop on your tour, give your students specific tasks to complete to earn their passport stamp. Here is a list of possible ways to do this:

  • Ask questions in class that they must answer using the information available on the website 'stops' they make on their virtual tour.
  • Create a series of checkpoint quizzes students can complete online after visiting each spot. This way you can include a variety of questions and can more easily monitor students' progress along the route.
  • Give them a scavenger hunt where they have to find specific items to 'collect' along the way. For example, if you were taking a virtual field trip to an art museum, they may have to make a postcard at one stop that depicts a famous piece of art. At another stop, they might have to tell you how many farmers are in the field in the painting.

The goal, whatever method you use to have students check in, is for students to delve into the details of the information.

Field Trip Passport
Field Trip Passport

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